H20 Democracy Documentary: Writing on Water

drinking water, floods, india, water availability

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.

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Dammed if we do, dammed if we don’t.

architecture, audio, dam, drinking water, economy, energy, floods, general, international, sustainability, technology

A friend sent along these great videos of a coffer dam being breached in super-fast speed. This video has since circulated the Internet extensively, but in case you haven’t seen it yet…

Marmot Dam Removal – ‘largest dam removal in Oregon’

This video shows the intentional breaching of a coffer dam, the final phase in a process to return the Sandy River to a free-flowing state.

Just like the Marmot Dam, most dams are finally demolished because of significant upkeep costs and concerns for fish.

So, what is the shelf-life of a dam?

Many dams constructed in the early 20th century are beginning to age and show signs of disrepair. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) is keeping a watchful eye over the dams in America. With over 79,000 dams in the United States, the ASDSO supposes there are thousands (3,316 to be exact) of dams susceptible to collapse.

…the number of dams identified as unsafe is increasing at a faster rate than those being repaired.
– ADSO

The possible failure of a dam is probably the most likely contender for its removal. But, many environmental, socio-economic, aesthetic, and cultural benefits also occur with the removal of dams.

We Build Them…

World’s Five Largest Dams by Volume (completed and proposed)


Source of Data: InfoPlease

And, then we take them down…

Three Largest Proposed Dam Removals in the World (so far)

  • If approved, four dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon.
  • Two dams on the Elwha River are cited for removal in 2012.
  • Matilija Dam: Will this dam in Ventura County, California be removed?

American Rivers has compiled a list of dams removed from 1999 to 2007. They state around 713 dams have been removed, to date.

K2K – In Search of Water

art, climate change, drinking water, drought, floods, groundwater, hydrogeology, india, international, outreach, rivers, sustainability, technology, water availability

One man’s dream will soon raise the world’s awareness about the complexity of water challenges occurring in India. Beginning Saturday April 26th in Bangalore, CS Sharada Prasad will travel 19,000 km (11,807 m) on motorbike to document the meaning and encompassing challenges of water to people in India. Crossing 15 major rivers, 28 states, and 7 territories, Mr. Prasad will document his journey on a blog called “K2K – In Search of Water“. His route will be mapped with a GPS unit attached to his motorbike and uploaded to Google Maps. Geotagged blog posts will be updated everyday and photos from his journey will be available on EveryTrail and Flickr.

The trip will take over two months to complete visiting places such as the Khardung La Pass at 18,380 feet to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of mainland India. Mr. Prasad will meet with local citizens, organizations, and community leaders to bring light to their accomplishments and challenges regarding sustainable water supplies. This event will be a great opportunity for students, classrooms, and people around the world to follow along with his adventure and become educated about water supplies in India. Sharada Prasad is a project officer for the India Water Portal developed by Arghyam, a non-governmental organization. Arghyam “seeks to support strategic and sustainable efforts in the water sector that address basic water needs for all citizens”.

Visit the cool interactive Google Map of the Journey across India here.

Flood Drinking Water Contamination: Risk Factors

asia, drinking water, floods, groundwater, international

Many in the United States are acquainted with the effects of flooding. Especially after Hurricane Katrina, numerous other flooding events, and the recent past deluge on the Chehalis River of Southwest Washington. Rampant in the media during these times of floods are deaths, displacements, economic losses, and causes associated with the flooding. Less common immediately after a flood event, however, is media attention to water-borne illnesses and water contamination.

Depending on location and sanitation conditions, flood water can contaminate drinking water (surface water, groundwater, and distribution systems). Groundwater wells can be rendered useless from inundation of water laced with toxins, chemicals, animal carcasses, septic seepage, and municipal sewage. Surface water sources are impacted in similar manners. Infectious diseases can also be spread through contaminated drinking water. As indicated by the Center for Disease Control such illnesses might include:

Diseases not present in an area before a major flood event are not likely to be present after a major flood event. Cholera and Typhoid are more common in lower income countries. Additionally, people in higher income countries are sometimes able to obtain drinking water at shelters, and/or others with adequate resources may temporarily move to a nearby location with safe municipal water supplies.


Above Photo: Devastation in Bangladesh. SOS-Arsenic.net.

Prospects in countries without such available infrastructure are often dire. Bangladesh encounters flooding annually. In August 2007, floods in the region (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and India) killed over 2,000 people and displaced 20 million people with many infected by contaminated water supplies (over 100,000 in Bangladesh alone). Mozambique is enduring endured serious flooding as the Zambezi River and Save River are cresting crested the banks from torrential rains in Zimbabwe. A press release was issued by Oxfam International stating:

“Whenever a flood hits, a lack of clean water and sanitation facilities reaches dangerous levels in a matter of days, if not hours. Access to both will become farther and farther out of reach and could lead to a widespread health crisis as flood waters continue to rise,”

– Hugo Oosterkamp, Oxfam Water and Sanitation Emergency Coordinator

In all countries, time is of the essence to assist people with access to potable water. In rural locations, education is essential to provide alternative options for water treatment. Sometimes it is possible to disinfect a groundwater well that has been contaminated or, more immediately, purify water using solar radiation on top of a house and chlorinate small water supplies for personal use. For more information, see these websites on flood related water issues and well protection from contamination by flooding.