The World Cup, Water, and Sanitation – PSA-a-thon Series

africa, community, drinking water, international, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sanitation, south africa, video, water availability

Many around the world have just finished watching the USA vs. Algeria game in South Africa. USA won the match (1-0) and will be able to continue to play in the 2010 World Cup. I’m happy with the final score (sorry, Algeria) but not so happy about something else. During the time of each World Cup match, around 140 children in Africa will die from diarrheal illnesses related to dirty water and a lack of toilets.

One organization, Wash-United, hopes people will become more aware of these issues during the 2010 World Cup. They have enlisted football greats like Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu, and Stephen Appiah and created Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to help the spread the world. Enjoy these PSAs as part of the PSA-a-thon Series, and keep watching and rooting for your favorite teams.

Football Greats for Safe Water and Sanitation

Desmond Tutu for Safe Water and Sanitation

Can’t get enough? The other five PSAs in the series cover rainwater harvesting in India, the LA Tap Project, a water-conservation campaign in Denver, the Tap Project 2009, and Charity Water.

Water, Sanitation, and the 2010 G8 Summit

conference, politics, water events

From June 25 to June 26, leaders from eight of the “major advanced economies” in the world will converge for the G8 Summit in Canada to discuss important matters. PM Harper from Canada said this year’s Summit will focus on “key challenges related to development, and international peace and security.” All priority issues for the Summit – development, the health of mothers,/newborns/children, food security, Africa, and peace/security – relate to water and sanitation.

The Canadian G8 Website states that health issues “will be accomplished by helping developing countries strengthen their health systems and improve access to: health care, trained health workers, family planning, attended childbirth, better nutrition, clean drinking water and sanitation, and the means to prevent and treat diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.”

One problem with past G8 Summits is the difficulty of deciphering what has been discussed during the private meetings and how this information will ‘trickle down’ to policies in both participating and non-participating nations. One group, called the G8 Research Group, is working to provide more information on proceedings of G8 Summits. Maybe this year they will cover some of the discussions on water and sanitation? Their website states:

“Unlike other multilateral meetings, leaders at the G8 Summit meet privately behind closed-doors; there are no aides or intermediaries and there are few scripts or protocols. The decisions made by the G8 have global ramifications and the reach and scope of its influence in the world cannot be denied.”

Still, each year, G8 Summits provide an opportunity for civil-society organizations to coalesce and urge respective governments to talk about issues that matter to them. A number of groups are focusing on water and sanitation at the G8 in 2010. Interaction, a coalition of 180 NGOs working to alleviate global poverty, has prepared a brief on water and sanitation that calls for the US Government to be vocal on water and sanitation at the Summit.

Canadian organizations including UNICEF Canada and Care Canada and Plan Canada and RESULTS Canada and Save the Children Canada and World Vision Canada state that the Canadian Government should “…address preventive measures such as adequate diet through breastfeeding, nutritional supplementation/fortification and access to clean water and sanitation.”

And a G8 World Religions Summit of global religious leaders began yesterday at the University of Winnipeg. Leaders represent Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Islamic, Shinto and indigenous faiths. This alternative Summit will be aired live online here. They hosted a water-ceremony on the opening day of this alternative Summit. For more information on last year’s G8 Summit and water (and sanitation), please see this blog post. Updates on water and sanitation discussions at the Summit will be added as they become available.

UPDATE (29 July 2010):

On the 26th of June, leaders from G8 countries wrapped up the summit and issued a Declaration. They pledged support towards meeting Millennium Development Goals. They affirmed a common desire to achieve aid-effectiveness for development in Africa. They discussed the importance of meeting MDG 4 reducing child mortality and MDG 5 maternal health, but did not indicate water and sanitation as integral to such efforts anywhere in the main Declaration.

They launched the Muskoka Initiative to further progress on meeting MDGs 4 and 5  and linked this Initiative to MDGs 1 (childhood nutrition) and 6 (HIV/AIDS, malaria). They mentioned the importance of drinking water and sanitation once stating “relevant actions in the field of safe drinking water and sanitation” among other things are important towards meeting the aforementioned MDGs. But they did not identify a link between MDGs 4 and 5 to MDG No. 7 to halve the population without drinking water or sanitation.

Many NGOs including World Vision feel the Muskoka Initiative is under-funded with 5 billion pledged towards meeting these commitments with half of that amount from Canada). Here is a good review of different NGOs and their take on the Summit and subsequent Initiative.

Tribute to Women and Water by IWMI

agriculture, community, gender, women

Stunning and breathtaking visual imagery of women from around the world using water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, growing, working, praying, and living. This striking video was produced by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) for International Women’s Day on March 8th. The video is posted on their new Gender Topics page.

Lakes Important to Urban Areas: The Bangalore Example

drought, film, groundwater, india, lakes

Bangalore in Karnataka, India was once a city of lakes. Around 1,792 lakes existed there 500 years ago built by the city’s founder. In the 1960s, about 280 lakes were left. An estimated 70 to 80 lakes remain today. Lakes were lost from development and surrounding commercial or household encroachment. This is a great loss for cities because lakes help recharge groundwater supplies, reduce the air temperatures, and provide habitat for wildlife and vegetation.

The India Water Portal recently hosted The Lost Lakes of Bangalore contest. The aim of this project was to document histories of lost lakes in the city. The winning entry was “Err- bane” Truth – Dharmambudi Tank. I really enjoyed watching this short-film. It showed, in an easy-to-understand format, the importance of lakes to urban areas.

Gulf Oil Spill of 2010

oceans, water pollution, water quality

An oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon, located 40 miles from the Louisiana coast, exploded on April 20th. This explosion left eleven people dead and copious amounts of crude oil and natural gas flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from a deep-water well. Today, the oil and gas mixture continues to stream into the Gulf.

Rates of discharge from several leaks range anywhere from BP’s estimate of less than 5,000 barrels a day to Steve Wereley’s (a scientist from Purdue) estimate of less than 100,000 barrels a day. Steve analyzed underwater video provided by BP to arrive at his estimate. Most people in the United States use oil for daily activities such as driving or heating. And oil is utilized for many industrial processes. Catastrophes like this one are one liability of relying on oil to meet energy needs.

Images from the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010

“The oil slick appears as a dull gray on the water’s surface and stretches south from the Mississippi Delta with what looks like a tail.”
Above Photo: NASA

“A satellite image taken May 17th shows oil slick being entrained in the Loop Current with a broad conveyor-belt-like extension of the slick sweeping in a gentle arc to the southeast and reaching 222 miles from the location of the leaking well.”
Above Photo: SkyTruth on flickr

“A map of the northern Gulf of Mexico showing the nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms in 2006.”
Above Photo: NOAA Ocean Explorer

“Soldiers of the Louisiana National Guard continue constructing the interlocking water diversion system near Venice, LA at the southwest pass of the Mississippi River Delta on May 14th.”
Above Photo: The U.S. Army on flickr

“Ships make their way through surface oil near a barge funneling off oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in this aerial view over the Gulf of Mexico, May 18th.”
Above Photo: Reuters/Daniel Beltra on flickr

“Fort Jackson, LA  International Bird Rescue Research Center
Above Photo: PBS on flickr

“Campaigner Lindsey Allen walks through a patch of oil from the Deepwater Horizon on the breakwater in the mouth of the Mississippi where it meets the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, May, 18th.”
Above Photo: Greenpeace on flickr

Detail Talk Blog: H20 in India and Beyond


My dear friend Praveena continues to inspire me with her devotion to improve the quality of life for people in our world. Herself and her friends, Sachin and Prateek, recently started a thought-provoking blog called Detail Talk based out of South India. This blog, like their film company Bhoomi Productions, is linked to their interests and endeavors in entrepreneurial and social development projects.

Detail Talk focuses on many topics including “matters of utmost concern to India and to the world and where we are confident of contributing in a greater capacity. These for us are Education, Environment and Healthcare. On Detail Talk we cover conferences, workshops, other events like film festivals and expositions related to these broad categories that we set ourselves on.” For those of us interested in water conversations, this blog talks a LOT about water.

Above Photo: India during monsoon. Courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Here are a few of the water posts on their blog.

Water Stories from Around the World: Book Review
Bringing order in a chaotic water management scenario: Case study from Udupi district
I am large, I contain multitudes: On Water
Inter State Water Disputes and the Judiciary

To see the rest, check out Detail Talk. My simple overview does not do this blog justice. Thanks Praveena, Sachin, and Prateek. Keep-on with conversations for positive change.

Water and Sanitation Crisis at the White House

conference, international, sanitation

“The White House was given a shocking makeover by international charity WaterAid and global campaign group End Water Poverty. The makeover took place to mark the first ever High Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water in Washington on 23 April. Gone are the immaculate White House lawns, in their place a squalid otherworldly scene where children collect water from a filthy rubbish-strewn water hole and long queues form at the standpoint. Except that this isn’t another world. Having to use a contaminated and potentially fatal water source is a daily reality for 884 million people. Then there are the 2.6 billion who have no access to a toilet. At this meeting Ministers and policy makers from 30 developed and developing countries had the opportunity to commit to financial and political action to tackle this forgotten crisis.”

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: H20 for Life

fundraising, service learning

This on Earth Day is the third interview for Visions of Water, Visions of Life. We will be talking with the founder of H20 for Life. Patty Hall, a schoolteacher from Minnesota, started this NGO to help US students provide assistance for water and sanitation projects in developing countries. Witness the power of youth.

H20 for life is an organization where students in America help raise money for water and sanitation projects in developing countries. Can you explain more about how the program works?

We provide a list of schools in developing nations that need water, sanitation and hygiene education. US schools choose a partner school, study the issues surrounding the water crisis AND take action to raise funds to bring water to their partner school.

You are a schoolteacher. How did you come up with the idea of starting H20 for Life?

My daughter and I had visited Kenya on several occasions. We met a young man that asked us to find someone to help his community build a water project as they were in desperate need. I approached my middle school, Highview Middle School, in New Brighton, MN. My students overwhelmingly said “Let’s do it!” and they did! This success led to developing H2O for Life as we realized that schools in the US could make a huge impact around the world.

How has this program changed the lives of those receiving assistance in developing countries?

Statistics are showing that illnesses are decreasing in schools that receive a WASH in Schools project (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene education). Girls are more likely to continue their education once privacy is provided by addition of adequate latrines, and time spent collecting water, mostly done by girls, is diminished. Increasing access to education will help with community development over time.

How has this program changed the lives of participating students from the United States?

I believe that engaging students in service learning opportunities is essential. Students are developing skills that will be useful throughout their lives. As teachers, we also need to provide opportunities for our students to study world issues and figure out ways to make a difference. Studies have shown that students that engage in “giving” at an early age, become life-long donors and responsible global citizens for life.

How many schools have been involved in the United States? How much money has been raised for projects?

This is our third year of matching US schools. Our first year we had 16 schools – mostly in MN involved. Last year we had 120 schools in the US, spread across the nation, and this year we currently have 165 schools taking on projects. We have raised over $350,000 and expect another $300,000 this year to go to projects. Incidentally, every dollar raised by H2O for Life is matched dollar for dollar by the in-country implementing non-governmental organization.

H20 For Life is an all-volunteer run organization. How do you – and other volunteer staff – sustain the motivation and energy to lead H20 For Life?

First of all, we are no longer all volunteers. As we have grown, it has become necessary to hire an Executive Director and a Business Manager. I am a full time volunteer! We have other volunteers that help us by attending conferences to engage teachers, write thank-you notes, organize events and, more importantly, we have our SCHOOLS with amazing teachers and students that are all volunteers for H2O for Life. We need to continue to provide fresh, new, inspirational material that energizes teachers and students about our mission. As one teacher said- “Will we do it next year? Are there schools in need Absolutely!”

How can new schools get involved with H20 for Life? Is there an age limit?

We welcome any age group to participate. We have had pre-schools organize trike-a-thons to colleges that organize Walks for Water. Each school brings a different twist to events and focus. That is what makes it fun for us! We see great projects being done around the country. Our website is a place to share those ideas. Getting involved is easy! Visit our website: Schools can sign-up online!

Drink Tap Water to Give Kids Clean Water

donation, drinking water, outreach, sanitation, unicef

As the rainy season wanes in the Pacific Northwest, our water-focused student club at Oregon State University has decided to promote the UNICEF Tap Project. The Tap Project, which began in 2007, is held during World Water Week from March 21st to March 27th. The aim is bring awareness to and collect donations for water and sanitation challenges faced by children around the world. Nearly 4,100 children die each day from water-related illnesses. Through the Tap Project, restaurants collect one dollar for each glass of tap water usually served for free and provide these donations to UNICEF.

Above Photo: Tap Project volunteer looking for participating restaurants.

We spent a couple of days walking around encouraging restaurants and coffeehouses to get involved. Four restaurants and two coffeehouses have agreed to participate. This is the first year of the Tap Project in our area. Restaurants are a great venue to reach a diverse group of people. The campaign might present the opportunity for someone in the United States to think about a young child in Zambia (or Bangladesh, India, Sudan… ) and their lack of water and/or sanitation. And, with the UNICEF Tap Project, we are giving people the chance to help alleviate the suffering of children worldwide.

If you want to engage your city in the Tap Project, visit the UNICEF Tap Project website at

Disaster in Haiti: Loss of Life and Lack of Water

community, donation, drinking water, natural disaster, ngo, outreach, unicef, united nations

A catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The 7.0 magnitude quake was centered offshore the populated capital of Port-au-Prince. One of ten deadliest in history, causalities range from 50,000 to 200,000 people. Almost three million of the country’s nine million people are affected, and many are still trapped in the rubble. Aid efforts have been hampered by the scale of impact and current instability of the Haitian government.

Survivors are in desperate need of drinking water. Running water is not available due to damaged pipes. A lack of clean drinking water after this type of disaster can lead to dehydration and widespread waterborne illnesses. The Government of Haiti commandeered two water treatment facilities and is sending water to the capital in trucks. Four US ships are en route with desalination units to produce 25,000 liters of water a day. Another aircraft carrier, stationed off the coast, can produce 35,000 liters of water a day. Two NGOs, Water Missions International and Oxfam, left water-filtration systems in the country. Red Cross is dispensing bottled water, food, and medical supplies. UNICEF is distributing water and sanitation supplies to help protect the health of children.

Above Photo: Survivors collecting water from a broken water main in Haiti. Courtesy United Nations Photo on flickr.

The best way to help victims in Haiti is through monetary donations! To donate for a variety relief efforts, please see these links on Water Wired. To donate for water-related relief efforts, please see the links below:

Water Missions International
Previously established in the country to work on water-supply concerns, they shipped 10 desalination units to the region after the quake. They are collecting money for water-related relief efforts.
In September 2009, this organization committed to provide safe drinking water to 50,000 people in Haiti. Now they are helping re-establish local water-focused NGOs. They are collecting donations to restore/expand water services in Haiti.

UNICEF is focused on distributing supplies related to water and sanitation, therapeutic food for infants and small children, medical supplies, and temporary shelter. They just appealed for donations of 120 million USD to help with relief efforts in Haiti.

This long-standing NGO is distributing emergency water purification tablets to local hospitals. They will distribute water purification tablets, buckets with covers, jerry cans and other water containers, hygiene kits, high-energy biscuits, plastic sheeting and cooking kits to 50,000 to 75,000 people in Haiti.

This well-known organization recognizes that clean drinking water is “the most immediate problem.” They are shipping 10 tons of water, sanitation, health, and shelter equipment to the area and collecting donations for these endeavors.

charity: water
This NGO, based out of New York City, is dedicated to raising money for water-supply projects in developing nations. They are accepting donations for health-related (that is, water, sanitation, etc.) and general efforts for partner NGOs in Haiti.

10 Facts on Women and Water

  1. Women and children fetch the majority of water for household uses in rural areas. Often this keeps them from attending school or working at a job.
  2. The average distance that women and children walk for water in Africa and Asia is six kilometers (3.7 miles).
  3. Women carry heavy loads of water (about 20 liters) on their heads in some locations in the world. This causes severe damage to the neck and spine over time.
  4. Women make most household water and sanitation decisions, but they are rarely invited to be involved in planning or management of water and sanitation systems.
  5. Water projects that involve women in planning and management are proven more likely to succeed.
  6. In many places in the world, women’s land rights are not recognized, and they are unable to access water for agricultural uses.
  7. On average, women work twice as long as men for unpaid work (housework, cleaning, cooking, washing, etc.) than men.
  8. Women are primary caretakers of the millions of children that fall ill each year from water-related illnesses. This reduces time spent working or on education.
  9. For mothers and pregnant women, an improved water supply and proper water storage is essential to protect lives and ensure good health.
  10. Women are under-represented in water and sanitation sector jobs with men having most jobs in this field.

Above Photo: Generations of women and girls.

‘Women Need Water Rights, Not Just Technologies’ by Masum Momaya

article, community, drinking water, economy, gender, outreach, women

Just finished an interesting article examining roles and limitations of technology for solving problems in water access, planning, and management for women around the world.

“In poor communities, technologies are often touted as panaceas for poverty. For women in productive and reproductive roles, technologies, such as those for fetching and storing water, can make daily tasks easier. But do such technologies actually ensure women’s rights?”

Read the article called Women Need Water Rights Not Just Technologies by Masum Momaya on the AWID website.

Above Photo: Two women washing clothes in a canal in Tamil Nadu.

Live Blogs and Tweets from the Water Harvesting, Storage, and Conservation Conference

conference, outreach

For the next three days, YOU can virtually attend a conference on Water Harvesting, Storage, and Conservation (WHSC) by reading and commenting on blog posts and tweets posted in real-time by Praveena Sridhar on the India Water Portal here.

The conference, at the Indian Institute of Technology – Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, India, will focus on the technology, policy, and implementation of solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water problems. Some topics of discussion will include:

  • National policy support for planning by basin.
  • Water harvesting for agriculture.
  • Storm water management.
  • Participatory water management.
  • Water conflict and management.
  • Groundwater recharge and remediation.

“WHSC-2009 invites delegates and experts working in the area of water harvesting, storage and conservation from global institutes and industries to participate in this event. The conference aims at the synergy between Academics, Researchers, Industrialists, Policy-makers and Implementers.”


World Toilet Day 2009

outreach, sanitation

Today is World Toilet Day. And – if you giggle at this funny-sounding name – you might not realize the vital importance of proper sanitation.

Over 2.5 billion (about 40 percent of the world population) urinate and defecate outside. Open defecation, or OD as it is commonly known, spreads diseases and results in the poor health or DEATH of many people. Around 2 million children die each year from sanitation-related illnesses (more than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined).

But it’s difficult for numbers to tell the true story. During visits to villages in South India with Arghyam, some people told me their stories of OD. A story of how OD speeds the spread of diseases. A story of skin rashes, boils, and infections resulting after using the main OD area in a village (sometimes without shoes). A story of what it feels like walking down a trail covered in human feces during the rainy season to use the main OD area in a village.

Here is a small snippet of an interview of my friend interpreting a woman’s description of an OD area (in an undisclosed village). The interview is graphic. Please listen at your own risk.

Now, if after reading this blog post, you want to make a difference. Here are some ways:

Talk about it. One problem is that people do not want to discuss what they think is a dirty subject. The WTD website has some great ideas for spreading the word.

Donate. Water Aid, a well-known water and sanitation NGO, has an option where you can buy a family a toilet online.

Attend an event. Water Advocates is having a special event in Washington DC today, and there are other such events around the world. Check them out!