Nasa Image of Water Earth
water availability

What is your definition of global water shortage?

A few weeks ago a freshman from City College of New York contacted me to ask a simple question for her Environmental Psychology class: “What is your take on the global water shortage?” She believed many people were not aware of the issue, or they thought such a scenario wouldn’t affect them. After pondering her question for a few minutes, I realized she made a good point in the North American context. In many lower-income countries where water access is a big problem, people are familiar with the idea of global water shortages. In North America, it feels like the general public is more aware of global water shortages existing primarily in other countries (now this may slowly be changing in areas such as the arid southwest US or in areas experiencing drought).

Nasa Image of Water Earth
Above Photo: Through the Cupola on the International Space Station by NASA

Let us first define global water shortage. A general definition of global water shortage is an excess of humans worldwide not having safe, potable water. There are around 800,000 people globally without access to water. People don’t have water because they can’t afford systems to convey and treat water or they live in locations where water is physically scarce. The global water shortage is compounded by affects of climate change, population growth, human migration, pollution, and competition. Climate change could result in longer periods of drought or intense flood events and people, even those living in the United States, will experience water supply variability. Population growth and human migration, pollution from factories and homes, and competition between water users will further limit available water resources even in the United States. There are two areas of concern when thinking about a global water shortage from a North American perspective: 1) ensuring all people have equitable access to water supplies globally, and 2) ensuring that we in the United States are learning conservation methods and preparing for times of water scarcity.

Regarding these two areas of concern, it seems North Americans are more empathetic to the global component but less empathetic to the water conservation component. Popular groups like charity: water and water.org use famous celebrities like Matt Damon to help explain the global water shortage message to the North American public. The general public may not know the exact number of people without adequate water, but they seem to understand that people live without water in other countries. But when they turn on the tap, they don’t understand how using less water will help their community or how learning water conservation techniques could help their community. This might arise from a lack of understanding about local water policies, the energy used to treat such water, or even the basic water cycle. People don’t realize how what they do is connected to the bigger picture. For example, using less water requires the municipality to treat less water which will use less energy which could mean less gas extracted for energy production. International NGOs, federal and state governmental organizations, and even/especially I could do a better job communicating the global water shortage to the North American public to help avoid this global/local divide. What is your definition of a global water shortage?

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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!

architecture, art, community, drinking water, international, water availability, water events

Water-Art Activism Hits New York City

It always strikes me how a small but creative idea can spread spurring people around it to see the world in a new way. Or its ability to influence individuals to engage in positive change. Word Above the Street is one such idea.

Mary Jordan wants to “draw attention to Water as a precious resource by transforming 300 rooftop water tanks in New York City into works of art”. These works of art will focus on bringing awareness to water scarcity and water sanctity around the world. Professional artists, emergent artists, and youth have been asked to submit art ideas for the tanks.


Above Photo: Word Above The Street

Positive effects of this art project will be far-reaching. Over 8.4 million NYC residents, 5 million tourists, and millions of virtual visitors will be able to see the exhibition during the summer of 2012. This may be the first time many of these people have thought about water as an important issue, and this project may inspire others to further create positive change. Right on Word Above the Street!

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!

africa, community, drinking water, international, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sanitation, south africa, video, water availability

The World Cup, Water, and Sanitation – PSA-a-thon Series

Many around the world have just finished watching the USA vs. Algeria game in South Africa. USA won the match (1-0) and will be able to continue to play in the 2010 World Cup. I’m happy with the final score (sorry, Algeria) but not so happy about something else. During the time of each World Cup match, around 140 children in Africa will die from diarrheal illnesses related to dirty water and a lack of toilets.

One organization, Wash-United, hopes people will become more aware of these issues during the 2010 World Cup. They have enlisted football greats like Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu, and Stephen Appiah and created Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to help the spread the world. Enjoy these PSAs as part of the PSA-a-thon Series, and keep watching and rooting for your favorite teams.

Football Greats for Safe Water and Sanitation

Desmond Tutu for Safe Water and Sanitation

Can’t get enough? The other five PSAs in the series cover rainwater harvesting in India, the LA Tap Project, a water-conservation campaign in Denver, the Tap Project 2009, and Charity Water.

community, drinking water, general, india, ngo, sanitation, water availability, water justice

My Soon-to-be Journey to India: An Arghyam Internship

Life has been bustling as I prepare for an internship in India. This year, I was accepted for an internship with Arghyam – an NGO that works on water and sanitation projects across India – in Bangalore. This internship is part of my master’s studies at Oregon State University (my major is Water Resources Policy and Management and my minor is Women Studies). It will last from September 1st until December 31st.

Arghyam Header1

My internship with Arghyam will focus mainly on gender and water issues in South India. Such issues are important to understand to ensure all people have fair access to and participation in the management of water and sanitation resources. Through my adventures, I will continue to post on Water for the Ages (both on my internship and other international water issues). Stay tuned for more information to follow. There will be photos, videos, and more.

If you are interested in an international water internship in India, Arghyam has other internship opportunities available. Be sure and check out their impressive India Water Portal for details on these positions.

africa, community, drinking water, outreach, photos, visions of water, visions of life, water availability

Kakamega Youth Talk About Water Problems in Kenya

Youth are our future and our future depends on water. In the last Visions of Water, Visions of Life interview, students at the Kakamega School for the Deaf talked about water and life in Kenya. They were asked:

What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

They are hearing-impaired, so they drafted their answers on a chalkboard. Below is a glimpse into the daily life of these students. Some rainwater harvesting tanks were recently donated to their school, but after this source is depleted – during they dry season – they rely solely on river water. We thank them much for providing this information to the world.

Sheila Agufa

Sheila

Agesa Silus

Silas

Daniel Milavi

Daniel

Joseph Milongo

Joseph

Are you a student that would like to get involved in water issues? Do you want to contact these students in Kenya? Please visit the ECAG Website. Or – to meet other youth interested in water issues – check out the YouthNoise DROP Campaign Website.

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

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: ECAG in Kenya

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.

animation, art, community, film, united nations, water availability

Are you ready for a global-water multimedia adventure?

Already today, I have been able to visit people and places in Yemen, India, Mexico, Niger, and Kenya to learn more about local and global water issues. How, you may ask? Easy, I reply – The Water Channel.

The Water Channel is a partnership between MetaMeta Communications, UNESCO-IHE, Cap-Net and Nymphaea. It has videos from around the world on water topics ranging from Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) to watershed education and outreach.

The Water Channel Logo

My favorite videos so far include –

Water is a Gift: An artful animation about water produced by the Natural Water Resources Authority in Yemen (complete with English subtitles). This film juxtaposes drawings and digital video to talk about the significance of groundwater and drip irrigation in Yemen.

Tears (Lagrimas): A “fictional” film about a young girl wistful for the days when she was able to access water at a local source. This video has no words, only images, and was shown at fourth World Water Forum in Mexico.

Kenya: What Water Means to Me: One teacher at Karen ‘C’ Primary School in Kenya documents her students’ views on water. These students discuss the role of H20 in their daily lives: water shortages at school, water shortages at home, water-borne illnesses, and possible solutions to these water problems.

If you want to see others, visit the 164 videos (and counting) at The Water Channel website.

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

Charity Water – PSA-a-thon Series

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.

drinking water, floods, india, water availability

H20 Democracy Documentary: Writing on Water

This morning, I decided to watch a documentary called Writing on Water produced by the Transnational Institute. And, let me tell you, I’m sure glad that I did. This story provided uplifting, proactive, and capable solutions to the current world water crisis.

The film detailed the recent meeting of the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium – attended by engineers, water managers, economists, activists, policymakers, and academics from over 18 countries – as a venue to discuss the equitable and democratic management of water worldwide.

Participants at the meeting were able to see a model of democratic water management in-action as they visited various field sites managed by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD). In 2004, TWAD passed the Maraimalai Nagar Decarlation that required consensus-based water management in many villages. It is now clear that this Declaration has been successful at encouraging the development of sustainable, equitable, and low-cost water systems in numerous villages.

For additional information, please check out the report from the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium available on the Water Justice website hosted by the Transnational Institute

Part 1The adverse effects of the privatization of water in various parts of the world becomes apparent as the delegates share their experiences.

Here are the links to other videos in the six-part documentary on You Tube.

Part 2 If the journey begins with the self; the transformation of the individual first; then can individual transformation become institutional transformation?

Part 3The myths propounded the international financial institutions on the trillion dollar requirement for meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water are demolished.

Part 4The enabling tools of the process of transformation are discussed. “Koodam” as a concept of democratization is elaborated and how the voluntarism generated enthuses true community participation.

Part 5The main issues of the Water Debate are discussed threadbare by the delegates from various countries; reaching the conclusion that one cannot ignore working with the governments.

Part 6Inspired by the vision of a village community who have painted in the wall of a building, what they want the village to be in ten years time; the delegates each take a vow to fight for reclaiming public water and to work to spread the idea of the democratization of water management.

sustainability, water availability, water conflict

OSU Israel and Palestine Trip Blog

For those of you that didn’t hear about this on Michael Campana’s great Water Wired blog:

The Oregon State University Hydrophiles and GeoClub student groups are traveling to Israel and Palestine for almost two weeks. They’ll learn about water and other regional issues. Follow their adventures on their blog. The trip is led by Professor Aaron Wolf, one of the world’s experts on Middle Eastern water issues, water conflict management, and transboundary water issues (see my recent post on his work).

Thanks for the blurb, Michael. And, have fun OSUers. You can be sure I will be following their neat blog to learn more about water issues in the Middle East.

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, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sustainability, united nations, water availability

Tap Project 2009 – PSA-a-thon Series

Folks, it’s that time again. Time for another Public Service Announcement for the PSA-a-thon Series. Our fourth PSA in the series couldn’t be more timely. This PSA recognizes the upcoming TAP Project by UNICEF during World Water Week from March 22 to March 29, 2009. This project aims to raise money during the week in a simple way – ask restaurants to sell tap water for 1$ instead of bottled water. All proceeds raised will help UNICEF provide clean drinking water to children throughout the world. Did you know that 1$ can supply one child with safe drinking water for 40 days? So, check out the PSA. If you like it, get involved. Be a volunteer in your city and ask restaurants to participate, coordinate a walk for water, or raise money at your workplace.

Be sure and check out the first three PSAs featured in the series on rainwater harvesting in India,  the LA Tap Project, and a water-conservation campaign in Denver.

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

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

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.