A group of engineering students have recently designed a rainwater harvesting system for their school in the water-thirsty city of Pune in Maharashtra, India. At full capacity, it will collect 87 lakh liters (around 2,298,297 US gallons) of rainwater each year. The students are collecting rainwater in tanks on several buildings, and the water is filtered before it recharges the main well on campus. Pretty neat, eh?
Wow, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of the great water books and films coming out these days. Today – for Earth Day 2009 – I have tried to compile a few recent or upcoming releases around the globe.
Recipe for Water by Gillian Clarke
(release date – May 1, 2009)
Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon
(release date – May 10, 2009)
Poisoned Spring: The EU and Water Privatization by Kartika Liotard and Steven P. McGiggen
(release date – May 12, 2009)
Life is Water by Jen Warren
Poisoned Waters by PBS Frontline
Tapped by Stephanie Soechtig
That’s right. Water IS cool.
It’s essential for life. Our bodies are 50 percent to 75 percent water. The earth is around 72 percent water. There’s even water in outer space. Water is able change from a liquid (for example, a puddle, a river, or a lake) to a solid (ice) to a gas (water vapor). Okay, have I convinced you of the awesomeness of water yet? If not, watch this animation (via the Akvo Blog). You might change your mind.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone. This is also an advertisement for a bottled water company. Errggghh – no comment. Okay, two comments. Tap water is better for the planet than bottled water. And maybe I’ll put this neat animation on the EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index, too.
The new Schools Water Portal website promises to be one of the most comprehensive, progressive, and exciting compendium of free resources available for teaching about water. The website provides materials for students, teachers, principles, and schools. Others are encouraged use the materials, too.
For example, how many schools do you know about in the United States with rainwater harvesting systems? Among other things, this website provides basic information on rainwater harvesting in schools in India. Arghyam, the founding organization, says:
The portal contains several colourful presentations, plays, debate topics, quizzes, water stories, fun water science, and more all with water as the focal theme. The busy teacher could use these for enlivening the class or to teach better a difficult topic. All these materials follow the set syllabus and are for free download.
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.
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.
A beautiful happy new year image from Terres des hommes Foundation (Tdh). Tdh works to “defend the rights of children, in times of war or natural catastrophe, or in less publicized situations of distress.” This includes working on issues of water and sanitation for children, especially in emergency situations. They are currently collecting donations for the children in the Gaza Strip.
Zimbabwe is encountering a severe water and humanitarian crisis. Two weeks ago, the High Court in Zimbabwe shut down because of a lack of water supply. And, over the last month, approximately 8,887 people have contracted cholera and 366 people have died. Four large hospitals and many local clinics in the country have closed or turn away new patients because of a lack of medical supplies.
The cholera outbreak is spreading fast because of poor water and sanitation conditions around the country. Government-run water treatment facilities have not imported enough chemicals for treatment, raw sewage is found in neighborhoods as sewer lines are broken, and many individuals do not have access to clean drinking water. There is no stable government in Zimbabwe to provide these basic governmental services.
Robert Mugabe, of the ZANU-PF party, held power in the country for the last 28 years. In March, Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change, won the first round of elections. But after much violence and intimidation against his supporters, Tsvangirai decided to concede. Both parties agreed to a power-sharing agreement in September, but Mugabe did not grant Tsvangirai adequate access to governmental offices. Now the two leaders are attempting to discuss the power-sharing agreement in South Africa; meanwhile the country waits in despair.
Above photo courtesy: United Nations
How would you like to use the bathroom on the side of the road in the middle of a bustling town? How would you like to eat dinner soon afterward with no clean water to wash your hands? Today is a day to pay attention to the over 2.5 million people in the world that do not have access to adequate sanitation. It’s World Toilet Day.
Over 4,000 small children die every day from diarrheal diseases related to poor sanitation. Organizations like Water Aid, Water Advocates, and the World Toilet Organization are working to help those families build, develop, and learn about sanitation alternatives. Water Aid says they need your help.
On Halloween, I had a lot of trick-or-treaters visit my home, but one small group of teenage girls was especially memorable. Sure, their Anime costumes were fabulous, but mostly what stood out was their cause. These teens weren’t trick-or-treating for candy, but for donations to support the United Nations Children’s Fund.
This group of young humanitarians reminded me that even the smallest action can make a difference. Especially in a world where so many people lack food, clean water, and shelter. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is an annual campaign to raise funds for projects around the world. UNICEF works on water and sanitation projects in over 90 countries.
It’s not to late for you to give either this holiday season. If you are interested in water issues, be sure and check out Universal GIVING. If you search with the keyword ‘water‘, you will find almost 300 different water projects looking for donations. Organizations represented on this site include Action Against Hunger, Green Empowerment, The Hope Alliance, International Medical Corps, and H20 Africa Foundation, to name a few.
How would you like to give a few of these gifts this holiday season?
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.
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.
Lauren Hauser of Youth Noise sent me the following information:
On Saturday, November 15th, 2008 (9am-6pm) YouthNoise and Parsons- The New School of Design, have partnered to launch DROP, a student summit in New York City at the Theresa Lang Student and Community Center in Greenwich Village. This day long summit will serve as the initial step in a 3-12 month long internship for 75 young, emerging social entrepreneurs and activists in the greater New York metropolitan area. Part awareness building, part community building and 100% focused on social change around water, this summit will offer opportunities to dive into the complex world of water issues facing our local, national and global communities. But most importantly, YOU will become part of a growing community of young people focused on this critical issue- and become a part of the solution. If you live in the New York area, please fill out an application here by Wednesday, November 5th.
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Water has profound implications for international security as well.
Proposal: Empower the US State Department to address global water-related disputes.
- Nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water…
Proposal: Fund clean-water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the developing world.
- ..leading to 2.5 million deaths annually from preventable illnesses and malnutrition.
Proposal: Take a leadership role in eliminating waterborne diseases.
- Climate change will intensify flooding, storms, drought, and disease.
Proposal: Factor the effect of climate change on water supplies into all new infrastructure projects.
- Taking water seriously is a no-brainer.
Proposal: Put water at the center of your administration’s strategic agenda.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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 (
theoreticaluniversal 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:
sanitation, pumping and transportation, storage, treatment, and use of water
toilets, collection, transportation, treatment, and use of products
NGOs, governmental organizations, research organizations, funding organizations, and commercial companies
project management, individual and collective, and supporting approaches
The website has reviews and specifications for building water and sanitation infrastructure from:
- a tippy-tap hand-washing device,
- to completing well construction with bamboo screens,
- to specifications and directions for building an aqua privy,
- to a new drip irrigation system called the Nica Drip system.
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.
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.
- 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 Photo: The 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.