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  • by Karma Loveday

WaterAid: water thirsty imports to West draining marginalised communities dry

Food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries make it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply.

A new report from WaterAid, released on World Water Day last week, warned that in many areas the amount of groundwater pumped for irrigation exceeds the amount that is naturally replenished, so wells and pumps can run dry. Products with a high water footprint are of particular concern. WaterAid highlighted:

• coffee – a cup which contains about 125ml of actual water is made from ground coffee which takes 130 litres to produce. Tea came in at 27 litres per cup;

• avocados – 2,000 litres of water per kilogramme;

• rice – accounts for 40% of all global irrigation, and 17% of global groundwater depletion, with an average water footprint of 2,500 litres of water per kilogramme;

• Cotton – is a thirsty fabric: grown and produced in India it has a water footprint of 22,500 litres per kilogramme; in Pakistan, this is an average of 9,800 litres and in the United States about 8,100 litres.

WaterAid called for the production of these and other goods to be made more sustainable and for consumers to be more thoughtful in their purchasing habits. Chief executive Tim Wainwright said: “An urgent understanding is needed to ensure that the push for economic development through exports of food and clothing, do not imperil current and future generations’ access to water. There can be no sustainable economic development without sustainable and equitable access to water.”

• Social enterprise and ethical water company Belu marked World Water Day by donating £1m to WaterAid – its entire annual profit. Belu, which provides hotels, restaurants and catering providers with low-carbon British mineral water, filtration systems and refillable bottles, donated 100% of profit to WaterAid to set an example of how charities and businesses with shared values can work together to create social change and transform lives. From 2011 to 2014, Belu delivered over £500,000 to WaterAid. It has now given a total of £4 million.

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