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University of Queensland highlights the health issues associated with limited access to fresh water

University of Queensland highlights the health issues associated with limited access to fresh water
March 22, 2019

Marking World Water Day, Dr Nina Hall, lecturer at the University of Queensland School of Public Health, has highlighted that Australians need to recognise where action is required to improve the health of all our citizens. 

Emphasising that "water is our most basic human right", Dr Hall believes that Australia still has work to do to ensure it is available to all Australians, advising "many Australians living in remote communities do not have the same access to drinking water that is enjoyed by those who live in urban areas."

Dr Hall highlights that when water is not available, people will turn to soft drink instead, citing "the Northern Territory has the highest intake of soft drink consumption, per capita. And the Territory has high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes - the unfortunate side-effects of high sugar consumption.

“Making water safe to drink doesn't necessarily mean people will drink it. Potable water is technically safe to drink, but in some communities, people complain that it smells funny, is ‘hard’ or has a strange colour. This can have flow-on effects. If you don't want to drink that water, what other hydration sources can you turn to? Bottled water can be expensive, create waste and be a short-term solution that's not available to everyone, creating a further divide between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.

“World Water Day is an important reminder for our government policy-makers and all Australians to take more action and fight for this fundamental human right.”

She adds that water in remote communities “may be unsafe due to natural and man-made contamination sources. Common contaminants include heavy metals like cadmium and uranium, microbes from contact with sewerage and man-made pollutants from mining operations, agriculture and even defence sites.”

Dr Hall outlines that to make safe drinking water accessible to all is not impossible. Australia has the technology and training to make it possible but we’re missing some key fundamentals that ensure our water is ‘fit for place, fit for purpose and fit for people.’

'Fit for place' means providing clean water all year round, in a way that can be supported by limited staff. It involves other considerations, such as weather damage and water sources (lakes, seas, land) which may affect accessibility. ‘Fit for purpose’ requires looking at the intended use and treatment of the resource. And 'Fit for people' looks at what is acceptable for humans to safely drink and enjoy. 

World Water Day helps countries promote their efforts to reach the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal on water (SDG 6).  Australia, along with 197 other countries, signed up to meet the 17 goals - but there is still a long way to go.

According to Dr Hall,action is required now if we want to achieve these goals and “make the world a better, healthier and more sustainable place.”

Click here to read Dr Hall's full article.

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9th December 2018 - Three WA facilities recognised as Waterwise Aquatic Centres

3rd August 2018 - New technology delivers significant water savings at Willoughby Leisure Centre

14th January 2016 - The devastating impact of soft drinks on public health

21st March 2014 - Earthcheck event to address tourism sustainability

20th March 2014 - Tourism and sustainability experts highlight need to address Asia’s looming water crisis

6th October 2013 - Mount Isa splash pad operations threatened by drought

24th September 2013 - World Tourism Day to focus on the importance of water

18th September 2009 - Zelbrite recognised for water saving benefits

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