Moral drought: The ethics of water use

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Water has been called the berth of life as it performs basic ecological functions in every environment. Many relevant water properties are not discernible to the human senses: microbes are invisible; colour and taste often give little indication of water composition or potability. For this reason, technological deficiencies in water management are often responsible for disease, mortality and poverty in low-income societies.

In developed countries, there is mounting evidence of the secondary effects of medicines, household products and chemicals present in sewage. Diffuse contamination caused by agriculture and livestock production can reach rivers and lead to water eutrophication favouring algae and microbe blooms.

Both the nature of the problems and the availability of technology vary regionally but improper water management places important limitations on the wellbeing of local populations, women in particular.

A moral issue stands out: the commitment to the amelioration of the population's water health, safety and resource use, while taking into account the sensibilities of local cultures.

The paper suggests a scarcity of ethics in the approach to water use. To overcome this, we should address the water problems of the whole of humankind, making our knowledge, technology and equipment easily available to others.

Keywords: Environment, Water ethics, Water supply, Water technology, Women's rights

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