About two-thirds of the worlds families do not have a water supply in the home. Instead they have to collect water from standpipes, wells or rivers, and then carry it back to the house for use. It is usually the responsibility of women and children to collect and carry a familys water.
As people often live several kilometres from their nearest water supply, collecting water can be a time-consuming, difficult job. Some women spend many hours a day walking to a well or standpipe, waiting their turn, filling containers and then walking back home. On average, a woman collects 15 to 20 litres of water on each trip - the equivalent of four bags of potatoes - which she then carries home on her head, back or hip. Backache, inflamed joints and even permanent deformities caused by neck and spinal damage are common.
To make the job of collecting the water even harder, it often has to be pumped up from many metres below the ground. To do this, a deep, narrow hole called a borehole is dug down to the water level. Women and children then pump up the water they need from the borehole, usually using a hand pump - it takes about ten minutes of pumping to produce 25 litres of water. Diesel, petrol or electric-powered pumps can be used, but these are very expensive to buy and run, as well as using up valuable fossil fuels.