architecture, community, drinking water, homeless, sanitation

Water and Toilets for Humans w/o Homes

On a recent trip to my hometown, I traveled two hours north to visit a close family member living on the streets. He is chronically homeless, and it deeply saddens me he is unable to accept housing assistance. Someone chronically homeless is an “individual with a disabling condition who has either been continually homeless for a year or more or who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past 3 years.” There were around 650 thousand people homeless one night and 1.59 million people spent one night in a shelter in 2010, and about 17 percent were chronically homeless. Reasons such as high unemployment and/or substance abuse problems contribute to homelessness, but people without homes still have basic human needs. Basic needs that include water for drinking and washing and toilets to pee and poop.

Before the trip, I gathered basic living provisions for Nate (pseud.): backpack , raincoat, shoes, water bottle, and soap. But I worried “where would he fill his water bottle?” and I wondered “where would he use his soap?” While buying him lunch, I gingerly asked if he ever uses shelters. He doesn’t. He echoed what numerous other people feel, “shelters are dirty, dangerous, and packed.” This older ethnographic report by Hill and Stamey found the same sentiment. Nate essentially has nowhere to get water, take a bath, or use the bathroom. I was distraught to probe further, and I didn’t want to insult his dignity. But I now wonder more than ever before. What are US communities doing to provide water and toilets for humans without homes?


Above Photo: Leroy Allen Skalstad on Wikimedia Commons

There are few water and toilet options for individuals experiencing homelessness. For water, folks may use a public drinking fountain [not always nearby], sinks in a public bathroom [not always nearby], drinking fountains at a shelter [often not open during daytime], sinks in a private bathroom [could be kicked out], or ponds and streams [possibly contaminated]. For toilets, folks may use a public toilet [not always nearby], a toilet in a shelter [often not open during daytime], a private toilet [could be kicked out], or go outside [could be arrested]. It’s a challenging situation for those on the streets. I didn’t tell him I noticed when we took him to lunch, but the first thing Nate did was use the restaurant bathroom.

US cities need to do a better job ensuring ample public drinking water, hand-washing, and toilet facilities for those experiencing homelessness. There are organizations and cities addressing the issue, but more research needs to be done to inventory, categorize, and prioritize options nationwide.

Here are a few brief examples. The I am Waters Foundation provides bottled water to shelters, missions, and community homeless organizations. Central Oregon Veterans Outreach gives 5-6 gallon containers to homeless camps and returns to fill them with water weekly. Some shelters such as this one in Arizona host bottled water drives during summer months. Portland built six innovative Portland Loos. Another organization in San Francisco is proposing similar small bathrooms except with toilets that separate solid from liquid wastes. Several cities like Grand Rapids and San Diego installed portable toilets in the past.

The handful of water and toilet projects listed above are steps in the right direction, but sadly few of these options are available in Nate’s town. In addition, some are short-term solutions to long-term problems. It gives me hope that one academic architecture program is realizing the importance of design for those without homes hosting a Rethinking Shelter event, but it’s up to all of us to better understand water and toilet options available for those without homes and to advocate for appropriate solutions. In conjunction with PHLUSH, we’ll compile more information on this issue in future posts.

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architecture, art, community, drinking water, international, water availability, water events

Water-Art Activism Hits New York City

It always strikes me how a small but creative idea can spread spurring people around it to see the world in a new way. Or its ability to influence individuals to engage in positive change. Word Above the Street is one such idea.

Mary Jordan wants to “draw attention to Water as a precious resource by transforming 300 rooftop water tanks in New York City into works of art”. These works of art will focus on bringing awareness to water scarcity and water sanctity around the world. Professional artists, emergent artists, and youth have been asked to submit art ideas for the tanks.


Above Photo: Word Above The Street

Positive effects of this art project will be far-reaching. Over 8.4 million NYC residents, 5 million tourists, and millions of virtual visitors will be able to see the exhibition during the summer of 2012. This may be the first time many of these people have thought about water as an important issue, and this project may inspire others to further create positive change. Right on Word Above the Street!

drinking water, film, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sanitation, united nations

Don’t Let it Drop – PSA-a-thon Series

Are you ready for your daily dose of H20 packaged into a handy-dandy Public Service Announcement? Well, I hope so. Today’s PSA is from WaterAid. It was created to encourage world leaders to make toilets a priority at the upcoming UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in September 2010. Musicians playing at Glastonbury Festival were featured in the PSA.

Ten years ago, United Nations member states agreed to achieve eight MDGs by 2015 to end global poverty. MDG No. 7 includes a target to reduce – BY HALF – the number of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation. See the recent MDG Report 2010 for more information on the status of all targets.

More PSA-maddness can be found covering rainwater harvesting in India, the LA Tap Project, a water-conservation campaign in Denver, the Tap Project 2009, Charity Water, and The World Cup, Water, and Sanitation.

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

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

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.

donation, drinking water, outreach, sanitation, unicef

Drink Tap Water to Give Kids Clean Water

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 www.tapproject.org.

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

Disaster in Haiti: Loss of Life and Lack of Water

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.

Water.org
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
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.

CARE
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.

Oxfam
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.

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

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

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.

drinking water, film, india, outreach, sustainability, urban areas

Water for the Ages in India: Two Weeks at Arghyam

Two weeks ago I started my internship, and time has been traveling at unstoppable speeds. I am over my jetlag, learning to cross the road without getting pummeled, increasing my caffeine tolerance by drinking chai and coffee daily, making new friends, and experiencing life working at a dynamic water-NGO in India. The Arghyam office is in a converted bungalow in the neighborhood of Indiranagar in Bangalore. Lucky enough, I live within walking distance.

So what does a week look like for me?

After arriving to the office in the morning, I hear people chatting about water and sanitation projects in one of many languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, or English. (Everyone here speaks two, three, or four languages or more.) Much of the time, I am preparing for upcoming fieldwork to evaluate gender equity at two water and sanitation project sites in Tamil Nadu. Some of the time, I am working on another project compiling information on participatory groundwater management (a project focus of the Rural Grants Team where my internship is located). The rest of the time, I have been able to attend water and sanitation events held at Arghyam or in the local area. A couple of recent events included:

Voices from the Waters – A Film Festival

Two weekends ago, I visited the largest water film festival in the world. This 4th annual festival, organized by the Bangalore Film Society (BFS), showcased over 100 water-themed films from around the world. Mr. Georgekutty, secretary of the BFS, is the driving force behind the event. He conceived of the festival after hosting a forum in 2004 “to bring awareness about the scarcity of drinking water… and the privatization of water.”

Festival Booklet

Voices from the Waters become a traveling film festival after the weekend is complete. The films are shown in local schools in Bangalore and across the state of Karnataka. Arghyam is supporting this part of the festival which ensures that those without the means to travel are still able to benefit from water films compiled. Mr. Georgekutty hopes the festival will eventually travel to major cities across India. And, in my opinion, it would be great if it could travel to big cities and rural villages across the world.

Here is my interview with Mr. Georgekutty on YouTube.

Field Visit to Hebballi Village and Primary School

Last Thursday, I traveled with Arghyam staff to visit a progressive water conveyance and management system in the rural village of Hebballi and at their local primary school.

We attended a ceremony to celebrate a rainwater harvesting (RWH) system constructed at the Government Higher Primary School. This system was funded by Arghyam in collaboration with an NGO called Geo Rainwater Board. There are RWH collection units on three buildings at the school. Rainwater flows from the roofs, through charcoal/sand filter units, and into an 18,000 liter storage tank. Students access the water through a hand-pump in the main classroom. The school has a rain gauge and chalkboard so students can record monthly precipitation, brand new sanitation facilities, and students grow their own vegetables for mid-day meals. It was apparent that the youth are quite proud of their sustainable school system and rightly so.

Monthly Precipitation Chalkboard
Above Photo: Courtesy Amrtha at Arghyam.

We toured the water conveyance and management system in the surrounding village of Hebballi after the ceremony. All 250 homes in the village have indoor, piped water supply. A community-based committee, as common in rural areas in India, is responsible for managing the water supply system. Through the installation of water meters on each house, the committee is able to recoup Operation and Maintenance fees. Each user pays 30 rupees for up to 8,000 liters of water each month. (In US terms, that is about 62 cents for 2113.4 gallons of water).

For more information, read this case study by S. Vishwanath.

Author’s Postcript:
I am living in India for a four-month long internship with Arghyam, an organization that works on water issues across the country. Along the way, I will document my journey. Please see the Water in India page above for more information.

community, drinking water, general, india, ngo, sanitation, water availability, water justice

My Soon-to-be Journey to India: An Arghyam Internship

Life has been bustling as I prepare for an internship in India. This year, I was accepted for an internship with Arghyam – an NGO that works on water and sanitation projects across India – in Bangalore. This internship is part of my master’s studies at Oregon State University (my major is Water Resources Policy and Management and my minor is Women Studies). It will last from September 1st until December 31st.

Arghyam Header1

My internship with Arghyam will focus mainly on gender and water issues in South India. Such issues are important to understand to ensure all people have fair access to and participation in the management of water and sanitation resources. Through my adventures, I will continue to post on Water for the Ages (both on my internship and other international water issues). Stay tuned for more information to follow. There will be photos, videos, and more.

If you are interested in an international water internship in India, Arghyam has other internship opportunities available. Be sure and check out their impressive India Water Portal for details on these positions.

africa, community, drinking water, outreach, photos, visions of water, visions of life, water availability

Kakamega Youth Talk About Water Problems in Kenya

Youth are our future and our future depends on water. In the last Visions of Water, Visions of Life interview, students at the Kakamega School for the Deaf talked about water and life in Kenya. They were asked:

What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

They are hearing-impaired, so they drafted their answers on a chalkboard. Below is a glimpse into the daily life of these students. Some rainwater harvesting tanks were recently donated to their school, but after this source is depleted – during they dry season – they rely solely on river water. We thank them much for providing this information to the world.

Sheila Agufa

Sheila

Agesa Silus

Silas

Daniel Milavi

Daniel

Joseph Milongo

Joseph

Are you a student that would like to get involved in water issues? Do you want to contact these students in Kenya? Please visit the ECAG Website. Or – to meet other youth interested in water issues – check out the YouthNoise DROP Campaign Website.

africa, agriculture, community, drinking water, groundwater, ngo, visions of water, visions of life, water availability, water management

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: ECAG in Kenya

This is the second interview for the series Visions of Water, Visions of Life. Today’s interview is with Gibson Munanga. He is the director of an organization called Environmental Community Assistance Group (ECAG) working on water and land issues in rural Kenya. And, let me tell you, Gibson is one busy director. He works as a teacher at a school for the deaf. Somehow he still manages to find time to dream-up ideas, organize work parties, and implement a variety of projects to ensure water and land sustainability in his village.

Gibson and Kids
Above Photo: Gibson and students at Kakamega School for the Deaf.

Your organization originally started growing tree seedlings and working on land restoration projects. Can you please tell us why you decided to direct your focus towards water issues?

Our organization began and is still growing tree seedlings and working on land restoration projects. In the course of undertaking these, we encountered enormous challenges to finding water for irrigating the tree seedlings in preparation for planting during the rainy season. Water problems are a chronic issue here in the dry and rainy seasons. We have not shifted our focus, but we had to approach them [water and land restoration issues] at the same time because they go hand-in-hand. We left water problems to be addressed by ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE GROUP. The tree nursery and land restoration projects are handled by our co-organization called WESTERN TREE NURSERY, SEED COLLECTION, STORAGE AND VENDING GROUP.

What is the water situation in your village? What is the water situation in Kenya?

The water situation in our village is bad. People have to walk long distances in search of water. This mainly affects women and children (especially their standard of education and quality of life). The overall water situation in Kenya is worse. In Turkana, Pokot, Ukambani and other northeastern parts of Kenya near the border with Somalia, the search for water may take a whole day. It takes over a year for these places to receive rains, which may last only a week or luckily a month. This type of rainfall pattern can not support crop growth or open-water systems. It is rocky and expensive to drill for water in these areas. The water is very deep.

What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

The solution to improve the water situation in our village is to strategically situate boreholes in central places where water can be used easily by families. In addition, many trees were destroyed in most water catchments over twenty years ago. Water-catchment friendly trees should be planted in those areas because many small streams and rivers have dried up. The range of climate and rainfall in our village allows for rainwater harvesting. Provision of water-harvesting tanks would help to solve water problems here. Provision of water lorry tankers [see picture below] would help provide water to people during extreme water shortage events for a small fee.

Lorry Tanker
Above Photo: This is the type of water tanker that ECAG would like for their community.

Do you talk about water issues with your students at the school for the deaf? What do the children believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

[The students are deaf so they wrote their answers on a chalkboard. Mr. Munanga took pictures of their answers with a camera. Please see the forthcoming post called Kakamega Youth Talk About Water Problems in Kenya.]

Has ECAG completed any significant water projects?

Six years ago ECAG constructed a very successful water project [well] at Alfred Amulyoto’s home (in Kambiri in the Kakamega District) to serve neighboring communities. Community members agreed to maintain the well pump through small donations. We constructed another successful water project [well] at Emily’s home (in Sichirayi) with the help from neighboring homes. Another water project [well] was constructed at Mr. Peter Matwanga’s home (in Khayega Village) which services a big homestead and 15 nearby homes.

What are a few other non-water projects that ECAG has completed?

We are producing tree-seedlings for planting in water-catchment areas. We are propagating medicinal trees for blood purification, stomach problems, malaria treatment, and other ailments. We are propagating fruit trees to alleviate hunger and provide vitamins, and we are propagating trees for firewood. In a nut-shell, trees are very much related to water, environmental issues and rainfall-storage quantity.

What is your advice for future generations on water?

My advice for future generations on water issues would be to conserve water and use it wisely, protect all water sources, and plant trees. Every drop of water counts!

For more information about ECAG or if you would like to make a donation, please visit their website here.

africa, drinking water, film, groundwater, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, water availability, water conflict

Charity Water – PSA-a-thon Series

Here is another Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the series. This PSA was created by the organization Charity Water to raise money for water-supply projects in Africa. Now my professor Aaron Wolf at Oregon State University might be a little dismayed by the references to war and water in this PSA (actually, his research has found that only one war has ever occurred because of water). Nevertheless, it shows how multimedia can be used to support water projects around the globe.

The other four PSAs in the series cover rainwater harvesting in India, the LA Tap Project, a water-conservation campaign in Denver, and the Tap Project 2009.

drinking water, floods, india, water availability

H20 Democracy Documentary: Writing on Water

This morning, I decided to watch a documentary called Writing on Water produced by the Transnational Institute. And, let me tell you, I’m sure glad that I did. This story provided uplifting, proactive, and capable solutions to the current world water crisis.

The film detailed the recent meeting of the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium – attended by engineers, water managers, economists, activists, policymakers, and academics from over 18 countries – as a venue to discuss the equitable and democratic management of water worldwide.

Participants at the meeting were able to see a model of democratic water management in-action as they visited various field sites managed by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD). In 2004, TWAD passed the Maraimalai Nagar Decarlation that required consensus-based water management in many villages. It is now clear that this Declaration has been successful at encouraging the development of sustainable, equitable, and low-cost water systems in numerous villages.

For additional information, please check out the report from the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium available on the Water Justice website hosted by the Transnational Institute

Part 1The adverse effects of the privatization of water in various parts of the world becomes apparent as the delegates share their experiences.

Here are the links to other videos in the six-part documentary on You Tube.

Part 2 If the journey begins with the self; the transformation of the individual first; then can individual transformation become institutional transformation?

Part 3The myths propounded the international financial institutions on the trillion dollar requirement for meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water are demolished.

Part 4The enabling tools of the process of transformation are discussed. “Koodam” as a concept of democratization is elaborated and how the voluntarism generated enthuses true community participation.

Part 5The main issues of the Water Debate are discussed threadbare by the delegates from various countries; reaching the conclusion that one cannot ignore working with the governments.

Part 6Inspired by the vision of a village community who have painted in the wall of a building, what they want the village to be in ten years time; the delegates each take a vow to fight for reclaiming public water and to work to spread the idea of the democratization of water management.

drinking water, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sustainability, united nations, water availability

Tap Project 2009 – PSA-a-thon Series

Folks, it’s that time again. Time for another Public Service Announcement for the PSA-a-thon Series. Our fourth PSA in the series couldn’t be more timely. This PSA recognizes the upcoming TAP Project by UNICEF during World Water Week from March 22 to March 29, 2009. This project aims to raise money during the week in a simple way – ask restaurants to sell tap water for 1$ instead of bottled water. All proceeds raised will help UNICEF provide clean drinking water to children throughout the world. Did you know that 1$ can supply one child with safe drinking water for 40 days? So, check out the PSA. If you like it, get involved. Be a volunteer in your city and ask restaurants to participate, coordinate a walk for water, or raise money at your workplace.

Be sure and check out the first three PSAs featured in the series on rainwater harvesting in India,  the LA Tap Project, and a water-conservation campaign in Denver.

drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, outreach, water availability, water conflict, water events

Water Justice Movement Gearing up for the 5th World Water Forum

The water justice movement is gearing up for the 5th World Water Forum to be held during World Water Week from March 16th – 22nd in Istanbul, Turkey. They will host a Counter Forum during the event to educate people about the water justice movement, the problems with privatization of water supplies, and the importance of water as a human right.

peopleswaterforum

The Counter Forum will host the following events (from the Wash News International blog):

10-13 March: Water Tribunal – Four cases to be heard in a similar format to the Latin American Water Tribunal conducted during the 4th World Water Forum.
14-22 March: Global Week of Actions for Water Justice.
14 March: Demonstration in central Istanbul.
15 March: Demonstration in Kadikoy Square.
16 March: Official opening of the World Water Forum -activists organizing press conferences and protests against WWF.
17-18 March: Platform workshop event at TMMOB Taksim Square office.
17 March: Evening, Public Water Event organized by international activists – featuring UN representation and others – (unconfirmed).
19-20 March: Platform plenary events at MKM Congress Center.
19 March: Demonstration planned.
20-22 March: Campaign’s Alternative Water Forum – Bilgi University.
22 March: Closing of official WWF and World Water Day.
23 March: Solidarity delegation to Diyarbakir region of Turkey.

Please visit the Peoples Water Forum website for a list of updated events. Here is an excerpt from the Call to Action:

This 5th World Water Forum, as with the previous 4 World Water Forums, is being organized by the World Water Council, a body created and controlled by the global private water industry and which continues to promote water privatization, destructive dams, commodification and commercialization, projects and policies proven to harm people and communities; local food systems, livelihoods and indigenous resource base.

For more information on the water justice movement, check out this website created after the 4th World Water Forum in Mumbai or this webpage created by the Transnational Institute with a list of links and documents pertaining to water justice.