Ecumenical Water Network

The EWN is a network of churches and Christian organizations promoting people's access to water around the world

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The water crisis

Even though the official figures of people without access to "improved" source of drinking water is 783 million, the introduction of access to"safe" drinking water, could take this figure to 3 billion people. The reasons are often not just water scarcity and the lack of financial resources. In many cases the needs and rights of marginalized communities are not given priority or they are even being contradicted. Poverty and power relations are reflected and reinforced in who has access to and control over water.
The water crisis

The Gash river, which only has water for a few weeks during the rainy season. Eritrea, 1994 © Peter Williams/WCC

What are the reasons for the present crisis?

Many factors are responsible. To mention but a few: increased and unsustainable agricultural and industrial use of water, deforestation and land-degradation that seriously change the water cycle, over-consumption and waste, pollution and population growth.

The crisis is also aggravated by the prevailing economic system. Public and community control of water supply has drastically diminished over recent decades and years. Increasingly water is treated as a commercial good subject to market conditions. Many cases can be cited where privatisation of water resources and water supply systems has deprived the poor from access to water.

Beyond scarcity

Even though the official figures of people without access to "improved" source of  drinking water is 783 million, the introduction of access to"safe" drinking water, could take this figure to  3 billion people. The reasons are often not just water scarcity and the lack of financial resources. In many cases the needs and rights of marginalized communities are not given priority or they are even being contradicted. Poverty and power relations are reflected and reinforced in who has access to and control over water.

Find out more:

  • Thirsty Souls & Parched Lands (Church World Service)

  • Water, food, and hunger (Church of Sweden)
    This booklet from the Church of Sweden describes the relationships between access to water and hunger. It also presents a number of steps toward solutions that, if we commit ourselves to the effort, can eradicate hunger and make our water use sustainable – for the sake of present and future generations.

  • Waters of life (Lutheran World Federation, LWI No. 9 / 2006)
    This special LWI highlights some of the major debates about water as well as theological aspects. Also included are examples from the LWF’s extensive involvement in this subject through its Department for World Service field programs

  • The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (Church of Sweden and others)
    A policy brief for central governments, subsovereign national bodies, aid donors, universities and research organisations, NGOs, advocacy organisations and professionals working with water and development

  • Violations of the human right to water (EWN, Brot für die Welt, FIAN)
    An introduction to the human right to water with cases as examples.

  • Beyond scarcity. Power, poverty and the global water crisis (UNDP)
    The United Nation's Human Development Report from 2006 concludes that lacking access to water is not simply a result of physical water scarcity but "that the roots of the crisis in water can be traced to poverty, inequality and unequal power relationships, as well as flawed water management policies that exacerbate scarcity."