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Levy proposed to reduce disparity in water access

News release 12 November, 2003

Levy proposed to reduce worldwide disparity in water access

An AUT lecturer advocates that New Zealand follow the lead suggested by European countries and introduce a national levy on water to help fund water supply initiatives in developing countries.

Associate Professor Paul Henriques, speaking on Water in Impoverished Communities to the Royal Society of New Zealand’s conference on fresh water, says it has been suggested that water users in Europe pay one Euro cent per cubic metre as a tax on their water bill.

There is a huge disparity between peoples’ access to safe, clean water in developed and developing countries, he says.

Current monitoring programmes suggest that one in five of the world’s population – 1.2 billion people – have no direct access to fresh water, while one in 2.5 – 2.4 billion – have no access to sanitation.

The situation is worsening. “By 2025, it is expected that some 3 billion people will suffer the effects of water shortages.”

Americans are by far the biggest consumers of water, using twice as much as Australia and eight times as much as Britain.

“The American level of water consumption is close to the total available water resource for the 40 nations lowest in resource, representing half of humanity,” says Assoc Prof Henriques.

“One flush of a developed world toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses each day for washing, cooking, cleaning and drinking.”

In developing countries, inadequate water supply and sanitation are major factors in the cycle of poverty and ill health, he says. “Contaminated water can be blamed for close to 60 per cent of all human illness, killing an annual total greater than the entire New Zealand population.”

Assoc Prof Henriques is an active supporter of the New Zealand-based humanitarian aid agency, the Oxfam Water for Survival Programme which focuses on providing clean water supplies and sanitation facilities for communities in some of the world’s poorest regions.

Current projects are in the slums of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, rural communities in India’s Dharampur and Madya Pradesh regions, Dhaka and Chittagong City in Bangladesh, Tabora in Tanzania and remote villages in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The Royal Society of New Zealand Conference “Fresh Water New Zealand: Problems, Processes and Priorities” is being held at AUT on Thursday and Friday of this week, 13 and 14 November. Dr Henriques presents his paper 8.30am on Friday, 14 November.

ENDS

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