Surviving the heat without drinking water

In the midst of a gruelling heat wave, several impoverished families were left without drinking water in Hungary. Even though they did not pay their bills, many believe that cutting the water supply in this weather was inhumane.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Surviving the heat without drinking water

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Why this story matters:

Hungarians have not been spared the recent heat wave, and temperature often exceeded 35 degrees. To deal with the heat, experts recommend drinking several liters of water a day -- a luxury for families who cannot afford their water bill.

In the eastern city of Nyíradony, many citizens recently found themselves without access to water. The water company turned their water off because the families were in arrears.

After the situation became known, politicians of the Hungarian Socialist Party repeated an earlier proposal that all families in Hungary should be entitled to 1 cubic meter of water, raising the question: is access to water a basic human right?

According to the United Nations it is.

The Resolution 64/292 “calls upon States and international organisations… to help countries… to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all”.

In Hungary it might be time to revise what affordable means. Although the water supply in Nyíradony was eventually reinstated after the media scandal, no one knows how many families have been cut off from much-needed water throughout the country.

Details from the story:

  • There were around a dozen affected households in Nyíradony. There was a family where 17 children were left without water. 
  • Ágnes Kunhalmi, a socialist politician called the police when she learnt about the desperate situation. After she called the police, city authorities brought several bottles of drinking water to the area and opened a public drinking fountain that had been closed.
  • According to the water service provider, if someone does not pay the bills the company sends a warning after 30 and 90 days. It only restricts the access to water if the debt has still not been paid after 90 days. The company is considering introducing the option of paying on an installment basis. 
  • The local government said that there are two public fountains in the area which have been operating non-stop.
  • According to the proposal of the United Nations Development Programme water costs should not exceed 3% of household income.

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