Greenwashing and Water Advertisements

drinking water, drought, economy, outreach, photos

Have you ever seen an advertisement for a product claiming to be sustainable?  Has an advertisement like the one below (by Nestle) ever convinced you that a product is good for the environment?

725_eco_bottle_callouts_im
Above Photo: EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index

As I heard today on Think Out Loud, an advertising organization called EnviroMedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon have created a website called EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index to provide a forum for people – you the consumer –  to compile and discuss these types of advertisements.

It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact.

– EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index

A simple search for the keyword water shows several ads that dupe the consumer into thinking a product is sustainable. For example, look at the ad below for cotton – the catch line is “Cotton: the environmentally friendly fiber.” Yet cotton is a water intensive crop often grown in water scarce locations. So do you think cotton is environmentally sustainable?

955_cotton-sustainability-ad
Above Photo: EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index

Register on the website to comment on this ad or upload more ads that you think have been “greenwashed”.

Water from Air: Alchemy or Reality

drinking water, general, india, international, technology, water availability, water treatment

Now, I do not state my support for this new water technology, but Air-Water Corp – a Florida-based outfit – claims to have created a machine that will effectively extract humidity from the air to produce 25 to 5,000 liters of water each day, if the conditions are right. These machines need high humidity (above 55 percent) and high temperatures (above 65 degrees) to operate. Air-Water Corp just delivered their first village-based unit to Jalimudi in Andhra Pradesh, India. The unit cost Rs. 3 lakh, that is 6,156 US dollars. It is unclear how much electricity this machine needs to operate, but it might be able to produce up to 1,000 liters of water each day.

Jalimudi Village Water Supply
Above Photo: Jalimudi Air-Water Station

Really, the concept is nothing entirely new because people have known how to take water from the air for centuries. Rainwater harvesting is used in areas with limited surface water or ground water sources. More recently, people have started to use fog nets to collect condensed water from the air. Some fog nets are able to collect up to 200 liters of water each day.

So, is it worth it to buy a machine for 6,000 US dollars that uses an unknown amount of electricity to create water from the air?

We will have to wait and ask Jalimudi village a year from now. But, one thing is for sure, the fact that Air-Water Corp is pursuing a 2 million dollar lawsuit against a sub-contractor that built these units for “repeated deliveries of faulty and sub-standard machines to Air Water’s customers” is a bit scary.

YouthNoise DROP Campaign

drinking water, international, outreach, sustainability, water availability

Lately, I’ve been so busy with grad school that I’ve neglected my blog. Luckily, there are people like those over at the Youth Noise Drop Campaign still working tirelessly to improve global water and sanitation conditions.  Previously, I let you know that they were hosting a summit in NYC for young activists to learn more about global water issues. Well, they hosted the summit and have posted the video on their website.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Plus, the Drop Campaign website is super cool. They offer monthly tips on water conservation and water actions, have links to a whole community of other individuals interested in global water, and encourage people to be more aware of global water issues.

Happy New Year from Terre des hommes Foundation

drinking water, general, international, outreach, sustainability

A beautiful happy new year image from Terres des hommes Foundation (Tdh).  Tdh works to “defend the rights of children, in times of war or natural catastrophe, or in less publicized situations of distress.”  This includes working on issues of water and sanitation for children, especially in emergency situations. They are currently collecting donations for the children in the Gaza Strip.

tdh_happy-new-year_20091

13-Gallon Challenge – WRAP UP

drinking water, international, outreach, sustainability

Well, I made it. Yesterday was the last day of my 13-Gallon Challenge. All told, this was a completely worthwhile project. I had two goals at the beginning of the challenge: 1) to better understand my daily water use habits, and 2) to understand how it feels to live on a human right allocation of 50 liters (13 gallons app.) of water each day. For the most part, I achieved these goals.

Over the week, I became intimately familiar with my daily water-use habits. Whenever I could, I tried to reduce or limit my water use. Even this morning (after the challenge), I couldn’t help but use the stop-watch again for my shower. See, habits really do die hard. Yet, living with indoor plumbing in an 1100 square-foot house, it would be difficult for me to ever approximate the life of someone in a developing country through this 13-Gallon Challenge. The water challenges that many people throughout the world face are much greater – think carrying water for eight-hours each day or human feces littered on the ground. But, at least I started educate myself and others about the water-access challenges that many endure.

Okay, I must admit I am a little happy to be done. Mostly, because I want to wash a load of laundry. Also, because it was difficult to calculate my water use every day for a week. First, I had to remember to write down my water use immediately after each usage. Then, I had to estimate each usage. Luckily, I settled on over-estimating each usage (rounding up) which made my calculations a bit easier in the long run. So, if I drank three cups of drinking water throughout the day, I would just write .25 gallons of drinking water. Remember, there are 16 cups in a gallon.

Here are my water use totals from yesterday.

day-7-pdf-pages

Every day of my weekly water use totals will soon be posted on the 13-Gallon Challenge Page at the top of my blog. And it will also be a place for you to take a one-day version of the 13-Gallon Challenge. Check back soon.

 

 

13-Gallon Challenge – Day Six

drinking water, drought, international, outreach, research, sustainability, water availability

Today is the sixth day of my 13-Gallon Challenge – a pledge to live on an allocation of water declared to be a human right for one week. You may wonder, what is a human right to water? Well, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) defined a human right to water as:

“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related disease and provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements”.

(General Comment 15, CESCR, 2002)
Courtesy Tdh WASH Resource Correspondence

In 1996, Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute estimated a basic human water need at 25 liters per day for consumption, cooking, bathing, washing and another 25 liters per day for sanitation at a total of 50 liters (13.2 gallons) per person per day. Over the past six days, I have attempted to keep my water usage under 50 liters (13 gallons app.) each day. I have engaged in this task to learn more about my daily water-use habits. People in the United States use an estimated 70 to 100 gallons each day, but there are people all over the world that live on much, much less.

In my journal, I record approximate water use totals. For example, if I use the sink for 30 seconds, this equals ½ gallon of water because my low-flow faucets use 1 gallon of water per minute. If I am in an unfamiliar location such as work or at school (unless otherwise noted), I assume that fixtures are not low-flow. Then, I use estimated calculations for water use. You can find some water use estimations here.

Here are my water use totals from yesterday.

Day Five

At this point, I have run out of most of my clean garments. (I only had some clean clothing at the beginning of this challenge.) My washer uses 41 gallons of water for each load, so I cannot use it. This morning, I will hand wash a few of my things. This week, I have started to notice that water systems in the United States are not constructed to conserve water. In some situations, 13 gallons of water might be a sufficient amount of water for daily life. But, in the US, our infrastructure is built to use water.  Some regions may have ample water supplies to support such water-hungry fixtures and appliances. Still, in many other arid, drought-prone, or rapidly developing places, water conservation is essential to providing water to everyone for all water needs.

My brother-in-law asked me the other day, “why do you need to conserve water when water is recycled, replenished to the natural system through rainfall”? In reply, I said “why do you need to conserve water?” It is up to each one of use to be aware of the water situation in our community. Does your community have sufficient water supplies? What is the projected population growth in your area? Does your community have a future water supply plan?

In addition, we cannot forget about virtual water – water embedded in the products that we use. If we are consuming foods or using products that take a lot of water to produce (such as beef or cotton) and these products are produced in water scarce regions. Then, our consumption of these products does affect water use in these water scarce regions. Note: I have not included virtual water in my daily calculations.

My water use totals this week, so far…

all-water-use-totals2

13-Gallon Challenge – Day Two

drinking water, international, outreach, research, water availability

Yesterday, I began the 13-Gallon Challenge – a pledge to live on a human right allocation of 50 liters (13 gallons) of water each day for a period of one week. So far, this pledge has been a great way for me to analyze my daily water use and, in general, think about water consumption. To record my water use, I keep a journal with me throughout the day. After I use water (for example: toilet flushing, hand washing, dish washing), I write it in my journal. This task has been a bit more challenging than one might expect.

My first day of the water pledge, I was at work during the day. Unfortunately, the automatic-flush toilets really ramped up my water usage. At least the toilets were the low-flow variety. Also, I noticed that sometimes my water use occurs on auto-pilot. I use water before I realize that I’m using water: washing my hands, flushing the toilet, or rinsing a dish. But, when you have to write it down, you really start to NOTICE these things. Throughout the day, I thought “there goes 1.6 gallons, there goes 1 gallon,” and it all adds up.

Here are my water use totals. Notice, no shower.

Day Two

Yesterday, I exceeded my limit by a half-gallon. Today, I am under my limit by a half-gallon to make-up for this exceedance. And, I’ve even managed a 3-minute shower. In general, my water usage is consistent with data provided by the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Almost 50 percent, 6.4 gallons, of my water use is for sanitation. Our friend at Water Crunch created this great graph that shows percentages of water used in a typical home in the United States using data from AWWA. As you can see, toilets use the most water.

Percentage of Total Daily Use by Gallons per Capita

Water Resolutions for the New Year

drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, outreach, sustainability, water availability

Recently someone asked me “Do you track your water use?” I thought thoroughly about my reply to that question. In many ways I conserve water: only flushing the toilet when necessary, turning off the faucet during hand washing and teeth brushing, taking short showers, limiting outdoor watering, and only washing full loads of clothes and dishes. But do I track my water use – in detail – gallon by gallon?

Well, our three-person (two-unit) household does keep track of monthly water use through our utility bills. On average, our household uses 216.92 gallons per day. That equals 72.3 gallons per person each day. Now, I’m ashamed to say this is higher than the average in my town of 66 gallons per person each day. So where are we going wrong? I’m a water-conscious person, but my house and the attached mother-in-law unit are still exceeding the municipal average.

This new year, I’ve decided to make two important resolutions:

  1. Conduct a Household Water Audit
  2. Live for One Week on a Human Right Allocation of Water

It is my hope that these actions will reduce my water consumption and raise my awareness about the importance of access to water. Read on to follow my endeavors in the new year.

Conduct a Household Water Audit

Today, I conducted something called a water audit. A water audit is method to evaluate the efficiency of a water system and estimate daily water use. First, I checked and changed all of the water faucets in my home to low-flow water faucets that only use 1 gallon per minute. Then, I changed my showerhead to a low-flow showerhead that only uses 1.6 gallons per minute.

dscf1619

Luckily, I already have a low-flow toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush. Next, I checked my municipal water meter to see if it was recording leaks. Then, I used a bit of food coloring to check my toilet for leaks.

Cheap Leak Check

Finally, I made signs to identify the amount of water necessary for all of my fixtures and appliances. It is my hope this last step will serve as a reminder for myself and my housemates. If you are interested in completing a water audit on your home, there are several step-by-steps available. Try this audit or this audit or this audit.

Water Use Totals for Fixtures and Appliances

Live for One Week on a Human Right Allocation of Water

I’ve been interested in the idea of water as a human right for a while. Declaring water a human right will require that a certain amount of water will always be available for free to humans. This measure is to ensure that those without money still have access to water. Obviously, access to water is important because water is necessary for life. As posted recently on Water Wired, in 1996 Peter Gleick suggested a human right allocation of water at 50 liters (13 gallons) each day for basic human needs such as bathing, sanitation, and drinking. The Constitution of South Africa also acknowledges water as a human right, and courts declared this amount to be 50 liters each day. So, I wonder, how does it feel to live on 50 liters (13 gallons) each day? There’s only one way to find out.

For one week, I will live on this amount estimated as a basic human right. This means, I will count every toilet flush, every hand wash, and probably miss most showers. I will live on this human right allocation at home, at work, and everywhere. Tomorrow, I will begin. My journal of this undertaking will be posted to Water for the Ages. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year!

Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World – A Book Review

climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, groundwater, international, outreach, photos, water availability, water conflict

As readers of Water for the Ages may have noticed, I’ve been on an extended holiday break (to visit family in East Tennessee). Arriving back to the Pacific Northwest, my mailbox was full with letters, bills, Christmas Cards, and other postal paraphernalia. Yet, to my surprise, there was one mysteriously large and somewhat heavy package addressed to me.

me-and-book-2

Soon, I discovered this large package was a massive, coffee-table sized book called Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World published by the Blue Planet Run Foundation in San Francisco, California. The Blue Planet Run book was published to raise money to assist in meeting the Blue Planet Run Foundation’s goal of providing safe drinking water to 200 million people by 2027. One hundred percent of all royalties from the sale of this book will be used to fund drinking water projects around the world.

photo-from-book

Opening the book, I was immediately transported around the world through the vivid photographs that graced cover to cover. These images, taken by photojournalists over a period of one-month last year, tell the stories of rapid development and its effect on water supplies, dam construction, access to water in crowded cities, new water technologies, and leaders who are making strides in water access and supply. Several essays are also featured throughout the book written by authors including Robert Redford, Diane Ackerman, Paul Hawken, and Bill McKibben.

And, after coming home to indoor plumbing and plenty of fresh water, this book helps me remember (during this holiday season) just how lucky I really am.

One Water.org

drinking water, film, water availability

I’m not sure if you noticed, but water journalism is becoming the next big thing. And, you know, this is really great because it will encourage more people to pay attention to world water supplies, conserve water, work on water availability technology, and, generally, just become more aware about global water issues.

The University of Miami – School of Communication is interested in global water, too. They recently collaborated on a project called One Water. This website features a movie about global water supplies called One Water, youth curriculum about global water issues called KNOWATER, and a weppage for water journalism called 1H20.org.

logo

Water Gifts for a Cause

africa, drinking water, drought, general, outreach, sustainability

On Halloween, I had a lot of trick-or-treaters visit my home, but one small group of teenage girls was especially memorable. Sure, their Anime costumes were fabulous, but mostly what stood out was their cause. These teens weren’t trick-or-treating for candy, but for donations to support the United Nations Children’s Fund.

This group of young humanitarians reminded me that even the smallest action can make a difference. Especially in a world where so many people lack food, clean water, and shelter. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is an annual campaign to raise funds for projects around the world. UNICEF works on water and sanitation projects in over 90 countries.

It’s not to late for you to give either this holiday season. If you are interested in water issues, be sure and check out Universal GIVING. If you search with the keyword ‘water‘, you will find almost 300 different water projects looking for donations. Organizations represented on this site include Action Against Hunger, Green Empowerment, The Hope Alliance, International Medical Corps, and H20 Africa Foundation, to name a few.

How would you like to give a few of these gifts this holiday season?

Water A Field
Provide a clean water system for a village
Purchase water filtration units for five families
Provide clean water and sanitation for an elementary school

UNESCO Launches Global Aquifer Map

drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, hydrogeology, outreach, research, sustainability, united nations

A worldwide map of groundwater resources crossing national boundaries has just been published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This map details 273 shared aquifers – sources of ground water – across the globe. It is the culmination of eight years of research and development of an extensive ground water database by UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP). The map also indicates water quality of the aquifers, recharge of the aquifers, streams and rivers in the region of the aquifers, and population density near the aquifers.


Above Photo: Inside the Global Aquifer Map

The unveiling of this project is set to coincide with the United Nation’s review of a new draft Convention on Transboundary Aquifers on October, 27, 2008. This convention is an international treaty to assist in the management and protection of ground water resources across country boundaries. This project is very important because shared ground water resources could increase conflict across political boundaries in the future. The delineation of transboundary aquifers will assist countries in current and future water planning.

Water and the Next U.S. President

drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, international, water availability, water conflict

The economy, health care, Iraq, government spending, nuclear proliferation… What else should the incoming president of the United States focus on?

Water – as noted recently in WIRED magazine by leading water researcher, Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a think-tank in California that works to “advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity.” Mr. Gleick’s eight proposals to the next president include focusing on water at home and abroad.

Check out the WIRED page to view the eight hypothetical slides. The text is quoted below:

  1. The US mismanages water at all levels. For instance, states compete for resources.
    Proposal: Establish a non-partisan national water commission to recommend policy changes
  2. Drought costs $6-8 billion a year. Rivers are over-allocated. Reservoir levels are falling.
    Proposal: Promote water conservation to reduce pressure on limited supplies.
  3. Domestic water supplies and systems are vulnerable to multiple security threats.
    Proposal: Improve monitoring. Hold water-security workshops at the US War Colleges, State Department, CIA, and DHS.
  4. Water has profound implications for international security as well.
    Proposal: Empower the US State Department to address global water-related disputes.
  5. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water…
    Proposal: Fund clean-water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the developing world.
  6. ..leading to 2.5 million deaths annually from preventable illnesses and malnutrition.
    Proposal: Take a leadership role in eliminating waterborne diseases.
  7. Climate change will intensify flooding, storms, drought, and disease.
    Proposal: Factor the effect of climate change on water supplies into all new infrastructure projects.
  8. Taking water seriously is a no-brainer.
    Proposal: Put water at the center of your administration’s strategic agenda.

For more information on McCain’s and Obama’s views on water policy, see here and here and here.

Prepaid Water Meters, Price of Water

africa, drinking water, economy, international, sustainability, technology, water availability, water conflict

As the recent disruption in the worldwide economy suggests, we have a global economic system. This economic system relies heavily on the concept of supply and demand. We allocate a price to anything tradeable in the economy. These tradeable goods run the gamut from clothes, chemicals, televisions, homes, drugs, cars, tools, land, food, and even water. Water is sold in our economy in a variety of ways in the commercial, private, and public sectors. While placing a value on water may encourage conservation of water supplies in some situations, not everyone in the world has the means to pay money for water. Case in point, prepaid water meters.

Prepaid meters are hooked to a water-supply system and require the user pay before retrieving water. US-based NGOs Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch warn of the dangers of prepaid water meters in predominantly poor areas of the world. Prepaid water meters are currently used in Brazil, Curacao, Egypt, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, the Philippines, Uganda, and the United States. The photos below are from Tetsane, Maseru (Lesotho) in South Africa during April 2008.

A recent article in ADBUSTERS detailed the plight of one South African community challenging the legality of prepaid water meters. In 2006, several residents of Phiri, Soweto filed a suit against the City of Johannesburg in South Africa declaring that prepaid water meters were unconstitutional. A landmark ruling earlier this year affirmed the unconstitutionality of prepaid water meters in Phiri. The ruling also declared that the City should provide Phiri residents with 50 liters (roughly 13 gallons) of free water for every person each day instead of the previous allocation of 25 liters for every person each day. This ruling was a success for the citizens of Phiri in South Africa, but there are still many other towns around the world facing similar challenges with prepaid water meters. For more information, please visit the Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch websites.

Akvopedia: Open Source for Water Technology

drinking water, general, international, investments, outreach, photos, sanitation, sustainability, technology, water availability, water treatment

The new website Akvopedia shares knowledge of water and sanitation technology, open source style, to ensure these resources are available to more people worldwide.

Open Source: (in computing) Of, or relating to a product which is licensed to permit modifications and redistribution [for free] of its source code.
Wiktionary

Linux, the One Laptop Per Child (XO laptop) project, the Mozilla web browser, Creative Commons, Peer-to-Peer networks, Open Office, and Wikipedia are multi-faceted examples of open-source technology. The open-source realm relies on a philosophy of sorts – so that freedom and sharing of a specific (or any) knowledge will allow for that specific, underlying body of knowledge to be improved upon in infinite ways.

Wikipedia, one famous example of interactive knowledge sharing, has a striking factual accuracy compared to that of Encyclopedia Britannica. Now the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) strives to create a similar clearinghouse for water and sanitation technology through the recent unveiling of Akvopedia.

Akvo = means water in Esperanto (theoretical universal language developed in the late 1800’s)


Thomas Bjelkeman, founder of Akvo. Photo courtesy Akvo on flickr.

Akvopedia features portals to discuss, share, update, and refine knowledge about:

water
sanitation, pumping and transportation, storage, treatment, and use of water
sanitation
toilets, collection, transportation, treatment, and use of products
organizations
NGOs, governmental organizations, research organizations, funding organizations, and commercial companies
approaches
project management, individual and collective, and supporting approaches

The website has reviews and specifications for building water and sanitation infrastructure from:

And the website provides a virtual setting for NGOs or others with water or sanitation project ideas to find funding. In short, Akvopedia provides access to open-source water and sanitation technology. This website will empower communities and promote localized development of water systems throughout the world by providing the knowledge, funding, and resources necessary.

Thank you Akvopedia!

With your support, Akvo can speed up the pace of water and sanitation development in some of the poorest parts of the world. Small Non-Governmental Organisations can act themselves. They can use new tools, share knowledge, specify projects, find funds and make things happen. They can be heroes. Akvo is creating an open resource, forging relationships with everyone around the world who shares this vision. We’d love to have you involved.

www.akvo.org