Happy World Toilet Day 2008!

general

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.

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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.

  • Spread the word.
  • Buy a toilet for a family.
  • Donate to global sanitation projects.
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AfriGadget Water Gadget

africa, international, technology

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.
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Above Photo: AfriGadget

Water Gifts for a Cause

africa, drinking water, drought, general, outreach, sustainability

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?

Water A Field
Provide a clean water system for a village
Purchase water filtration units for five families
Provide clean water and sanitation for an elementary school

Youth Summit in NYC for Global Water Issues

general, outreach

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.

Denver Water – PSA-a-thon Series

PSA-a-thon Series

We’re back again with more great Public Service Announcements (PSAs) relating to water for the PSA-a-thon Series. The first two PSAs featured (on rainwater harvesting and the Tap Project) were great. But the third batch in the series is pretty fun, as well. Today’s PSAs were created by Sukle Advertising + Design for a Denver, Colorado water conservation campaign.

As an added bonus, here is another one of Sukle’s clever ways to teach people to conserve water.

Another about the shower.

And another about, ummm, drinking water.

Water and the Next U.S. President

drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, international, water availability, water conflict

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Water has profound implications for international security as well.
    Proposal: Empower the US State Department to address global water-related disputes.
  5. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water…
    Proposal: Fund clean-water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the developing world.
  6. ..leading to 2.5 million deaths annually from preventable illnesses and malnutrition.
    Proposal: Take a leadership role in eliminating waterborne diseases.
  7. Climate change will intensify flooding, storms, drought, and disease.
    Proposal: Factor the effect of climate change on water supplies into all new infrastructure projects.
  8. Taking water seriously is a no-brainer.
    Proposal: Put water at the center of your administration’s strategic agenda.

For more information on McCain’s and Obama’s views on water policy, see here and here and here.

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.

Akvopedia: Open Source for Water Technology

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

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

Public Drinking Water around the World

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

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

LA Tap Project – PSA-a-thon Series

drinking water, film, general, groundwater, india, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sustainability

Yes, it’s true.  I am a sucker for any great Public Service Announcement (PSA) relating to water. If produced right, sometimes these PSAs have the ability to intrigue me, bring a smile to my face, educate me, and move me to action or even to tears.

Because I love PSAs about water so much, I am going to feature them on Water for the Ages in a PSA-a-thon Series. Be sure and check out the first in the series: a PSA on rainwater harvesting made for television in India.

The second in the series, today’s PSA, is a little out-of-date but neat nonetheless. It was created for the Tap Project, an outreach effort each year from March 16 to March 22, to raise money for UNICEF’s water programs. Enjoy.

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)…

Quarter of Crude, Please

drinking water, economy, international, investments, outreach, water treatment

A friend asked me the other day, “did you know that it takes about quarter of a bottle of oil to produce one bottle of water?” I didn’t, and he was right.

His simple statement, and I found myself pondering this fact. To be honest, just thinking about the concept of a quarter of a bottle of oil in a beverage container disgusted me. And it further solidified my aversion to plastic bottles.

The production of plastic PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottles is an oil (natural gas and petroleum) intensive process. The Pacific Institute estimates the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil were required to produce 31.2 billion liters of water in 2006. This figure does not include the immense amount of oil used to transport bottled water around the world. (‘Fiji Water‘, oh my).

“The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.”

Dammed if we do, dammed if we don’t.

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

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.

Dude, where’s my lake?

africa, agriculture, asia, audio, climate change, economy, general, lakes, rainwater, research, south america, sustainability, water availability

An estimated three hundred and four million of them across the globe, and yet researchers are noticing many inland lakes are beginning to dry. In Siberia, Central Asia, East Africa, and North America – the results are the same – lakes simply cannot compete with man-made alterations to the environment. These are not just small lakes, some of the lakes with dropping water levels are gigantic in size.

There are 122 large lakes in the world each over 1000 square kilometers (386 square miles). Lake Victoria, in Africa, is the largest tropical lake in the world at 68,800 square kilometers (26,560 square miles). Mounting water-level decline in this lake is slowly eroding the livelihood of local fisherman and ranchers, agricultural producers, and industrial water users near the lake. A lack of suitable drinking water or dependable power supply is also becoming more common in the region.

Morning Edition on NPR recently aired a segment on Lake Victoria by corespondent Jessica Partnow: ‘Battle for Resources Grows as Lake Victoria Shrinks‘. She has also reported on dropping water levels in Lake Haramaya in Africa for World Vision Report.

Disappearing Lake‘ by Jessica Partnow

Sometimes occasional fluctuations of water levels in lakes are natural, but the current rate that many lakes are beginning to go dry throughout the world is not. Humans alter the natural environment near lakes and water levels decline. We build dams, over-pump rivers, over-use groundwater, put roads and parking lots in natural recharge areas, build industries in locations without enough water, over-irrigate our crops, and, often, we use too much water in our homes. Not to mention the effect of a changing climate on water supply sources.

But, some things that could help ‘decline’ at least some of this water-level decline include: conservation, conservation, conservationgrow crops in regions they are acclimated (low-water crops)alternative water supply sources such as rainwater harvesting systemspursue green “water conservative” development techniquesreduce the pavementrethink industrial productionlow impact livingconservation, conservation, conservation.

A few other lakes around the world with dropping water levels

Aral Sea – Central Asia
Great Lakes – United States
Lake Baikal – Russia
Lake Chad – Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger
Lake Chapala – Mexico

Barcelona Imports Water from France

drinking water, drought, economy, general, water trade

Barcelona Water Imports

This ship, docked in Barcelona, Catalonia, is carrying 5.3 million gallons of water in 20 storage tanks. This water will serve up to 180,000 people for one day in the capital city. Photo courtesy AP/Manu Fernandez

Spain is enduring a drought. Reservoirs in Barcelona are at 20 percent capacity, and rainfall has been minimal over the past four years. The government has opted, as a short-term answer to this water crisis, to import water from Tarragona, Spain and Marseilles, France. The water will arrive on ten ships (like the one above) each month over the next six months.

Total Price Tag = $68 Million