‘Wash Your Hands’ and ‘Clean Your Plate’ – World Water Week Wrap-Up

agriculture, drinking water, general, international, outreach, sanitation, sustainability, united nations, water availability

Less worldwide food waste and better global sanitation were urgent needs cited during this year’s World Water Week from August 17th until August 23rd organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in Sweden. Over 2,400 science, business, government, and non-profit leaders gathered to discuss the “Progress and Prospects on Water: For A Clean and Healthy World” (this year’s theme) with a special focus on the 2008 International Year of Sanitation as declared by the UN.

This annual conference left much to be desired as discussions indicated  little progress in meeting one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — a reduction by half of the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. There are 2.5 billion people across the world without sanitation, and according to a United Nations progress report released in July of 2007, 1.6 billion of these people will need access to improved sanitation by 2015 to be on target with the MDGs. That is almost one-quarter, about 24%, of the current world population. Or in general terms, a lot of people.

John Sauer, in his recent article Finding the Toilet in Stockholm attributes the lack of available sanitation and drinking water, in part, to two major issues:

  • A general fear of the private sector and the “privatization” of public services.
  • The avoidance of the subject of sanitation and diseases such as diarrhea.


Above PhotoThe Millennium Development Goals Report 2007

Also this week, SIWI released a report indicating half of all food is lost (wasted, not ingested, not used) after it is produced. The report, Saving Water: From Field to Fork – Curbing Wastage in the Food Chain, estimated that 50 percent of all food is wasted and that less food waste will help preserve land and water resources. It takes water to grow food, right. Yep, and as James Leape stated at the opening session of World Water Week, “Irrigation-fed agriculture provides 45 percent of the world’s food supplies, and without it, we could not feed our planet’s population of six billion people.”

So in a nutshell, that is a wrap-up of this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm. And you can be sure I did eat every bite of dinner on my plate tonight.


Above Photo: SIWI.

Public Drinking Water around the World

drinking water, india, international, outreach, photos, sustainability, technology, water availability

BYOB – bring your own bottle (for water), that is.

‘Fatherpur Sikri drinking water stand.’

Photo Courtesy INDIA a County of a Billion People Blog

‘A row of drinking water vending machines in Pattaya, Thailand. A liter of water sold (in a customer’s own bottle) for 1 baht.’

Above Photo: Vmenkov on Wikipeida

‘A drinking water post in the Rohtak district of India.’

Above Photo: Water Supply & Sanitation Branch, Haryana

‘This is a fountain in the Pueblo of Santa Catarina four miles away from Panajachel, Guatemala.’

Above Photo: hobotraveler.com blog

‘A Mayan woman with a child at a solar water treatment fountain in Guatemala.’

Above Photo: Aqua Sun International

‘Interesting photo of water cooler on the street behind the Niger Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.’

Above Photo: hobotraveler.com Blog

‘An Italian drinking fountain.’

Above Photo: travelblog.org

Widespread Drought: The Middle East in 2008

agriculture, dam, drinking water, drought, economy, international, iraq, middle east, rivers, sustainability, water availability

The following words come to mind as I think of the Middle East – oil, Iraq, war, Palestine, Israel, and desert. Many of the words on my list are mere impressions of media-induced messages, but one word on my list is somewhat realistic – desert. The Middle East is an arid region known the world-over for sand, camels, heat, and more sand. So when I tell you in a few moments that many countries in the Middle East are facing severe drought conditions this year, you may not be surprised.

Yet contrary to my word list the Middle East isn’t entirely desert. Among the sand and heat, the region hosts fertile valleys and forests fed by one of two main rivers – the Tigris or Euphrates. This place was once so fruitful it was called “the fertile crescent,” “the cradle of civilization,” and “the birthplace of agriculture.” Today crops exported from the region include wheat, dates, olives, pistachios, raisins, eggplant, hazelnuts, and apricots. So when I tell you again that many countries in the Middle East are facing serious drought conditions this year, you may be dismayed.


Above Photo: Yale University

Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Iran and Iraq have each been dealing with decreased rainfall, reduced water storage, irrigation water shortages, and in some cases, declared drought. Drought in northeastern Syria over the past two years devastated wheat production in the region. Syria was forced to import wheat for the first time in fifteen years to compensate. Crops were also wiped out in Turkey after drought affected 35 out of 81 provinces. Iran is another nation importing extra wheat this season after a 20 percent decline in annual yield.

Palestine and Israel have been in a “regional drought” for over half a decade. Palestinians in the West Bank, facing especially difficult circumstances, are without water for hours or days at a time this summer. Israel controls 90 percent of the water distribution system for the West Bank, but claims to be unable to provide additional water to those in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah in Jordan has secured an Emergency Water Supply plan for next summer in case rains are less than predicted over winter. And, of course, the island of Cyprus is dealing with prolonged drought. Turkey is sending water by tankers to the Turkish half of the island, but the Greek half of the island refuses to accept water from Turkey. They are receiving water by tankers from Greece. A drought has been declared in Iraq after significantly less than the annual, average rainfall of six inches. Some say it is the worst drought in ten years. Both the Tigris and Euphrates flow through Iraq in less quantities from a lack of rainfall and dams constructed in Turkey and Syria. Barley and wheat yields, in this country, are expected to be reduced by half this year.

Widespread drought in the Middle East means many individuals are enduring severe hardship with little watery relief. Often forced to relocate or consume muddy or polluted water unfit for human consumption, people in this region have to test the limit of life with minimal water. Simultaneous drought in regions such as the Middle East and Australia further influences already soaring grain prices on the world market. In fact, wheat prices have risen by 40 percent over the last several months alone.

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.

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.

Dude, where’s my lake?

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

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

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!

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.

Water Labels for Milk, Fruit, Meat, and More

agriculture, climate change, international, sustainability

Into the local grocery store for my weekly accruals, I browse the aisles for items on my shopping list…

Milk – 65 gallons of water for production per serving
Cherries – 90 gallons of water for production per serving
Eggs – 136 gallons of water for production per serving

I diligently note the amount of water used for production of each product clearly labeled on the back of the container and then place them into my cart.

Sound a bit far-fetched? Well, not so much if you were in Australia this week attending an international water conference in Adelaide.

James Hazelton, a professor from Macquarie University, suggested this approach for labeling of food products in Australia and beyond, according to ABC News. He cited the success of labeling water efficient appliances such as low-flow toilets and washing machines.

Indeed, perhaps if we were more aware of the amount of water used for production of our food products, we might be inclined to conserve water and eat a ‘low-flow’ diet.

Great idea, sir!

Have you checked your Water Footprint lately?

Natural Water Treatment in Ecuador

agriculture, drinking water, economy, international, south america, sustainability, water treatment

A village in Ecuador was recently recognized on World Water Day 2008 for an innovative yet simple approach to water treatment using aquatic lentil and water lettuce.

The people of San Rafael de la Laguna, an indigenous community of 4,700, constructed a water treatment facility along the edge of Lake Imbakucha to offset polluted discharge from local tourist facilities and agricultural practices.

The water treatment facility removes up to 90% of the contamination, and the clean water is then used for irrigation of reeds. Local artisans create furniture, crafts, and paper from the reeds, and sell the products through the Totora Sisa Cooperative.


Photo above is Lake San Pablo (Imbakucha) in Ecuador.

Quick Story on Water in Africa

africa, drinking water, drought, film, international, outreach, rivers, sustainability, water availability

In Africa, there is a young girl named Christina. She lives with her family in a small village in rural Ghana in West Africa. Ghana is close the equator with a tropical climate, but each year over eight months may pass without a drop of rain. During these dry spells, the one small pond in her village will slowly evaporate in the hot sun. Villagers are forced to seek water elsewhere. It is Christina’s job to fetch her family’s daily ration of water. Each day, she will walk up to four hours to gather enough water. Christina is a hardworking girl, but because she walks so far for water means she has no time to attend school. Christina is a real girl, and this is a true story as told in the short film below by Water Aid. Water Aid is an international organization with a vision of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. Intrigued? Read more about water in Africa below.

Africa Water Facts

Desert, rainforest, and savanna – over 900 million people live in Africa. It is the second largest continent in the world. Of all who live in Africa, 340 million people (38%) lack access to clean water and 500 million people (56 %) lack access to sanitation facilities.

If you lived in Africa, you would have to walk an average of six kilometers (3.72 miles) to carry sometimes dirty or murky water home to your family for use. The burden of this chore often falls on the women and children of a household.

The Nile, Niger, Volta, and Zambezi River Basins cross multiple political borders making water policy difficult and even volatile according to research conducted by the UN as featured on the BBC.


Above Photo: Water availability in Africa.UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library

‘Global Water Challenge’ Competition

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

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!

World Water Day to Highlight the Global Water Crisis

drinking water, drought, film, groundwater, international, outreach, sustainability, united nations, water availability

About 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities. – UNICEF


‘A mother in Delhi, India, helps her son drink from a public tanker on World Water Day 2007’, photo on BBC News.

World Water Day 2008

Events happening across the globe draw international attention to a lack of available and clean drinking water supplies on World Water Day, whether celebrating March 20th (as so noted in this post on Water Wired) or on the typical March 22nd.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Water Day theme will emphasize ‘Sanitation’ to coincide with the designated International Year of Sanitation.

Confusion about the date of the event this year (to account for a religious holiday on the weekend) certainly has not hindered many from observing the need to focus on global water issues.

March 20th Events (to name a few)

Global Water Challengeand Ashoka’s Changemakers invite people to submit entries for the competition to solve the global water crisis: “Tapping Local Innovation: Unclogging the Water and Sanitation Crisis“. One million dollars in funding is available to help implement these projects, and entries are due by March 26, 2008.

Shekhar Kapur launches a blog on Changemakers.net inspired by his latest film, ‘Paani’ (Water), which will examine the daily struggle for water in the slums of Mumbai.

The Our World – Our Water group on Flickr is launched to encourage those from around the world to share photos and stories about water.

March 22nd Events (to name a few)

WaterPartners Village — a virtual exploration of the water crisis — will launch across social networking sites like Second Life on World Water Day. A virtual concert, with proceeds to support global water organizations, will start at 5:00 pm (PDT) on March 22, 2008 at the WaterPartners Village stage.

Worldwaterday.net is organizing events across the United States that observe World Water Day including organized walks to raise money for the global water crisis.

Gramalaya in association with WaterPartners International and WaterAid – UK is organising World Water Day 2008 in Tamil Nadu, India. The event will be attended by more than 20,000 women from 430 villages and 186 slums in Tiruchi City will be participating. The event will be telecast at Suryan FM 93.5.

WorldWaterDay.org features events happening across the globe and on the Internet.

The Film Connection supports World Water Day by featuring several films about water for viewing and discussion about global water issues. ‘With this film program, we invite you to take a closer look at how individuals experience and utilize this diminishing resource.’

The above poster is part of an outreach campaign by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

Turkey, Iraq, and Syria to Form Collaborative Water Institute

dam, drinking water, drought, economy, groundwater, international, rivers, sustainability, technology

The Middle East is an area rich in oil reserves but without ample water supplies to sustain a growing populace. Over 21 politically distinct countries and jurisdictions maintain 5% of the world’s total inhabitants with less than 1% of the world’s water reserves. At times, coming to an agreement on how to share the three river systems (the Jordan, Nile, and Tigris-Euphrates) that traverse the region make water policy a virtual nightmare. Now three countries are coming forward to resolve past arguments on transboundary water issues.

Turkey, Iraq, and Syria will soon form an institute to study water in the Middle East, as detailed in Today’s Zaman (a major Turkish newspaper). Experts, scholars, and professionals from each country will begin meetings at Turkey’s Atatürk Dam to share information and work on resolving past water-allocation problems.

Goals of the institute include:

  • Develop and share information on irrigation and potable water technology.
  • Map water resources in the Middle East.
  • Release a report on effective water management in each country (for release on April 15th).

Management of water storage and dams in the region will be an aspect of the institute’s endeavors. Turkey and Syria will attempt joint construction of a dam on the Asi River. Syria expressed an interest in greater downstream shares from dams on the Euphrates River. Iraq, which had previously filed concerns against Turkey’s dams on the Tigris and Euphrates, approved the construction on the controversial Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River. Also, see this post on Intercontinental Cry on the contested Ilisu Dam and related protests in Turkey.


Above Photo: Ted Thornton at History of the Middle East Database.

WASH-in-Schools Initiative: Campaign Launch by Water Advocates

drinking water, international, outreach, sanitation, sustainability, united nations

Wash-in-Schools” (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) is a campaign to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for schoolchildren throughout the world. This program, first introduced by UNICEF and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council at the 3rd World Water Forum in 2003, has been joined by growing list of non-profit organizations, foundations, corporations, and schools.

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Water Advocates, a non-profit organization in Washington DC, will be launching their Wash-in-Schools Initiative on March 12, 2008. This non-profit has the goal to expand the WASH program to 1,000 schools in developing countries while creating the momentum to help as many additional schools as possible worldwide.

The public is invited to the official Water Advocates WASH-in-Schools Initiative Launch:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The National Geographic Society Grosvenor Auditorium
1600 M Street NW, Washington, DC

The event will feature videos of schoolchildren in the developing world as well as comments from individuals including Dr. Peter Gleick, President and Co-founder Pacific Institute; Gil Garcetti, Photographer of “Water is Key: A Better Future for Africa;” and Alexandra Cousteau, co-founder Earth Echo International.

For more information on how you can be involved, please contact Andra Tamburro at 202-293-4047 or atamburro@wateradvocates.org.

To attend the event, please RSVP to Katie Delisio at WaterAdvocatesRSVP@gmail.com.