The Guarani Project: Upcoming Documentary

film, groundwater, hydrogeology, south america

As you may know, I’m intrigued by new films about water. An upcoming documentary, The Guarani Project, looks to provide a balanced perspective of water-management challenges surrounding the Guarani Aquifer in South America. The Guarani Aquifer is one of the largest sources of underground water worldwide. It is shared by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. A proposed plan to allocate this groundwater has seemed to fail. Why? How are the people who rely on this water supply affected?

My professor from OSU – Dr. Michael Campana (a hydrogeologist with considerable global experience) – shares his insights in the film. He recently wrote a post about the film on his blog WaterWired. The full documentary is forthcoming. The film-makers are seeking YOUR support in making this happen. Visit their website, Facebook, and Twitter for information. In the meantime, here are two clips from the film.

The Guarani Aquifer: a complex history, an uncertain future

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.

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: ECAG in Kenya

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

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.

Charity Water – PSA-a-thon Series

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

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.

Happy World Water Day!

film, groundwater, united nations

Don’t forget, it’s World Water Day. The first World Water Day was originally declared by the United Nations General Assembly on March 22, 1993. This annual designation is meant to focus international attention on global water problems and solutions.

Each World Water Day is assigned a unique theme. The theme for today is “Shared Waters – Shared Opportunities” to recognize the importance of understanding transboundary surface water and ground water sources (waters that span two or more political boundaries). There are at least 263 transboundary rivers basins (surface water) and 273 transboundary aquifers (ground water) in the world. Over 40 percent of all people on the planet live in international river basins.

In honor of World Water Day, I’ve watched the video called River of War, River of Life: The Fate of the Nile by Luciana Capretti on the World Water Day website.

Posted to Live Earth Video by andy on March 09, 2009

This short film describes water problems encountered by the ten countries that lie within the Nile River Basin from the headwaters to the delta. Problems in the basin include dam construction, rapid development, political conflicts regarding water sources, dropping water levels, diminishing aquatic species, and watershed deforestation. Much of the film focuses on Uganda’s efforts at curtailing these problems with policy solutions. Yet, all of the countries in the Nile River Basin seem to poised to draft an accord for the fair use of the waters of the Nile under the Nile Basin Initiative. Overall the film was a bit Western-centric in view, but with astonishing imagery and important information nonetheless.

Author’s Postscript: Daniel Collins, author of the water blog Cr!key Creek, has compiled all water blog posts that focus on transboundary water and World Water Day. Be sure to check out his website to read other interesting posts on similar topics.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

LA Tap Project – PSA-a-thon Series

drinking water, film, general, groundwater, india, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sustainability

Yes, it’s true.  I am a sucker for any great Public Service Announcement (PSA) relating to water. If produced right, sometimes these PSAs have the ability to intrigue me, bring a smile to my face, educate me, and move me to action or even to tears.

Because I love PSAs about water so much, I am going to feature them on Water for the Ages in a PSA-a-thon Series. Be sure and check out the first in the series: a PSA on rainwater harvesting made for television in India.

The second in the series, today’s PSA, is a little out-of-date but neat nonetheless. It was created for the Tap Project, an outreach effort each year from March 16 to March 22, to raise money for UNICEF’s water programs. Enjoy.

Water and the G8: Hokkaido Toyako Summit

climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, industrial, international, investments

As most have heard by now, the 34th annual G8 Summit is underway in Japan from July 7th to July 9th in Toyako, Hokkaido.



Leaders from eight of the world’s industrialized nations, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States (in addition to the president of the European Union and representatives from fifteen other nations) are busy talking and talking some more about the global economy. Again this year, some of these conversations address environmental concerns which embrace the issue of water.


The agenda for the G8 Summit is prioritized something like this:


  1. Global Economy (Sub-prime Crisis, Rising Inflation, Economic Growth)
  2. Environment and Climate Change (Carbon Reduction, International Cooperation, Global Food Security)
  3. Development in Africa (Development, Water, Health, and Education)
  4. Political Issues (Nonproliferation, Nuclear Safety)

Water is linked to the global economy, a changing climate, food security, and is necessary to consider for future development in Africa, but it is unclear exactly how G8 leaders will tackle the matter of water. Many international organizations have been lobbying delegates of the 2008 Summit to focus on the topic of water. The Asia-Pacific Water Forum encouraged G8 leaders to highlight the importance of water security in the region. Water Aid issued a plea for G8 leaders to provide additional funding for sanitation projects abroad. UNICEF met with G8 leaders earlier in the spring to inform participating nations of the one billion people worldwide without access to clean, drinkable water.





Deliberations on water by G8 nations are nothing new. In 2003, global water was discussed at the Summit in Evian, France. Participants from this Summit produced a G8 Water Action Plan outlining an agreement for better global water management “particularly taking into account the importance of proper water management in Africa…” But indistinct steps have been made towards realization of these goals as evidenced by talks on similar subjects at this year’s Summit and a “reaffirmation” of the G8 Water Action Plan.


So far, the following agreements relating to water (sort of) have been reached at the Hokkaido Toyako Summit:


  • Environment and Climate Change – The world should cut carbon emissions by 50 percent before 2050 with each nation having individual targets.
  • Development and Africa – G8 nations pledge 60 billion dollars over five years to help the continent fight disease. G8 nations reaffirm Millennium Development Goals for water, health, and sanitation in Africa. G8 nations hope to reinvigorate efforts to implement the Evian G8 Water Action Plan from 2003 with a progress report at the 2009 Summit.
  • Global Food Security – Nations in the world with sufficient food storage should release food to the market. Worldwide removal of food export restrictions is necessary.

Repetitions of past/existing goals seem to highlight the 2008 Summit list of accomplishments in the environmental realm. Agreements similar to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol ‘reduction of greenhouse gas’ initiative to a repeat of the 2003 Evian G8 Water Action Plan.


Well, you know what they say, maybe the third time is a charm (or the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh)…

Global Water Grants – You decide who gets them!

general, groundwater, hydrogeology, international, outreach, rainwater, research, sustainability, technology, water awards

Ashoka’s Changemakers and Global Water Challenge are asking for your opinion on the project proposals for their recent competition: Tapping Local Innovation: Unclogging the Water and Sanitation Crisis.

Three winners will be chosen to receive a 5,000 dollar grant for “innovative approaches to providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation”. Over 265 entries have been received from 54 countries, and now you may help to decide the winning projects.

Vote for your favorite three participants by May 11, 2008!

Here are two of the projects, but don’t take my word for it… go to the web-site and vote!

Iraq: Water and Politics in a War-Torn Country

drinking water, groundwater, international, iraq, middle east, water availability, water conflict, water treatment

Less than half of Iraq’s population of 29 million people have access to clean, drinkable water. According to a recent report by Oxfam, the number of civilians in Iraq without water has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent during 2003 to 2007 (the continued US occupation).


Above Photo: Child cries as a woman fills pans of water from a public water hose on open ground in Najaf, Iraq, in 2006. Alla al-Marjani/Associated Press.

Recent History of Water in Iraq

Iraq had over 140 drinking water and treatment facilities in operation in the recent past. Air attacks in the 1991 Persian Gulf War destroyed many of these plants. At the same time, UN imposed sanctions that disallowed trade between Iraq and other countries. This made import of needed chemicals and supplies for upkeep of the water facilities difficult. By 2003, Iraq’s 140 major water treatment facilities were operating at 35 percent of their design capacity. In March 2003, the US government launched a direct-attack on Iraq. The following continued war rendered useless already deteriorating water infrastructure systems across the country. Years of political upheaval, sanctions against Iraq, consistent mortar attacks, and unstable-transitional governing bodies have made maintenance of the water treatment systems almost impossible. Unsafe water is also taking its toll. Iraq saw the worst outbreak of Cholera in recorded history in 2007.


Above Photo: A man in a village in southern Iraq demonstrates how Bechtel left his village without access to clean water. BanglaPraxis.

While some measures are being taken to ensure water availability in Iraq…

UNICEF provides water on tanker trucks and distributes home-hygiene kits to civilians. UNESCO has assessed water resources available in Iraq and evaluated possible management plans. USAID has refurbished 10 water treatment plants and installed 70 small water treatment systems in rural communities. The transitional Iraqi Government has been developing water policy. The Iraq Water Project (Veterans for Peace in conjunction with LIFE) has sent small, sterilized water units for hospitals and schools and has been working to rebuild six water treatment plants in Iraq.

…these actions are not yet enough.

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.