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

13-Gallon Challenge – Day Six

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

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drinking water, international, outreach, research, water availability

13-Gallon Challenge – Day Two

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

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

UNESCO Launches Global Aquifer Map

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.

africa, agriculture, asia, audio, climate change, economy, general, lakes, rainwater, research, south america, sustainability, water availability

Dude, where’s my lake?

An estimated three hundred and four million of them across the globe, and yet researchers are noticing many inland lakes are beginning to dry. In Siberia, Central Asia, East Africa, and North America – the results are the same – lakes simply cannot compete with man-made alterations to the environment. These are not just small lakes, some of the lakes with dropping water levels are gigantic in size.

There are 122 large lakes in the world each over 1000 square kilometers (386 square miles). Lake Victoria, in Africa, is the largest tropical lake in the world at 68,800 square kilometers (26,560 square miles). Mounting water-level decline in this lake is slowly eroding the livelihood of local fisherman and ranchers, agricultural producers, and industrial water users near the lake. A lack of suitable drinking water or dependable power supply is also becoming more common in the region.

Morning Edition on NPR recently aired a segment on Lake Victoria by corespondent Jessica Partnow: ‘Battle for Resources Grows as Lake Victoria Shrinks‘. She has also reported on dropping water levels in Lake Haramaya in Africa for World Vision Report.

Disappearing Lake‘ by Jessica Partnow

Sometimes occasional fluctuations of water levels in lakes are natural, but the current rate that many lakes are beginning to go dry throughout the world is not. Humans alter the natural environment near lakes and water levels decline. We build dams, over-pump rivers, over-use groundwater, put roads and parking lots in natural recharge areas, build industries in locations without enough water, over-irrigate our crops, and, often, we use too much water in our homes. Not to mention the effect of a changing climate on water supply sources.

But, some things that could help ‘decline’ at least some of this water-level decline include: conservation, conservation, conservationgrow crops in regions they are acclimated (low-water crops)alternative water supply sources such as rainwater harvesting systemspursue green “water conservative” development techniquesreduce the pavementrethink industrial productionlow impact livingconservation, conservation, conservation.

A few other lakes around the world with dropping water levels

Aral Sea – Central Asia
Great Lakes – United States
Lake Baikal – Russia
Lake Chad – Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger
Lake Chapala – Mexico

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

Global Water Grants – You decide who gets them!

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!

audio, drinking water, international, outreach, rainwater, research, sanitation, sustainability, water treatment

‘Global Water Challenge’ Competition

Ashoka’s Changemakers and Global Water Challenge have partnered to open a worldwide search for ideas and projects that, when scaled-up, have the potential to transform the provision of sanitation and water.

All entries are due by Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:00 pm EST (21:00 GMT).

Currently, over 149 entries have been received from 45 countries with ideas such as:

  • Affordable household filters that remove arsenic and microbes.
  • Biosand water filters in India.
  • Implementation of water harvesting ponds in Ethiopia.
  • Rooftop water harvesting programs.
  • Solar water-distillation for potable water.

Listen to this excerpt on the ‘Global Water Challenge’ Competition from today’s edition of Marketplace!

asia, economy, international, research, technology, water privitization, water trade

Singapore’s International Water Week 2008

Singapore is hosting International Water Week from June 23rd to June 27th of 2008. This first-annual event is to be held as a forum for “government officials, industry leaders and water specialists” to discuss policy, business, and water technology. Festivities of the week encompass a Water Trade Show, a Water Summit, and presentation of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize to an innovator in the field of water technology.

In 2006, Singapore began wide-spread governmental investments in water technologies to accelerate economic growth in the water sector. No doubt hosting two-hundred exhibitors of water technologies will be great way for the country to stay abreast of additional investment opportunities.

However, several main sponsors of International Water Week include multinational corporations with questionable environmental and water management track records including:

Enterprising steps in the field of water technology are fundamental to ensure available water supplies now and into the future.

Does sponsorship of International Water Week by the above organizations make this event any less important? Not necessarily, but maybe it does mean that we should pay closer attention to these companies and their water management standards.

agriculture, research, rivers

Fungal Micro-pollution in Water

Molds, mushrooms, and yeasts – prevalent in all locales from the cracks of a sidewalk, in the forest, and sometimes even your refrigerator. At times, fungi have wonderful uses including yeasts for brewing beer or wine to the gastronomic delight of the rare white truffle. At other times, certain fungi will produce a substance toxic to living beings called Mycotoxins. Recently, research has found certain Mycotoxins (micro-pollution) originating from fungal outbreaks in food-crop fields will enter waterways through irrigation run-off, as noted in a review in Science Daily.

While some toxins in this family may weaken the immune system or act as an allergen, other toxins have no evident effect on humans. This study showed increased quantities of such micro-pollution in Swiss rivers, and indicated “a need for stronger monitoring and control of these overlooked micropollutants.” The report “Fusarium Mycotoxins: Overlooked Aquatic Micropollutants?” will be released on February 13, 2008 in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

By the way, this post reminds me of a favorite joke:

Why did the algae and and the fungus get married?

Well… they took a lichen to each other.