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7 Billion and Counting


In the next few months, the world’s population will tick over 7 billion people. In this fantastic clip from National Geographic, we see how, why, and what that means for us.

The clip raises the challenges of water and sanitation, and leads us to ponder how the world will cope with an expected population of 9 billion by mid-century. But we would like to take these thoughts a step further to ask, “what can we do about it?”

As we’ve noted previously, around 884 million people lack adequate access to safe and clean drinking water and over 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. One of the targets of Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals is to halve these numbers by 2015. Below are a few ways we can make that happen.

  • Support organisations working to improve access to safe and clean water and adequate sanitation in a sustainable way. NGOs like WaterAid work with communities using a mixture of low-cost technologies to deliver lasting results. They also have projects that empower and provide a platform for local citizens in developing countries to hold their governments accountable on providing the adequate water and sanitation services they are entitled to.
  • Encourage governments to prioritise water and sanitation issues by committing good aid and resources. NGOs such as Pump Aid and End Water Poverty have global campaigns and events that the public can participate in that put pressure on governments to do their part to stop the water and sanitation crisis. This crisis is currently killing 4,000 children every day with diarrhoea, a completely preventable and treatable disease. Many would be surprised to know that this means diarrhoea kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
  • Help advocate for a more sustainable use of water resources in agriculture. The FAO estimates that 70% of global water use is related to agricultural activity. Organisations like Water Footprint are trying to promote the idea of global water saving through trade by encouraging countries with low water productivity to import water-intensive products from sites with high water productivity and export commodities that are less water intensive. In plain language – don’t grow rice in deserts. We need to adopt more sustainable uses of water resources for agricultural activity if we want to avoid an eventual global water crisis.

Whether there are 7 billion or 9 billion people on our planet, seeing an end to extreme poverty is only possible if we improve access to safe and clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. This is because these issues not only threaten lives, but also effect education and livelihoods. WaterAid estimates that 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases, and that the average household in rural Africa spends an average of 26% of their time fetching water (taking away from work and leisure time).

We can each do our part to educate others on the importance of these issues so that we not only halve the amount of people lacking access to safe and clean water and adequate sanitation by 2015, but eventually see that number reach zero.


25/01/11 12:37am - Posted By Mac - Reply to this comment
Very interesting information on the water use and its implications for our growing population!
25/01/11 6:07am - Posted By patrick - Reply to this comment
great post and nice to see it focused on things that truly matter and can help people (water, sanitation etc). As opposed to the rich westerner's view of what they think other people want. It's obvious the author has traveled and seen first hand what will better the lives of people as opposed to the elites at the NY Times who sit in their ivory tower. We should support all 3 bullet items above!
25/01/11 7:50pm - Posted By Tam - Reply to this comment
Great article about a very, very important basic. Cholera, the main diarrhea/killer, is awful and often painful, and so damn simple to fix that it's wrong for it to even exist.

27/01/11 8:36am - Posted By Laura - Reply to this comment
Great article - water poverty is one of the biggest travesties in our world today and is something we should all be thinking about, not because it may one day affect us but because it already does through our global humanity.
28/01/11 9:53pm - Posted By Serena - Reply to this comment
If you care about water poverty, you can join a world wide campaign to call for action from global governments on World Water Day this year - 22 March. The campaign is supported by WaterAid, End Water Poverty and Pump Aid amongst hundreds of others.

Find out more at
29/01/11 6:19am - Posted By Ashli - Reply to this comment
Hi Serena, I'll definitely write a followup blog to this promoting World Water Day in March. Thanks!
14/02/11 12:58pm - Posted By minnie - Reply to this comment
The campaign is supported by WaterAid, End Water Poverty and Pump Aid amongst hundreds of others <a href="">google</a>
14/02/11 1:02pm - Posted By minnie - Reply to this comment
14/02/11 1:05pm - Posted By minnie - Reply to this comment

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