technology, water, water availability, water management

Real Time Data for Water and Sanitation

If you’ve been following recent events like World Water Week or the online Transparency in the Water Sector talk, you’ve heard a lot of buzz about real time data collection. Real time data collection happens when modern technologies (mobile phones, GPS, and computer systems) are adapted for data collection, organization, and dissemination with little time delay. Such technological adaptations helps water users and managers, and as an Alertnet article states, “mobile technology boosts water security for the poor.”


Above Photo: Water for People

Mobile phones play a big part in real time data collection. Over 6 billion people have mobile phones worldwide, and more people have mobile phones than toilets. The GPS, camera, word-processing software, and mobile network associated with some mobile phones allow water users and managers to better: map and track water and sanitation systems to evaluate current and future system development.

  1. Akvo FLOW is a tool for Android Phones with GPS to collect data, analyze data, and visualize data on maps. It has been used in Liberia to create water-point maps. This program was supported and funded by the World Bank. Here are the actual online maps.
  2. WASHFunders.org has a great toolkit for monitoring and evaluation on their website. This toolkit features – among others – FLOW and Water Aid’s Waterpoint Mapper. The Waterpoint Mapper is an open source mapping tool that can be used with no internet connection.
  3. Manobi Development Foundation created mWater which is a program that “allows water-service operators to share information with national authorities and financial institutions via mobile phone.” This system features text messages sent about water production levels, water system financial updates, and water service disruption warnings.
  4. Deep Springs International has been distributing water treatment kits in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. They ensure water technicians are equipped with mobile phones that use radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to identify levels of chlorine in each household kit. Technicians text results back to the organization for further analysis.
  5. Water for People partnered with Akvo to use FLOW as a tool for monitoring and evaluation. They also just unveiled a new real-time sponsor tool called Reimagine Reporting. It links the FLOW data with the funding data.

For more information on mobile phones for real time data collection, check out mobileactive.org. There you can search directly for “water” applications and case studies. There is a great review of such technologies in the WASH sector called mWASH: Mobile Phone Applications for the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Sector. Happy Saturday!

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sanitation, sustainability, technology, urban areas, water availability

We all poop. We all live downstream.

It’s World Toilet Day, and it’s no joke. Around 2.6 billion people worldwide lack toilets and every 15 seconds a child dies from sanitation-related illnesses. But we can smile that World Toilet Day was designated by the World Toilet Organization to organize groups for positive sanitation change.

Our local World Toilet Day event in Portland, Oregon was the First Flush of a third Portland Loo built by the City of Portland. As quoted on Commissioner Leonard’s Blog, the Loo “is a modern, public urban toilet that pushes Portland into the future by making public restrooms available, safe, hygienic and sustainable.” Its sleek design makes it hip, solar-powered lights make it eco-friendly, and 24-hour status make it useful to those that need a location to use the bathroom.


Above Photo: Anna DiBenedetto

This event was supported by an exceptional organization called PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human). Carol McCreary, co-founder of PHLUSH, spoke at the grand opening. PHLUSH – a group that I now volunteer with – is formed of inspiring and knowledgeable people who support sanitation for marginalized populations, research ecological-sanitation methods, and promote innovation for sanitation. We all poop. We all live downstream. Happy World Toilet Day!

india, outreach, technology

New and Improved India Water Portal

An updated India Water Portal was just released, and my internship is at the same place as the people that designed this great website. Here is what they have to say about the remade site:

India Water Portal (http://indiawaterportal.org) is a knowledge and social portal for exchanging knowledge, experiences and ideas on the water situation in India. Over the past few months, we have been working to transform the website into a much more user-friendly, participative and fun resource. The new website is now released and we encourage you to visit it now!

They have flickr, facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, too!

technology, water availability, water treatment

Is the Water Pyramid a Water Wonder?

Today, I found out via Gender and Water Alliance about a new technology to produce distilled water in arid areas. It’s called the Water Pyramid,and it was developed by a fellow named Martijn Nitzsche. There are two of these pyramids in India – one in the Kutch Desert of Gujarat and the other in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. The pyramid stands about 30 feet high. Inside the pyramid, sunlight is used to distill brackish water for storage. At full capacity, the pyramid may produce up to 1,000 liters of water each day. There are still some problems to be worked out including the cost of the water and ensuring equitable access to the water. But it’s a step in the right direction, right.


Above Photo: Sunny Sebastian and The Hindu Newspaper

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

Water from Air: Alchemy or Reality

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.

africa, international, technology

AfriGadget Water Gadget

Have you ever heard of an Elephant Pump? Today, I found out that an Elephant Pump is a low-cost well pump based on a type used in China over 2,000 years ago. It can be made with local materials and is powered through a contraption that looks much like a bicycle.

How did I figure this out? A friend sent me a link to the awesome website AfriGadget. This site is dedicated to showcasing the ingenuity of Africans. Reusing products like old keyboards, plastic bottles, and other assorted items to devise bottle openers, shoe-shine stands, bamboo bikes, and even a biodiesel conversion kit. They bring the word sustainability to a whole new level.

Also, they have a whole section on sanitation and water – how to build “keyhole” gardens, directions for a VIP (Ventilated Pit Latrine), Homemade Water Filters, Kick Start Pumps, and more. AfriGadget really should team up with Akvopedia, another open-source water and sanitation destination.

How to Make a Homemade Water Filter (from AfriGadget)

Over at kikuyumoja’s realm, JKE makes a water filter using little more than a couple of plastic containers, a ceramic element and loads of ingenuity.
wf1
wf2
Above Photo: AfriGadget

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

Prepaid Water Meters, Price of Water

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.

general, outreach, sustainability, technology, water availability

So you want to be a water blogger?

Here’s you chance. Are you interested in writing? Do you want affect positive change in the world? Are you under 27 years of age? Picture this – you have a blog and it’s called: (Insert Your Name Here)’s Watery Blog about Water. Alright, so that name sounds a bit geeky. But don’t worry, it’s just an example.

Youth Noise

a social networking site for people under the age of 27 who like to connect based on deeper interests than Paris Hilton’s wardrobe and want to get engaged within a cause

is looking for water bloggers.

They hope to feature a young water blogger on the webpage for their upcoming DROP (water) campaign. If you’re interested in applying for this cool opportunity, send them an email at internships@youthnoise.org. And even if you’re not quite ready to get your feet wet in the big, wide world of water blogging, still check out the Youth Noise website. It’s for youth, by youth, and for a good cause. You really can’t beat that.

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

Akvopedia: Open Source for Water Technology

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

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

Public Drinking Water around the World

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

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

Dammed if we do, dammed if we don’t.

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.

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!

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

K2K – In Search of Water

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.

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

Turkey, Iraq, and Syria to Form Collaborative Water Institute

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.

rainwater, sustainability, technology, water treatment

Raindrop Power

Wind, solar, waves, and rivers…

Could raindrops be another form of alternative, renewable, and sustainable energy?

Experimental research is underway by a team at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in France to study the feasibility of rain and energy production, according to a recent article in New Scientist (Issue 2640, 24 January 2008, page 30).

The team used piezoelectric materials, which generate electricity with mechanical stress, to capture energy from raindrops as they hit the surface. Raindrops the size of drizzle produced approximately 2 microjoules of energy, while large raindrops produced approximately 1 millijoule of energy.

“Although the output is puny compared with that of solar panels, rain power has the advantage of working in the dark and could be used to supplement solar-powered devices.”

New Scientist

Other research is being completed around the world to review possibilities of new forms of water energy including Damless Energy, Blue Energy, and Ocean Energy Thermal Conversion (OTEC).

Animated photo courtesy Ernst Schütz.