Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity
More than 1 billion people live in areas with water scarcity or the lack of access to freshwater resources. However, current innovations are tackling water scarcity in creative and environmentally friendly ways. Here are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity.

5 Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity

  1. Solar-powered Water Pumps: These pumps use energy from the sun to power electric pumps, which extract water from the ground. The price and technology have evolved in recent years, allowing solar-powered water pumps to be a more affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable solution to water scarcity. Solar panels last approximately 25 years, requiring little maintenance throughout this lifetime. Also, the cost of solar panels that the pumps use has decreased by 80 percent. Solar-powered water pumps are most viable in areas with high solar insolation, particularly, many developing nations in Africa, South America and South Asia. Specifically, solar-powered water pumps have alleviated water scarcity for 40,000 people in Marimanti, Kenya, a country with annual sunshine.
  2. Solar-powered Desalination Units: Desalination technology harnesses energy from the sun and converts seawater into fresh, potable water. A system that Solar Water Solutions, a Finland-based startup, designed produces up to 3,500 liters of water per hour. Additionally, the system does not require batteries or oil-based fuel and it does not impart a large carbon footprint. Additionally, Solar Water Solutions has placed solar-powered desalination units in Kenya and Namibia. The desalination units are providing cheap, clean water to local communities. Additionally, large scale implementation of the technology could help solve water scarcity.
  3. Fog Catchers: Mesh nets trap freshwater from fog and eventually drips into the collection trays. A piping network then carries the water to the village. This system is free, clean and environmentally sustainable. People are using fog catching systems to provide water to communities in Chile, Peru, Ghana, South Africa and more. The largest fog catcher project is on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida in southern Morocco.  Every day, about 1,000 people use water that fog captured for everything from drinking to agricultural use. 
  4. Portable Filters: In particular, one Swiss company, Vestergaard Frandsen, has developed a portable water filter. Lifestraw is a gravity-powered plastic tube, that people can use as a drinking straw. The filtration system eliminates protozoa, bacteria, chemical compounds and dissolved metals. Each Lifestraw can filter up to 4,000 liters of water — enough potable water to last three years for one person. Additionally, this portable filter eliminates the need for single-use plastics and fuel-combustion for water sanitization. Further, LifeStraw has partnered with the World Health Organization and the United Nations to alleviate the shortage of potable water for more than 64 countries, including Haiti, Rwanda and Kenya. 
  5. Drinkable Books: Each page of the drinkable book is a filter that turns raw sewage into potable water. The drinkable book houses silver and/or copper nanoparticles that kill bacteria when water passes through it. Motivated by a desire to create a water filtration system that uses greener chemistry, researchers designed the tool at Carnegie Mellon University. Field trials have shown that the drinkable book can eliminate 99 percent of bacteria in water. At the 25 contaminated water sources in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti and Bangladesh, these trials have been promising enough that people can distribute the drinkable book commercially. Each book holds enough filtration sheets to filter clean water for four years.

For the millions of people across the globe lacking access to clean water, these are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity. Technology like these has the potential to make a substantial difference in the world in terms of sustainable solutions for sanitation and access to water.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

Water Crisis in Libya
The country of Libya has suffered from civil war since the violent removal of its former dictator Muammar Ghadafi. Challenges with the country’s water supply was one of the many humanitarian problems that have arisen due to this conflict. Yet, even in darkness, there remains some light as one can see in the efforts to resolve the water crisis in Libya.

The Libyan Desert

In order to first understand how resolving the water crisis in Libya has taken place, it is important to understand the environmental qualities of Libya itself. The country is a dry and arid place and the presence of freshwater and rainfall is extremely scarce. However, Libya contains many groundwater aquifers, which offer available quantities of water underneath the ground.

The Water Crisis

The Libyan people have been tapping into this water supply to sustain life and plan on continuous aquifer use. Even with this underground supply, there has always been a struggle to ensure the availability of freshwater. This shortage of water does not mean that the aquifers are emptying, but rather that they are becoming contaminated by seawater intrusion. The extraction of freshwater has caused seawater to invade the aquifers. Due to the intrusion of seawater since the 1930s, it is alarming that no one knows exactly how much freshwater remains in the aquifers. Further, records have determined that seawater intrusion has compromised about 60 percent of freshwater wells. The freshwater in these aquifers cannot replenish either, meaning that every drop must count for use.

Another reason for the Libyan freshwater shortage is the expanding agricultural industry. Some crops demand vast amounts of water; typically this extensive use results in water waste throughout agricultural production and processing. In fact, Libya uses about 93 percent of its water for agricultural purposes.

Since Muammar Gaddafi’s ousting, a third strain has impacted water availability as a result of oil conflict. Gunmen forcing water-workers to turn off supplies in Tripoli for two days exacerbated this violence. Additionally, the country’s power grid and water control systems suffered damage due to fighting.

The Impact on Libyan People

These problems have adversely impacted the Libyan people. The country pumps about 6 percent of groundwater for drinking use and domestic wells. Drinkable water is a daily issue for the people of Libya; some local bottled water might even be unsafe. The fact that this small amount of water (6 percent) is not reaching people outlines the dire situation in Libya.

Some Libyans have resorted to looting their fellow countrymen and women in a desperate search for viable drinking water. According to UNICEF, these problems in the Libyan water supply have adversely impacted poor sanitation.

The Attempt Towards Resolution

As bleak as some of these problems appear, there are some attempts to solve the water crisis in Libya. The IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, for example, gives support and training to impoverished nations to better manage water resources. In 2018 IHE Delft reported training programs for Libyan governmental authorities in water management, water resources planning and water desalination. The IHE Delft training should allow Libya to accomplish the maintenance and management of the water supply in Libya effectively.

America has noticed the troubles the Libyan people have faced as well. In 2019, the U.S. government provided $31.3 million in aid to address the humanitarian needs of the country. With this aid, the Libyan people can fix the infrastructure including the damaged power grids and the water control systems.

Resolving the water crisis in Libya has been no easy task. Today, the country still struggles with the water supply. Although, victories due to the help of USAID and IHE Delft have been impactful achievements. These organizations have provided financial aid and programming to the Libyan government which is exactly the type of support necessary to formally resolve the water crisis in Libya.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Drinkable Ocean Water
Experts expect that 50 percent of the world population will live in areas with water shortages by 2025. For cities in South Africa, India and China, this crisis is already becoming a reality. So what solutions are there for the shortage of this valuable resource? Water filtration systems and desalination are a few, although many water treatment solutions have not been environmentally friendly and desalination has proven to be costly. However, a lot has changed in water treatment over the years. Here are a few improvements and advancements that could prove promising for the future of potable water, including drinkable ocean water.

Water Softeners and Filtration Systems

Water softeners and filtration systems have gained a negative reputation due to the salt they use and the wastewater they produce that ends up in aquatic environments. However, advancements in these areas have led to softeners that use salt more efficiently and newer equipment reducing water usage and conserving that precious resource. New technology has decreased the usage of both water and salt by 50 percent.

Manufacturers have established ways to achieve high efficiencies by focusing on providing products that are better-performing and able to dictate the amount of water they use during maintenance functions, as well as making larger filtration cartridges that extend the replacement cycle times. Manufacturers have even designed new technology to monitor water usage in the home and adjust to match the household’s habits.

A top priority of the water treatment industry is to develop ways to address contamination while maintaining sustainability. The improvements that manufacturers are making to reverse osmosis (R.O.) systems reflect that.

R.O. systems can result in a reduction of the purchase of bottled water due to how greatly they diminish contaminants. However, the systems still have room for improvement due to the amount of wastewater they produce. The technology to reduce wastewater exists internationally and now the U.S. is looking to make the same progress.

Desalination

If people could drink from the ocean, there would be more than enough water for everyone. However, it would be necessary to remove the salt first.

There are about 2.2 billion people who do not have access to clean drinking water. For thousands of years, turning seawater into drinking water has been an option for this ongoing problem, although the process tends to be expensive and inefficient because it requires a lot of energy.

Kamalesh Sirkar, a chemical engineering professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has a new process that promises to make a difference. His direct-contact membrane distillation (DCMD) system heats seawater across a plastic membrane containing tubes filled with cold distilled water. The tubes have pores so that the water vapor that collects on them can penetrate into them, but not salt. The vapor can then condense back into liquid water.

This efficient system can produce 21 gallons of drinking water per 26 gallons of seawater, which is twice as much as most existing desalination technology. The downside of DCMD is the requirement of a heat source to prevent the water temperature on either side of the membrane from equalizing, although there is the potential of recycling waste heat to run the system.

A team of international scientists has achieved a similar accomplishment by using the sun to produce high-quality potable water. This process can meet the needs of an entire family at a cost of about $100 without using electricity. This team, consisting of scientists from MIT in the U.S. and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, believes that its system can provide water to islands and coastal areas that do not have reliable electricity but have access to seawater. With this system, the team produced 1.5 gallons of fresh drinking water every hour for every square meter of the solar collecting area.

GivePower

Recently in Kenya, a nonprofit called GivePower has been able to successfully use solar power to create drinkable ocean water. In July 2018, a new desalination system began operations on the coast of Kiunga that can create 19,800 gallons of drinking water every day. That is enough for 25,000 people. This nonprofit’s main focus has been to provide solar-energy systems to developing countries. The organization has installed solar grids in 2,650 locations across 17 countries in places like schools, medical clinics and villages.

The success of this system is in finding a way to pull water out of the ocean in a scalable, sustainable way. The president of GivePower, Hayes Barnard, hopes to open similar facilities around the world, providing fresh water to people who struggle to get it on a daily basis.

At the rate that the population has been increasing, a freshwater crisis appears imminent. However, with the work that experts are putting into finding a solution, the possibilities for the future look bright. With environmentally friendly filtration systems and the successful production of drinkable ocean water, the population will all be able to drink deeply since there will be enough to go around.

Janice Athill
Photo: Flickr

Water Access in Niger
In 2004, Niger ranked second to last on the UNDP Human Poverty Index scale. Since then, Niger’s poverty rate of 97.10 has decreased by 3.7 percent. While the poverty rate, based on those living on $5.50 a day, has declined throughout the past decade, 93.4 percent of poverty is still an extremely high value. Such high rates of poverty pose a daunting challenge to organizations attempting to lift Nigeriens out of poverty through endeavors such as implementing better sanitation and water access in Niger. Luckily, the company CityTaps is striving to improve make water access easier for the residents of Niger. 

Sanitation and Health in Niger

There are two systems available: improved and unimproved. The unimproved systems account for everything from open defecation to unsanitary toilets aiding in bacteria growth. In urban areas, 62.1 percent of the population has access to unimproved sanitation facilities. Without reliable access to water, improved sanitation facilities continue to be low in number.

Water Access in Niger

The World Bank has made great progress in improving sanitation and access to water in Niger. In June 2016, The World Bank invested $35 million in the Urban Water and Sanitation Project (PEAMU). Currently, an infrastructure project is underway to improve water treatment throughout the nation, in the hopes of improving living conditions and the Nigerien ecosystem. Although these achievements are making a positive impact, some of these projects are slow-moving, leaving the majority of the population without access to water in Niger. Organizations are seeking to fill the gaps from these international initiatives. 

Technology Behind CityTaps

The internet of things (IoT) has continued to grow with the use of technology to give physical objects more impact on the surrounding communities. IoT works by assigning an IP address to physical objects, which people can then use to track the object along with information about it. People can accomplish this anywhere, including Niger. Water monitoring has become one of the main areas of IoT implementation in north-west countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

CityTaps is utilizing this technology to improve current water meter systems. If people connect to a digital network, they can accomplish better measurements of water usage. In turn, this network is saving on water resources and money by identifying the water movement and the pump’s power consumption.

CityTaps’ Impact on Water Access in Niger

Since its implementation, consumers have begun paying 15 times less than with traditional water meters. Further, many people have gained access to water in Niger. CityTaps has chosen to take the innovative approach of allowing prepayment for water usage, giving people the chance to pay per use versus paying a very large bill. The one-time, large payment is too much for some families, forcing companies to turn off the water. Millions of Nigeriens have unstable or irregular incomes, making it difficult for them to pay monthly bills in full. Additionally, companies often take advantage of people with nonnegotiable bills, resulting in already impoverished individuals accruing more poverty.

Consumers also have access to the account through cell phones, providing constant access to rates of use. Budgeting is much easier with the ease of use through CityTaps. Implementing such technology has benefited over 13,000 people, which has encouraged CityTaps to set higher goals of reaching more people and extending a greater impact. In 2019 and into 2020, CityTaps will begin deployment of an additional 10,000 meters which will result in about 100,000 more people than the original 13,000 people and continue to have ripple effects in consumer’s ability to build up community sanitation and health.

CityTaps’ Longterm Goals

CityTaps’ ultimate goal is to reach 2 million people by 2022. The team behind CityTaps aims to continue developing time, money and water savings for consumers and countries in need of water access improvements. Being a fairly dry country, better usage of water resources in Niger is crucial, especially in the event of droughts. Additionally, saving money for the urban poor allows these families to invest in greater opportunities or otherwise improve living conditions. Finally, women and girls will no longer have to spend long hours retrieving usable water.

Innovation of CityTaps

Similar to other organizations, CityTaps is focusing on improving the quality of life and well-being for the urban poor. CityTaps is paving the way by connecting data from the water utilities and metering to people’s cell phones. This easy-to-use technology aims to remove barriers for Nigeriens to gain reliable access to water. 

Additionally, CityTaps is working to make government utilities become financially independent, allowing investment into water and sanitation infrastructure to further support these communities.

CityTaps understands that access to clean water at home will support the development of sustainable sanitation and health. Water access in Niger has already seen growth with CityTaps technology.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Unsplash

Sanitation in Argentina
Sanitation has been an ongoing issue in Argentina. In the last two decades, more citizens have gained access to running water and sewage than ever before. This is partially due to ongoing work by the United Nations, as well as an increase in national infrastructure. This article will provide a list of discussions around sanitation in Argentina, including causes, pollution and how the local governments are creating change.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Argentina

  1. Fracking damages natural water supplies. In September 2019, in Argentina’s Neuquén province, a fire burned for 24 days until professionals were finally able to stop the blaze. It was one of the many accidents that fracking caused in the country. In addition, oil leaking into the local water supply is one of the most common problems with fracking. These issues impact some of the most vulnerable communities, such as low-income areas, families with children, the elderly and disabled and local indigenous people.
  2. Low-income neighborhoods regularly struggle for clean drinking water. In the last three decades, Argentina has made strides to increase the amount of clean drinking water throughout Argentina. However, low-income areas and rural parts of the country remain without properly sanitized water for much of the year. In neighborhoods such as Villa La Cava, just outside of the capital Buenos Aires, it has become common practice for people to create their own makeshift water filters. People have also put small amounts of bleach in containers in an effort to clean their water.
  3. The United Nations has committed itself to sanitation in Argentia. In the summer of 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared clean drinking water and sanitation human rights. The U.N. revealed during 2010 that the city of Córdoba was without access to public water distribution networks. A report showed that the city relied on heavily polluted groundwater and wells. At the time, the U.N. required local authorities to provide each household in the city with 200 liters of clean water per day until public water services were fully accessible.
  4. Argentina set a goal to provide sewage to 75 percent of the population. Water professionals and government officials met in 2017 to discuss solutions for better access to sanitation. During the meeting, Argentina announced a new goal of providing sewage access to 75 percent of the population.
  5. About 90 percent of the population currently has access to sewage.  The national government’s 2017 goal has proven to be successful. As of 2020, approximately 90 percent of the population has access to a sewage system. Much of this is due to the recent construction of a sewage pipe, which the Argentinian government has called “the most important one in 70 years.” The pipe cost $1.2 billion to make and runs 40 kilometers underground. These efforts have successfully increased the overall sanitation in Argentina.
  6. Proper sanitation in Argentina requires more infrastructure. Argentina received a loan of $320 million to improve the infrastructure in the Buenos Aires area. The money will go towards making much-needed improvements for sewage filtrations, renovating existing water treatment plants and 130 kilometers of water treatment pipes and expanding already-existing sewers. The loan specifically targets the infrastructure in the Buenos Aires region. While this is the most populated part of Argentina, much of the country still requires significant sanitation infrastructure.
  7. Regulation of public water utilities has grown in the last decade. Due to the involvement of the United Nations and a push from the public, government officials have become more focused on the regulation of public water utilities. Since the increasingly strict regulation of public waterways, the country’s overall sanitation has improved. This has led to a better quality of water not only in households but also in restaurants and schools.
  8. Water consumption in Argentina is among the highest in the world. ResearchGate reports that Argentina’s national water use is approximately 387 liters of water per person per day. This is some of the highest in the world. In Buenos Aires specifically, the water use is higher at 500 liters and people use it for personal use, hygiene, cleaning and drinking. In contrast, the Water Footprint Organization predicts that the average worldwide water consumption is 157 liters per person per day.
  9. The majority of water usage goes towards agriculture. Argentina uses most of its clean water for agriculture and farming. Because the country has such a vast variety of soil and tropics, farmers can grow many different types of crops to export throughout the world. Argentina is the largest international supplier of soybean meal and the third-largest supplier for corn. Pollution can be damaging to millions of these crops if water is not sanitary, resulting in lost time and money.
  10. Drier areas sometimes lack access to safely treated water. Because of Argentina’s varying climates, certain areas across the country are drier. These places are generally more rural and the people are less connected to the main pipes of larger cities. This can be dangerous because inhabitants often depend on rainwater collection for the ability to cook food and shower. When rain is scarce, people have to travel to lakes and rivers for water, making it difficult for Argentines to ensure that their water is safe to drink.

Sanitation in Argentina continues to be an ongoing challenge in rural areas, according to local townspeople. When the United Nations declared drinking water a human right in 2010, the Argentinian government began adding new infrastructure including pipes, sewage systems, water filtration tanks and water purification systems. While current efforts demonstrate that the level of sanitation in Argentina can undergo a major transformation, many areas throughout the country still struggle for clean drinking water each day.

– Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

 

Facts About Poverty In Eritrea

Eritrea is a small northeastern country in Africa, surrounded by the larger Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to nearly 5.4 million individuals, of which, about 65 percent live in poverty. Eritrea‘s harsh history coupled with its low rates of development has contributed to the poor economic conditions that oppress so many. This article will provide nine facts about poverty in Eritrea which will give reason to the concerns raised by international organizations.

9 Facts About Poverty in Eritrea

  1. A tumultuous history with Ethiopia: After a 30-year war with Ethiopia, Eritrea finally gained independence in 1991. It was not until 1993, however, that this separation was legitimized. Eritrean citizens were historically neglected under Ethiopian rule. Many were deprived of their nation’s resources and abandoned on the pathway to development.
  2. Cultural superstitions prevent sanitary practices: According to UNICEF, persistent cultural beliefs hinder many Eritreans from collecting clean water, washing their hands and disposing of animal products properly. Many believe that evil spirits are attached to certain animal parts while other customs prohibit the use of latrines during certain hours of the day.
  3. Limited access to clean water for rural Eritreans: Very few villages in rural Eritrea have access to clean water. In fact, as of 2015, only 48.6 percent of the rural population had access to improved water sources compared to 93.1 percent in urban areas. As a result, many drink from the same water source as animals. In addition, many communities do not have a local latrine due to a lack of financial resources. Sewage systems also contaminate water sources that would otherwise be feasible options. These issues can lead to numerous diseases such as schitosmiasis, giardriasis and diarrhea.
  4. Challenges in agriculture: While nearly 80 percent of the Eritrean population works in agriculture, this sector only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Landscapes in Eritrea are naturally rocky and dry. This makes farming a difficult task even in the best weather conditions. During the most fruitful periods, domestic agriculture production still only feeds 60 to 70 percent of the population.
  5. Susceptibility to drought: When drought does strike northeast Africa, Eritrea is one of the countries that experiences the greatest blow. Months can pass in the Horn of Africa without rainfall and these episodes are frequent and recurrent. This results in food shortages and increased rates of malnourishment among children. Statistics show that malnutrition has been increasing throughout Eritrea as nearly 22,700 children under the age of 5 suffer from the condition. Plans have already been crafted as an acknowledgment of the crisis, one being the African Development Bank’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood Programme for 2015-2021. For this, the Eritrean government has agreed to reserve $17 million to administer solutions for drought effects in rural communities.
  6. Many children are out of school: Public education in Eritrea is inconsistent across the nation. Children living in rural areas or with nomadic families do not have access to quality education like those living in urban regions. Overall, 27.7 percent of Eritrean children do not attend school.
  7. Low HDI: Recently, GDP in Eritrea has been growing. This can be attributed to the recent cultivation of the Bisha mine, which has contributed a considerable amount of zinc, gold and copper to the international economy. Even so, Eritrea’s Human Development Index is only at 0.351. The country is far behind other sub-Saharan nations, whose average is calculated at 0.475.
  8. Violence at the southern border: The central government has created large holes in the federal deficit in its preoccupation with Ethiopia. While the countries officially separated in 1993, discontent with the line of demarcation has left them in a state of “no war, no peace.” The Eritrean government sees the stalemate with Ethiopia as a primary concern, and the military forces needed to guard their territory has occupied most of the nation’s resources.
  9. High rates of migration: These realities listed above have encouraged much of the Eritrean population to flee the country. Eritrea is the African country with the highest number of migrants. Furthermore, the journey to Europe is a dangerous one, as the pathway through the central Mediterranean is highly laborious.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands
The Paracel Islands is a group of more than 30 islands between the coastlines of Vietnam and China, also called Xisha Islands, the Hoang Sa Archipelago and West Sand Islands. The country is in the South China Sea and some have considered it a flashpoint for regional tensions in East and Southeast Asia. Along with the Spratly and Patras Islands, the maritime territory is “…at risk of becoming Asia’s Palestine…” said the outgoing Secretary-General of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. With this in mind, here are 10 facts about the living conditions in the Paracel Islands.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands

  1. Fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves surround the Paracel Islands. Although no one has done a reliable estimate on the area, many believe there is a significant hydrocarbon (the chief component in petroleum and natural gas) prize in the region. The mere suspicion of the potential value the islands may have had made China anxious about its occupation.
  2. According to international law, China has sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands by discovery and occupation of said islands. While China faced Japanese aggression in 1930, however, France, as the colonial power in Vietnam, occupied some of the islands upon the argument that those islands were Vietnamese historical territories.
  3. The Japanese invaded the Vietnamese islands as an act of aggression towards China. It was not until the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the 1952 Sino-Japanese Treaty when Japan renounced all rights to the Paracel Islands, as well as the Spratly Islands, Penghu and Taiwan to China. Because of this, the Paracel Islands are a huge source of international conflict. The People’s Republic of China has tried to keep the occupation of the islands, despite protests from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam. In 2012, the People’s Republic of China declared a city named Sansha, located on Woody Island, one of the Paracel Islands, that administers several island groups. The People’s Republic of China is doing everything in its power to support its territorial claims.
  4. Although no one has calculated an exact number, the People’s Republic of China invests millions in the development of the Paracel Islands. More recently, Beijing revealed a $23.5 million contract for a coastguard ship to patrol the Paracel Islands. It has also made advancements in the living conditions on Woody Island.
  5. Woody Island is the most populated of the Paracel Islands with over 1,000 habitats and scattered Chinese garrisons on the surrounding islands. Most people living on the islands are soldiers, construction workers and fishermen. With the recent construction, China has built a school for the 40 children living on the island. It also has a hospital, a postal office, a supermarket and more.
  6. There are many concerns about the militarization of the South China Sea as reports of the presence of missiles on the islands, especially Woody Island, surge. China built a military installation on Woody Island with an airfield and artificial harbor. President Xi Jinping held a private two-day drill in the Paracel Islands as a show of strength in the South China Sea.
  7. There is a limited supply of fresh water on the islands. On most of the islands that China occupies, drinking water comes in barrels with other supplies from small boats, making it as scarce as fuel. Desalination plants have activated in the South China Sea but are not available to all. Many have had to improve their ability to sustain long periods of time without supplies, including drinking water.
  8. There are plans underway to open the Paracel Islands to tourism by granting visa-free travel. The travelers will be able to stay up to 30 days on the islands. For years, tourism was scarce in the islands due to international conflicts but construction has already begun for a tourist area. There is, however, a threat for allowing tourists onto the islands.
  9. One of the biggest sources of income for the habitats in the Paracel Islands are the surrounding fishing grounds. It represents a key part of the living conditions in the Paracel Islands. If tourism opens up in the area, fishing activities will be greatly reduced. Another problem has risen against the fishing grounds: the degradation of coastal habitats. The degradation of coastal habitats has been mostly due to the military bases in construction. Luckily, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme have partnered for the Implementation of the Regional Strategic Action Programme for the South China Sea. Along with rehabilitating the coastal habitats, one of its priority issues is the management failures with respect to the linkage between fish stock and critical habitats. The coastal reefs are a considerable part of the Paracel Islands because they also act as a defense.
  10. A major concern of the Paracel Islands is typhoon season. The islands experience a series of typhoons during the summer months. This natural disaster leads to instability in the islands and the reefs are a critical part in protecting the islands from major harm.

People have given little attention to the poverty the habitants of the Paracel Islands have been facing these past years. These 10 facts about the living conditions in the Paracel Islands should illuminate the subject so the archipelago can improve over time.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Children in Urban Poverty
Children who drink unclean water or expose themselves to poor sanitation and hygiene face seriously heightened health risks. Young children are the first to get sick and die from waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea and malaria. Out of the 2.2 million diarrheal deaths each year, the majority are children under the age of five. In areas with unsafe water and inadequate sanitation, children are also at risk for parasitic illnesses such as guinea worm and trachoma. Health outcomes range from child weakness to blindness and death. Poor hygiene increases the likelihood of these diseases and this occurs frequently among children in urban poverty.

Splash

Splash emerged in 2007 to bring water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs to children in urban poverty around the world. Splash’s 1,779 program sites in schools, orphanages, hospitals and shelters support over 400,000 kids every day in eight countries. This includes Nepal (101,149 kids), China (84,234), Ethiopia (73,622), Cambodia (71,234), India (49,404), Bangladesh (20,603), Thailand (10,385) and Vietnam (18,365).

Splash focuses on harnessing the technology, infrastructure and supply chains already in use in large cities for solutions that serve the poor. The nonprofit’s founder, Eric Stowe, saw that hotels and restaurants had access to clean water, but the children in poor schools and orphanages across the street did not. Stowe saw this as an easy problem to fix by leveraging the existing economies and infrastructure.

Safe Water

Everything Splash does begins with ensuring access to safe water. Its water purification system removes 99.9999 percent of bacterial pathogens. Splash has the water regularly checked for quality which has reduced costs and maintained reliability. Splash’s point-of-use filtration is much more cost-effective and durable than typical approaches. Well-digging projects are often expensive, time-consuming and do not always work for urban areas. Additionally, Splash’s stainless steel taps last infinitely longer than plastic ones.  This approach to clean water is very sustainable. No new chemicals add to the environment and people reuse contaminated water in a gray water system.

Hygiene Education and Behavioral Change

Splash believes it is not enough for a child to drink safe water. It also encourages long-term behavioral change and improved hygiene through student hygiene clubs, child-to-child training and school events. It provides hygiene training for teachers and conducts soap drives at every school. Five-hundred and forty schools have received hygiene education, hygiene education has impacted 328,666 kids and people have donated 145,241 bars of soap.

In addition to installing high-quality filtration systems, Splash provides colorful, child-friendly drinking and handwashing stations that have been field-tested to make sure kids are excited to use them. Often children in urban poverty must drink and wash their hands from the same spigot; however, Splash separates drinking fountains and hand-washing taps to reduce the risk of water re-contamination. Splash uses fun, kid-centered learning materials to teach kids how to properly wash their hands with soap and develop good personal hygiene.

Improved Sanitation

By leveraging the clean water supply chain, Splash works to improve bathrooms in public schools to meet global standards for safety, privacy, cleanliness and accessibility. It ensures safe and secure toilets, water for flushing, gender-segregated toilets and bins for menstrual hygiene management. So far, Splash has reached 48,802 children in urban poverty in Ethiopia, Nepal and India with improved sanitation through 91 sites. Mirrors, colorful facilities and information are helping to motivate behavioral change and encourage proper toilet use by girls and boys.

Goals for the Future

Splash is a unique nonprofit because it aims to become “irrelevant”, “obsolete” and “unnecessary” by 2030.  Just as everything begins with clean water, Splash aims to complete all projects with a sustainable and strategic exit.

The ultimate goal is ensuring local success on its own time, its own terms, through its own talent and with its own funding. This is why Splash designs each program to have local roots, and be economically stable and enduring. It intends the solutions to live on as the ownership transitions from Splash staff to local owners.

As of 2016, Splash was on track for each of its ambitious goals. This includes WASH program coverage for all 650 public schools in Kathmandu, Nepal by 2020 and all 400 public schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by 2022.

Splash is a great example of a forward-thinking international nonprofit with a clear vision to develop long-lasting WASH solutions for children in urban poverty. The world requires lots of work to ensure affordable and clean water, sanitation and hygiene for the urban poor, but organizations like Splash are making progress.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Access to Clean Water
Around 844 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. The lack of access to clean water affects all aspects of life from drinking to agriculture and hygiene. Furthermore, the lack of clean water perpetuates gender inequality and traps communities in poverty. However, the world has made significant progress. Between 1990 and 2015, the percent of the world’s population with access to clean water rose from 76 percent to 91 percent. That means that millions of people have felt the benefits. Here are six ways that access to clean water changes lives.

6 Ways Clean Water Changes Lives

  1. Improved Sanitation: Around 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have access to toilets or basic sanitation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, just 24 percent of people in rural areas have access to a modern toilet. With no running water, villagers must go out into isolated fields in order to find privacy, leaving women and girls especially at risk of attack. A lack of bathrooms also means that girls often miss school while they are menstruating. When communities gain access to improved sanitation systems, quality of life improves, women and girls are safer and girls are more likely to go to school consistently.
  2. Improved Health: Currently, 80 percent of illnesses in developing nations are related to contaminated water and poor sanitation. This particularly affects children due to their weak immune systems. One-fifth of all deaths which occur under the age of 5 are from water-borne illnesses. When children are sick, they cannot go to school and often another family member has to miss work to take care of them. When people are healthy, children can go to school and adults can have steady employment, leading to continued economic development. The elimination of deaths from water-related illnesses alone would lead to an added $18.5 billion in economic gains for affected countries. Families also save money on health care costs with the elimination of water-borne illnesses.
  3. Increased Gender Equality: Eighty percent of the time, women and girls are responsible for collecting water when it is not available at home. Worldwide, women collectively spend 200 million hours daily collecting water, sometimes walking six kilometers a day. This means they have little time to work, go to school and take care of their families. The long walks also leave women vulnerable to assault and rape. Additionally, the long journey and heavy loads can be dangerous for pregnant women. Access to clean water at home increases the educational and economic opportunities available to women and girls. With increased water access, women could have time to work or even start small businesses. Additionally, girls could go to school, which would have a life-long impact. In fact, for every year a girl spends in school, she increases her anticipated income as an adult by 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Education: Walking to fetch water can take hours every day. Children, particularly girls, are often responsible for doing it. Access to clean water changes lives because when children no longer have to spend most of their day fetching water, they are free to go to school. Drinking dirty water can also cause students to fall behind in their studies as they deal with the symptoms of water-borne illnesses. Education generally becomes a low priority as people struggle to survive. With clean water at home, children can stay in school and build better futures for themselves.
  5. Food Security: Without clean water, it is difficult to grow crops and prepare food. While one might think of water mostly as something to drink, worldwide, people use 70 percent of water resources in agriculture. Eighty-four percent of people who are without modern water systems also live in rural areas, where many rely on subsistence agriculture. Improvements in water management lead to increased agricultural production and allow community members to start small gardens to grow food to eat or sell.
  6. Escaping Poverty: When people no longer have to spend a significant portion of their days fetching water, children have time to go to school and adults can work and learn trades. When people no longer get sick from water-borne illnesses, they can go to school and work uninterrupted. Clean water also allows people to grow more food and practice better sanitation. Access to clean water has a proven position impact on development. The World Health Organization estimates that every dollar that people invest in water and sanitation brings an economic return of between $3 and $34. The U.N. estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours a year retrieving water. In fact, the world loses $260 billion of potential income each year due to a need to find water.

Many groups succeded in bringing clean water to communities and showing how access to clean water changes lives. For instance, Water.org helped more than 21 million people gain access to clean water through small loans. Millions worldwide spend more than 20 percent of their income on water, as a lack of clean water at home means they must go to a water merchant or pay exorbitant rates to have someone install plumbing. Giving people small loans allows them to quickly pay for plumbing, which eliminates costs in the future.

The Water Project addresses the water crisis by directly donating clean water sources. This organization builds and repairs wells, installs rain catchment tanks and constructs sand dams to improve irrigation. So far, the Water Project has helped close to 500,000 people gain access to clean water for drinking and agriculture.

The World Bank, UNICEF and the World Health Organization determined that providing basic water and sanitation infrastructure to those that need them would cost $28.4 billion a year for 15 years. Right now, the U.S. spends around $600 million on the military each year. A readjustment of federal priorities, taking into account the ripple effects which clean water has on communities, could make a drastic difference for the world’s poor.

– Clarissa Cooney
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Dry Flush ToiletsDry flush toilets is a term that likely conjures up images of unsanitary, foul-smelling contraptions. But, in reality, they are quite the opposite. Revolutionary and effective, they have even caught the eyes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a promising solution to the life-threatening sanitation-related diseases, such as cholera and diarrhea. These diseases are faced by the 2.4 billion people around the world who still lack access to clean running water.

How do Dry Flush Toilets Work?

Multiple companies have developed dry flush toilets. Perhaps the most notable development is Cranfield University’s Nano Membrane Toilet.

First developed in 2014, the toilet “flushes” by using a waterless rotating scraping mechanism that separates solid waste from liquid waste. Nanofibers, arranged in bunches inside the chamber, then help to condense the water vapor generated by the urine. They condense it into a tube that eventually flows to a tank externally connected to the toilet. By then the water will have been thoroughly filtered and, as a result, is then suitable for everyday use.

Solid waste, on the other hand, is transported into a combustor. This converts them into energy and ash, via a mechanical screw. The energy then powers the toilet’s future “flushes.” The energy can also charge electronics.

Award-Winning Functionality

Dry flush toilets are designed for daily usage. It can accommodate up to ten individuals daily. The toilets are manufactured at the cost of $2,500 per unit. They can last for up to ten years. The product is still undergoing product and product implementation testing. Researchers have reported promising results from their first phase testing in 2014. They conducted the phase in Ghana. According to their survey, “people seemed very open to most of the concepts around the toilet.”

Since the beginning of its development, the ingenious invention has received an accolade of prestigious awards including the Kiran and Pallavi Patel Grand Innovation Award as well as the Excellence in the Field of Environmental Technology Research from the CleanEquity Monaco.

Challenges

The most prominent challenge facing the implementation of dry flush toilets in developing countries is likely scalability. Communities that choose to implement the contraption would have to have a team of specially-trained technicians to safely maintain the toilets.

Another question is regarding how the toilets would be distributed. Currently, the best path is to rent them to households at either a monthly or weekly rate. This is an approach that companies with similar products employ, such as Loowatt’s waterless toilet. Renting these other products has reflected great success.

In addition, the team is working to make the toilet more affordable, with a goal of a final cost of five cents per person per day.

Another anticipated challenge to dry flush toilets is overcoming cultural barriers. While most Africans prefer Western-style seat toilets, squat toilets are far more common and desirable in Asia.

An Innovation to Aid Impoverished Communities

Conclusively, although still emerging from the prototype phase, dry flush toilets very much so have the potential to change millions of lives within a short period of time from implementation. By ensuring that every individual on this planet has reliable access to a flushing toilet, millions of bases of water-borne diseases can be avoided each year.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr