Water for the Ages Gets a Brand New (out)Look

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Start: In September 2007, I decided to create a blog to better understand global water problems with the hope of finding solutions. I built the Water for the Ages blog as a place to compile water-related information and write posts about global water issues. This blog also surprisingly became a place to communicate with other passionate H20 people from around the world.

Reach: Soon after starting it, I enrolled in a graduate program in Water Resources Management to learn more about global issues. I lived and blogged in India for several months while conducting research, and I completed a thesis on empowerment in water and sanitation. India changed me. After coming home, I wondered how one young, white girl from North America could ever make a tangible difference. I didn’t want to be another person with an imperialistic agenda.


Above Photo: Hidden Me Blogging in 2009

Grow: Over the past year, I blogged little while doing a quite a bit. I worked in the renewable energy sector with the hope of learning about the energy-water nexus. I volunteered with an amazing sanitation advocacy group called PHLUSH. I received a scholarship to attend a graduate program in Environmental Sociology at University of California. The most difficult of all, I engaged in self growth.

Learn: I eventually realized that people can solve problems best when they work together, each person has different useful strengths, communication is everything, and it’s important to “be me”. So now I’m in Santa Cruz preparing for my graduate program, and I figured it was a great time to revitalize Water for the Ages. When I signed on, the many comments from inspiring people over the past few months reminded me that I was on the right track.

Ta Da: So I present to you the new-and-improved Water for the Ages blog. I even added a nifty calendar on the upper left right which shows you important global water and sanitation events. I imported this information from IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and UN Water. I can’t promise how regularly I’ll be blogging, but I figured resources here are handy. I’m remembering – it’s the little things that count.

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Water, Sanitation, and the 2010 G8 Summit

conference, politics, water events

From June 25 to June 26, leaders from eight of the “major advanced economies” in the world will converge for the G8 Summit in Canada to discuss important matters. PM Harper from Canada said this year’s Summit will focus on “key challenges related to development, and international peace and security.” All priority issues for the Summit – development, the health of mothers,/newborns/children, food security, Africa, and peace/security – relate to water and sanitation.

The Canadian G8 Website states that health issues “will be accomplished by helping developing countries strengthen their health systems and improve access to: health care, trained health workers, family planning, attended childbirth, better nutrition, clean drinking water and sanitation, and the means to prevent and treat diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.”

One problem with past G8 Summits is the difficulty of deciphering what has been discussed during the private meetings and how this information will ‘trickle down’ to policies in both participating and non-participating nations. One group, called the G8 Research Group, is working to provide more information on proceedings of G8 Summits. Maybe this year they will cover some of the discussions on water and sanitation? Their website states:

“Unlike other multilateral meetings, leaders at the G8 Summit meet privately behind closed-doors; there are no aides or intermediaries and there are few scripts or protocols. The decisions made by the G8 have global ramifications and the reach and scope of its influence in the world cannot be denied.”

Still, each year, G8 Summits provide an opportunity for civil-society organizations to coalesce and urge respective governments to talk about issues that matter to them. A number of groups are focusing on water and sanitation at the G8 in 2010. Interaction, a coalition of 180 NGOs working to alleviate global poverty, has prepared a brief on water and sanitation that calls for the US Government to be vocal on water and sanitation at the Summit.

Canadian organizations including UNICEF Canada and Care Canada and Plan Canada and RESULTS Canada and Save the Children Canada and World Vision Canada state that the Canadian Government should “…address preventive measures such as adequate diet through breastfeeding, nutritional supplementation/fortification and access to clean water and sanitation.”

And a G8 World Religions Summit of global religious leaders began yesterday at the University of Winnipeg. Leaders represent Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Islamic, Shinto and indigenous faiths. This alternative Summit will be aired live online here. They hosted a water-ceremony on the opening day of this alternative Summit. For more information on last year’s G8 Summit and water (and sanitation), please see this blog post. Updates on water and sanitation discussions at the Summit will be added as they become available.

UPDATE (29 July 2010):

On the 26th of June, leaders from G8 countries wrapped up the summit and issued a Declaration. They pledged support towards meeting Millennium Development Goals. They affirmed a common desire to achieve aid-effectiveness for development in Africa. They discussed the importance of meeting MDG 4 reducing child mortality and MDG 5 maternal health, but did not indicate water and sanitation as integral to such efforts anywhere in the main Declaration.

They launched the Muskoka Initiative to further progress on meeting MDGs 4 and 5  and linked this Initiative to MDGs 1 (childhood nutrition) and 6 (HIV/AIDS, malaria). They mentioned the importance of drinking water and sanitation once stating “relevant actions in the field of safe drinking water and sanitation” among other things are important towards meeting the aforementioned MDGs. But they did not identify a link between MDGs 4 and 5 to MDG No. 7 to halve the population without drinking water or sanitation.

Many NGOs including World Vision feel the Muskoka Initiative is under-funded with 5 billion pledged towards meeting these commitments with half of that amount from Canada). Here is a good review of different NGOs and their take on the Summit and subsequent Initiative.

10 Facts on Women and Water

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  1. Women and children fetch the majority of water for household uses in rural areas. Often this keeps them from attending school or working at a job.
  2. The average distance that women and children walk for water in Africa and Asia is six kilometers (3.7 miles).
  3. Women carry heavy loads of water (about 20 liters) on their heads in some locations in the world. This causes severe damage to the neck and spine over time.
  4. Women make most household water and sanitation decisions, but they are rarely invited to be involved in planning or management of water and sanitation systems.
  5. Water projects that involve women in planning and management are proven more likely to succeed.
  6. In many places in the world, women’s land rights are not recognized, and they are unable to access water for agricultural uses.
  7. On average, women work twice as long as men for unpaid work (housework, cleaning, cooking, washing, etc.) than men.
  8. Women are primary caretakers of the millions of children that fall ill each year from water-related illnesses. This reduces time spent working or on education.
  9. For mothers and pregnant women, an improved water supply and proper water storage is essential to protect lives and ensure good health.
  10. Women are under-represented in water and sanitation sector jobs with men having most jobs in this field.


Above Photo: Generations of women and girls.

‘Women Need Water Rights, Not Just Technologies’ by Masum Momaya

article, community, drinking water, economy, gender, outreach, women

Just finished an interesting article examining roles and limitations of technology for solving problems in water access, planning, and management for women around the world.

“In poor communities, technologies are often touted as panaceas for poverty. For women in productive and reproductive roles, technologies, such as those for fetching and storing water, can make daily tasks easier. But do such technologies actually ensure women’s rights?”

Read the article called Women Need Water Rights Not Just Technologies by Masum Momaya on the AWID website.


Above Photo: Two women washing clothes in a canal in Tamil Nadu.

New and Improved India Water Portal

india, outreach, technology

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!

Water for the Ages in India: Impressions of H20 in Bangalore

general, india

Thursday was my first day in Bengaluru (aka Bangalore). Before arriving, it was impossible for me to comprehend the size of the city. Bangalore is huge with a population of around 6.5 million people. This is the largest city that I have ever visited, and there are people, buildings, and vehicles everywhere. Quickly I am learning to adapt to life (and water) here.

While walking around town, I saw water tankers with pipes going into businesses and buildings. A man from a local restaurant explained to me that the city only provides water on alternate days. On days when the city does not provide water, residents and business owners often buy their own water from private companies.

Another thing I noticed was free drinking water available at stands, in pots, and in other vessels around town. It seems a part of the culture to ensure that all people have, at least, some water to drink. I hope to take photos of these drinking-water sources for the Water for the Ages flickr site.

And, this weekend, I was able to attend a part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration. This celebration honors the Hindu deity of Ganesha and lasts for about ten days. Near the tenth day, idols of Lord Ganesh are dunked in water sources. Unfortunately, I missed the dunking, but I did attend some of the evening festivities.

Ganesh in Lake
Photo courtesy mattlogelin on flickr.

So, as you can tell, the importance of water abounds in many contexts in India. I am looking forward to learning (and sharing with you) more about water in India over the next four months.

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

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

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.

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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.

Kakamega Youth Talk About Water Problems in Kenya

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

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

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Agesa Silus

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Daniel Milavi

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Joseph Milongo

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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.

Are you ready for a global-water multimedia adventure?

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

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.

Water from Air: Alchemy or Reality

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

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.

Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World – A Book Review

climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, groundwater, international, outreach, photos, water availability, water conflict

As readers of Water for the Ages may have noticed, I’ve been on an extended holiday break (to visit family in East Tennessee). Arriving back to the Pacific Northwest, my mailbox was full with letters, bills, Christmas Cards, and other postal paraphernalia. Yet, to my surprise, there was one mysteriously large and somewhat heavy package addressed to me.

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Soon, I discovered this large package was a massive, coffee-table sized book called Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World published by the Blue Planet Run Foundation in San Francisco, California. The Blue Planet Run book was published to raise money to assist in meeting the Blue Planet Run Foundation’s goal of providing safe drinking water to 200 million people by 2027. One hundred percent of all royalties from the sale of this book will be used to fund drinking water projects around the world.

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Opening the book, I was immediately transported around the world through the vivid photographs that graced cover to cover. These images, taken by photojournalists over a period of one-month last year, tell the stories of rapid development and its effect on water supplies, dam construction, access to water in crowded cities, new water technologies, and leaders who are making strides in water access and supply. Several essays are also featured throughout the book written by authors including Robert Redford, Diane Ackerman, Paul Hawken, and Bill McKibben.

And, after coming home to indoor plumbing and plenty of fresh water, this book helps me remember (during this holiday season) just how lucky I really am.

Vital Water Graphics

international, outreach, photos, united nations

I’ve uploaded a new link to the Podcasts & Web-Media page on Water for the Ages. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just released an updated 2008 version of a report called Vital Water Graphics: An Overview of the State of the World’s Fresh and Marine Waters. The goal of this report “is to produce a clear overview, through a set of graphics, maps and other illustrations, of the current state of the world’s fresh, coastal and marine waters.”

Some graphical topics in this report include:

  • Freshwater Resources
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    • Water and Climate Change

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    Widespread Cholera Outbreak in Zimbabwe is a Humanitarian Crisis

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    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 16-09-2008choleratreatment 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

    Water History Wiki

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    As I recently found out from the great network H-Water, there is a new wiki dedicated to the history of water at Wiki.Water History.org. This wiki covers water issues, the historic era, water technology, water location, biographies, and multimedia. It’s an update project to the previous Water History.org web page.

    Wiki: a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content
    – Wikipedia