Happy New Year from Terre des hommes Foundation

drinking water, general, international, outreach, sustainability

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.


So you want to be a water blogger?

general, outreach, sustainability, technology, water availability

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.

Water and the G8: Hokkaido Toyako Summit

climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, industrial, international, investments

As most have heard by now, the 34th annual G8 Summit is underway in Japan from July 7th to July 9th in Toyako, Hokkaido.

Leaders from eight of the world’s industrialized nations, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States (in addition to the president of the European Union and representatives from fifteen other nations) are busy talking and talking some more about the global economy. Again this year, some of these conversations address environmental concerns which embrace the issue of water.

The agenda for the G8 Summit is prioritized something like this:

  1. Global Economy (Sub-prime Crisis, Rising Inflation, Economic Growth)
  2. Environment and Climate Change (Carbon Reduction, International Cooperation, Global Food Security)
  3. Development in Africa (Development, Water, Health, and Education)
  4. Political Issues (Nonproliferation, Nuclear Safety)

Water is linked to the global economy, a changing climate, food security, and is necessary to consider for future development in Africa, but it is unclear exactly how G8 leaders will tackle the matter of water. Many international organizations have been lobbying delegates of the 2008 Summit to focus on the topic of water. The Asia-Pacific Water Forum encouraged G8 leaders to highlight the importance of water security in the region. Water Aid issued a plea for G8 leaders to provide additional funding for sanitation projects abroad. UNICEF met with G8 leaders earlier in the spring to inform participating nations of the one billion people worldwide without access to clean, drinkable water.

Deliberations on water by G8 nations are nothing new. In 2003, global water was discussed at the Summit in Evian, France. Participants from this Summit produced a G8 Water Action Plan outlining an agreement for better global water management “particularly taking into account the importance of proper water management in Africa…” But indistinct steps have been made towards realization of these goals as evidenced by talks on similar subjects at this year’s Summit and a “reaffirmation” of the G8 Water Action Plan.

So far, the following agreements relating to water (sort of) have been reached at the Hokkaido Toyako Summit:

  • Environment and Climate Change – The world should cut carbon emissions by 50 percent before 2050 with each nation having individual targets.
  • Development and Africa – G8 nations pledge 60 billion dollars over five years to help the continent fight disease. G8 nations reaffirm Millennium Development Goals for water, health, and sanitation in Africa. G8 nations hope to reinvigorate efforts to implement the Evian G8 Water Action Plan from 2003 with a progress report at the 2009 Summit.
  • Global Food Security – Nations in the world with sufficient food storage should release food to the market. Worldwide removal of food export restrictions is necessary.

Repetitions of past/existing goals seem to highlight the 2008 Summit list of accomplishments in the environmental realm. Agreements similar to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol ‘reduction of greenhouse gas’ initiative to a repeat of the 2003 Evian G8 Water Action Plan.

Well, you know what they say, maybe the third time is a charm (or the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh)…

International Year Of Sanitation 2008

drinking water, international, united nations

The United Nations General Assembly declares 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. This declaration will assist progress on one of the eight Millennium Development Goals that aims to provide sanitation infrastructure to half of all people in the world without such by 2015. Several UN partners are supporting this measure including UNICEF, UNEP, UNDESA, UNDP, UN-Habitat, UN-Water, to name a few.

Over 40% of people (2.6 billion and almost one million children) throughout the world do not have adequate sanitation facilities, such as bathrooms or ample water supplies. Frequently, deaths occur because deficient sanitation often encourages the spreading of illnesses such as diarrhea, cholera, worms, pneumonia, and malnutrition.

Check the UN web-site for more information on International Year of Sanitation projects.

Flood Drinking Water Contamination: Risk Factors

asia, drinking water, floods, groundwater, international

Many in the United States are acquainted with the effects of flooding. Especially after Hurricane Katrina, numerous other flooding events, and the recent past deluge on the Chehalis River of Southwest Washington. Rampant in the media during these times of floods are deaths, displacements, economic losses, and causes associated with the flooding. Less common immediately after a flood event, however, is media attention to water-borne illnesses and water contamination.

Depending on location and sanitation conditions, flood water can contaminate drinking water (surface water, groundwater, and distribution systems). Groundwater wells can be rendered useless from inundation of water laced with toxins, chemicals, animal carcasses, septic seepage, and municipal sewage. Surface water sources are impacted in similar manners. Infectious diseases can also be spread through contaminated drinking water. As indicated by the Center for Disease Control such illnesses might include:

Diseases not present in an area before a major flood event are not likely to be present after a major flood event. Cholera and Typhoid are more common in lower income countries. Additionally, people in higher income countries are sometimes able to obtain drinking water at shelters, and/or others with adequate resources may temporarily move to a nearby location with safe municipal water supplies.

Above Photo: Devastation in Bangladesh. SOS-Arsenic.net.

Prospects in countries without such available infrastructure are often dire. Bangladesh encounters flooding annually. In August 2007, floods in the region (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and India) killed over 2,000 people and displaced 20 million people with many infected by contaminated water supplies (over 100,000 in Bangladesh alone). Mozambique is enduring endured serious flooding as the Zambezi River and Save River are cresting crested the banks from torrential rains in Zimbabwe. A press release was issued by Oxfam International stating:

“Whenever a flood hits, a lack of clean water and sanitation facilities reaches dangerous levels in a matter of days, if not hours. Access to both will become farther and farther out of reach and could lead to a widespread health crisis as flood waters continue to rise,”

– Hugo Oosterkamp, Oxfam Water and Sanitation Emergency Coordinator

In all countries, time is of the essence to assist people with access to potable water. In rural locations, education is essential to provide alternative options for water treatment. Sometimes it is possible to disinfect a groundwater well that has been contaminated or, more immediately, purify water using solar radiation on top of a house and chlorinate small water supplies for personal use. For more information, see these websites on flood related water issues and well protection from contamination by flooding.

One Country’s Answer to Growing Water Shortages

india, international

India, out of necessity, has encouraged the construction of rainwater catchment systems throughout the country. This short public service announcement, produced by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in India, highlights the importance of rainwater harvesting in the region.

With rise of global population, changing seasonal weather patterns, and fluctuating economic conditions, rainwater catchment could prove to be one cutting-edge option to ensure adequate water supplies throughout the world.

People in India have been harvesting rainwater for thousands of years. Presently, many organizations in India are continuing to promote rainwater as a sustainable water supply.

Previously on this web-log, I briefly introduced an organization, Sustainable Innovations, that is developing rainwater harvesting systems for many in need in rural and arid Rajasthan, India.

Another organization spearheading several campaigns relating to rainwater harvesting is the Centre for Science and Environment in India. They host the web-site rainwaterharvesting.org and publish the magazine, Down to Earth. The director of the institute, Sunita Narain, won the 2005 Stockholm Water Prize for her work with rainwater harvesting in rural areas.

Indeed, India is taking many progressive steps forward regarding water conservation and alternative water supply techniques. So much so, that many throughout the world could do well to follow the lead, including the United States…

Year of River Rejuvenation in India

india, sustainability

Community-born environmental movements often bring about most significant change, particularly in countries with a lack of stringent environmental regulations.

As in the Times of India, one of many examples is a grassroots driven river restoration project occurring in Bangalore, capitol of the state of Karnataka in India. Environmentalists in the region are staging a campaign to bring attention to conservation and preservation of the Arkavathy River, tributary of the Cauvery River. Water levels in the Arkavathy River have been dropping over the past several years, as well as nearby groundwater aquifers. This campaign is part of a larger event planned for India in 2008, by leading India water scholar Rajendra Singh, called Lokadesh.

Rajendra Singh said under Lokadesh 2008, experts will take up one dead, dying or polluted river in every state for rejuvenation by adopting a decentralised, community-driven approach. Singh called for the declaration of Year 2008 as Year of River Rejuvenation.

Water Resource Video Seminars from Distinguished Scholars

audio, international

The California Colloquium on Water is a lecture-series presented by the Water Resources Center Archives (WRCA) at the University of California – Berkley. They have made available presentations from 2001 to 2007 in video format on-line.

While many of the presentations focus on regional specific water resource issues, several topics are relevant in the international arena of watershed studies such as groundwater, water re-use, desalination, dams, and drought.

See the WRCA web-site for a compilation of past lectures.

China Faces a Range of Water Problems

asia, international

The Peoples Republic of China is a country of over 1.3 billion people with 20% of the world’s total population. Extensive environmental pollution in the region is often blamed on increased industrialization, with little or no environmental regulatory oversight. Water problems are many and include:

  • The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River
  • South-to-North Water Diversion Project
  • Increased Desertification in the North
  • Industrial Discharge
  • Raw Sewage Discharge

PBS produced this documentary, China From The Inside, which highlights the governmental systems and environmental problems of China. Their web-site features an interactive map, such as the one depicted below, detailing water issues in China.

Above Photo: PBS

This recent post on Water Wired, talks of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project in China, billed by some as the largest hydrological alteration attempted in the world. Economically, China is beginning to make strides in the global market, but this progress is at often at the cost of the environment. Is the Communist Party of China (actually more similar to a state capitalist system) doing enough to preserve the country for future Chinese citizens?

Hunger Strike to Save River: Brazil Bishop Luis Flavio Cappio

international, sustainability

Bishop Cappio’s health is beginning to deteriorate, as he continues a 23-day hunger strike in a non-violent action against artificial diversion of the Sao Francisco River, fourth largest river in Brazil.

Bishop Cappio began his fast on November 27, 2007. Initially, the diversion project on the river was denied by lower courts in Brazil, but today a landmark decision approved the two-billion dollar project:

The irrigation project aims to pump water from the Sao Francisco River through 435 miles (700 km) of canals to people and farms in the arid and poor northeast, where President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was born.


This is the second hunger-strike employed by the Bishop against artificial diversion of the Sao Francisco River (the first was in 2005). He is very worried about the negative effects this irrigation project will have: greatly minimizing flows of the river limiting irrigation water available for local, less affluent individuals, and a dire ecological outcome to an already unhealthy ecosystem.

While Vatican and Brazilian officials plead with the Bishop to conclude the fast, he had indicated he has no intentions to take nourishment until the project is denied, once and for all.

Nepal Discontent Over Climate Change Talks in Bali

asia, climate change, india, united nations

Nepal is a land on the edge of the mighty Himalayas. Although rather small, only the size of Arkansas, Nepal is known the world over for Mount Everest which is the highest mountain globally at an elevation of 29,029 feet.

As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change wraps-up in Bali, Nepali officials are worried water supplies may become even more stressed with loss of glacial sources in the Hindu-Kush. Their concerns are exasperated with the hesitancy of the US and Canada to agree to any definitive carbon emission cessation.

Water shortages in Nepal are nothing new. The diverse elevation and terrain leaves lowlands hot and humid while alpine regions are cold and remote. Sanitation and water infrastructure have continuously presented difficulties in places such as Madhyapur Thimi and areas of Kathmandu Valley. Approximately 13,000 children die each year from lack of potable water.

Individuals who reside in mountainous regions in Nepal use less than 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of water per day. Still Nepal’s rivers, driven by snow-melt, are already showing signs of decreasing flows. Further, water wars are expected to ensue between many countries that rely on glacial melt in the Himalayas for water supply including India and China.

A step in the right direction, organizations such as Nepal Water For Health are encouraging better access to sanitation and utilization of alternative water supply systems such as rainwater collection and fog collection systems (such as the one depicted below), and water conservation measures as drip irrigation.

Rainwater Harvesting for all Household Needs

india, sustainability

An industrious friend of mine is planning life off of the grid. She will grow her own food, utilize alternative forms of energy, and supply her own water (without having to dig a well). Recently she questioned, is it possible to provide water for a home using only rainwater? In my neighborhood in Washington, many people use barrels under gutters to collect rain for simple gardening needs, but homes in this area that harvest rainwater for all household needs are few and far between.

Above Photo: World Hunger Year

The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day for cooking, washing, bathing, and cleaning. Still, it is possible to build a home in the United States that uses only rainwater (with a few water conservation measure implemented) for all daily needs. The amount of water supplied through rainfall events depends largely on location. Even areas with little precipitation are able to capture sufficient amounts of rainwater during seasonal occurrences as evidenced in India. If you know average precipitation , it is possible to calculate the amount of rainfall available for capture using simple math as shown in this post on Rain Barrel.net. After determining the amount of rainfall possible for capture, system design should evaluate the following parameters:

1. Collection Methods
2. Storage Methods
3. Water Conveyance
4. Treatment Process

This guide published by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality provides a wonderful overview of “Harvesting, Storing, and Treating Rainwater for Indoor Domestic Use”. While homes in the US relying on rainwater for all needs are not very common, there are people using such systems with great success. Understanding and installing rainwater catchment systems now could greatly reduce risks associated with decreased water availability in the future.

Singapore: Water Technology Clearinghouse

asia, economy, technology

Previously, on this water web-log, we have heard of Israel’s attempts to become the next “Silicon Valley” of water technology. Right on schedule, other investment minded countries are jumping on-board.

Singapore has stepped-up with hopes of being a major water-technology provider for Asian countries, as reviewed on Earthtimes. The island of Singapore, south of Malaysia, began serious investment inquiries of the water industry in 2006, with major political funding aimed at such measures. And, a track-record of being able to provide sustainable supplies of water to citizens in a water scarce country, certainly helps to poise the country to step into such a role with ease. China is already beginning to take much interest in this small city-state’s ability to utilize water technology.

Downtown Singapore sky-line (at the entrance of the Strait of Malacca), photo courtesy National Geographic.

Water Guzzlin’ Biofuels

agriculture, asia, india

Initially, biofuels (such as biodiesel and ethanol) were thought the holy-grail of the environmental and energy movement. After further review, several problems arise that may negate any positive environmental outcome of the use of biofuels.

Negative aspects of biofuel production include increased water shortages, food shortages, and energy shortages. Such issues are evaluated in this article written by Fred Pearce (author of When the Rivers Run Dry). Developing countries have the highest rate of biofuel production, and thus endure most negative environmental consequences. As stated in Down to Earth, environmental journal of India:

A paper “Biofuels: Implications for agricultural water use” by researchers from the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, predicts China will face shortage of land while India is likely to have severe water crisis. The study was released on October 11, 2007.

Photo courtesy of rrelam on flickr.