Collecting Drinking Water – An Additional Burden on Women

The battle and competition for cleaning drinking water remains rampant throughout the world. Recent reports show that more than 800 million people need to travel and queue for at least 30 minutes in order to access cleaning water supplies.  Despite an overall increase and access to tap water, there seems to be an indirect relation with poor countries and the amount of water being received – as nations get poorer, water accessibility to any sort of resource becomes more difficult.  

Some of the countries worst affected by this data include Eritrea, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. Numbers showcase a range of 37% to 40% of the whole population in each of these countries that have basic access to water, and there is no doubt that the majority of the population are refugees settled in temporary settlements throughout these countries. 

The distance many individuals travel in order to get access to clean drinking water varies from 0.2 km to 1.5 km, one way. This means that each member travels around 3 km everyday just to access water they need for the day. 

A similar situation can be seen in our country. The rising population of 181 million grows approximately 2% every year, which adds to the international standards of a country’s ‘water stress.’ Water available has plunged from about 5000 cubic metres per capita in the 1950’s to less than 1,100 cubic metres per capita in the mid 2000’s. The unavailability of water has made the task far more arduous for rural women than it was before, burdening them with travelling long distances on a daily basis for the water their family needs.

The lack of clean drinking water in Pakistan has a huge effect on the lives of women in rural areas as they bear responsibility for collecting and providing water for their households. These women have to travel up to 4 km or more in search of water every day due to the unavailability of regular water supply to their homes, further adding to their burden of duties and making them vulnerable in terms of health and personal safety. The average distance a woman walks per day to collect water is 3.7 miles and this results in strained backs, shoulders, and necks in addition to other injuries due to carrying such heavy loads.

It is not only the rural woman, but also those living in low-income settlements in urban spaces. Such women are made to face the extreme heat of the urban centre only in fetch of water. Studies show that in 2015 only, 1200 died due to dehydration and heat strokes in Karachi due to the extreme weather conditions that only seem to be deteriorating due to the advent of global warming. 

Solar Water is our solution to this water transportation problem because it collects water from source and then uses thermal energy to purify and mineralize any type of water to make it available for drinking. This is ideal for rural settings in Pakistan where the water infrastructure is far from being planned.

These areas are usually accommodated via hand pumps, but the water from such areas still carry the risk of water borne diseases. Solar Water can serve as a water purifier and energy provider for households and communities lacking either. With its size, it can be placed in any area including areas of conflict that would not have their water supply affected as the community would have the units near their homes. 

This also means that women no longer have to travel such long distances in search of water. Not only does it save time and effort but it eliminates the risk of injuries resulting from the water collection process. Solar Water can easily be installed anywhere which makes it available for everyone; from slums of Karachi to deserted areas of Thar, it can provide clean drinking water to all.

Furthermore, from the reports stating the worst affected countries in terms of water availability, it is usually the internally displaced people that are prone to lack of basic facilities. Clean and safe water availability is imperative to the provision of refugee camps where such people are inhabited. Places that are hard to reach due to geography or political reasons, safe water cannot be supplied easily by humanitarian groups by using road transport. Solar water machines can be transported in pieces and assembled at the location. It can operate in remote and small locations and can be scattered or grouped in one place, depending upon personal preference. 

According to multiple reports, Pakistan is said to be running dry due to increasing water shortage and in times like these, we should move towards sustainable solutions like Solar Water. And it may be plausible to claim that this technology may help solve Pakistan’s water crisis.