Changing Currents

Posted: 9 December 2003

Changing Currents is a special edition of the Earth Report series, produced in the run-up to the 2003 3rd World Water Forum, on the world water crisis and how people around the world are rising to the challenge.

If all the water on the planet was reduced to a litre, just two drops represent the freshwater readily accessible to humans. In real terms this means that just three per cent of the world's water is freshwater, most of which is tied up in glaciers or icesheets or lies too far underground to exploit.

Children playing in dirty water© TVE
Children playing in dirty water© TVE
6000 Children die every day from waterborne diseases© TVE

Given this fact, it is not surprising that in a world of 6 billion people, more than 1 billion people have no access to fresh drinking water and 2.4 billion have no sanitation. Adding to the problem is contamination - 6000 children die every day, or one child every 15 seconds, from waterborne diseases carried by dirty water.

In addition, nearly three quarters of the water supply is used to grow food. All told, the world's farmers are racking up an annual water deficit of some 160 billion cubic metres - the amount used to produce almost 10 per cent of the world's grain.

Although these statistics make for grim reading, the series takes the view that despite all the talk of a global water crisis, there is the technology and the resources to guarantee freshwater supplies for everyone. The central problem is not how much water there is but who can access this resource - and how.

The series consists of 10 half-hour documentaries as follows:

Land of the Rising Water - Japan's civil engineering marvels as the high tech solution to managing water for the mega-cities.

Not a Dirty Word - The Johannesburg World Summit agreed a target to reduce the number of people without sanitation by half by 2015. In Sao Paulo, Karachi and Manila slum communities show how that target can be reached.

Tell-Tale Signs - According to the UN 170 million people are experiencing water shortages as a direct consequence of climate change. Targets for water may be frustrated if nations fail to reach targets for tackling global warming.

Boiling Point - TVE covers the water flashpoints in the Middle East, US-Mexican border and southern Africa, and finds that countries are more likely to make agreements than war. The real flashpoints are between and among communities over dwindling supplies.

Net Profits - a special edition of Earth Report's Hands On reports on small enterprises that are seeing returns on investing in restoration of marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Tunnel Vision - the Persians invented a system of underground water supply 3000 years ago. The Romans improved on it. Communities in Syria are re-discovering the wisdom of their forebears.

Dam, Dam, Dam - Are big dams part of the problem or part of the solution? TVE scours the world to report on the case for and against dams.

Pumping Pressure - In the drier areas of the world irrigation accounts for 90 per cent of water used. Underground supplies are being pumped dry - the programme features the visionaries who have some answers.

Plumbing the Rights (2 x 26-minute episodes) - The UN has declared clean water to be a human right. This two-part programme explores the obstacles to guaranteeing poor peoples' right to water. From her parched homestead in southern Africa, Ma Tsepo Khumbane tells us: "Governments! Are you prepared to walk the distance with us? To provide clean water to people as God gives it?"

Water on the Brain - TVE's Kyoto primer - with the aid of chapter headings, the programme highlights the key issues in the run-up to the 3rd World Water Forum.

Produced by the London-based Television Trust for the Environment (TVE), the series is free throughout the developing world. For copies of the film contact: TVE, Prince Albert Road, London NW1 4RZ. Tel: +44 (0)20 7586 5526, Fax: +44 (0)20 7586 4866, Email: . To order online, see: TVE's Moving Pictures Catalogue.For more information on the series, visit: