Latin American Water ScarcityIn Latin America, the health and well-being of rural communities are threatened by water scarcity and poor sanitation. In recent decades, the number of people facing water scarcity has declined. Unfortunately, with 36 million people currently lacking access to clean water in Latin America, water scarcity is an issue that is just too prevalent. EOS International aims to address Latin American water scarcity by providing simple and affordable solutions to increase access to clean water.

Causes of Latin American Water Scarcity

While many factors contribute to the water crisis, the outsized role of climate change cannot be ignored. Recent increases in extreme weather events including flooding, hurricanes and droughts threaten the water supply of many Latin American countries. For example, in Peru, flooding left water treatment plants full of rocks and debris, clogging the water supply. Consequently, authorities made the decision to restrict water usage in the Peruvian cities of Lima and Arequipa.

On the other end of the spectrum, drought threatens Bolivia’s water supply, which is significantly rainfall-reliant. Extreme weather conditions, however, are not the only factors threatening clean water access for Latin Americans. Misguided governmental decision-making exacerbates the problem. Most consequentially, increases in deforestation, mining and the creation of mega dams have exacerbated the occurrence of extreme weather patterns. In turn, these developments often harm the water supply in many Latin American countries. Of particular concern in Peru, international mining companies polluted waterways and “hijacked” the water supply, harming the livelihoods of farmers in the region.

In other countries, the biggest threat to the water supply is agribusinesses with undue control over water allocation. This synergy of extreme weather conditions, extractive industries, agribusinesses and governmental inaction still threatens rural families in Latin America who lack access to clean water.

Health and Water Scarcity

Water scarcity poses a direct danger to human health. The most harrowing outcome is waterborne illnesses, primarily diarrheal diseases, which are too often fatal. Waterborne illness is responsible for one in nine child deaths around the world. The pollution in the water itself is an environmental hazard. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that in children younger than 5 in the Americas, close to 100,000 die from such pollution annually.

Water Scarcity Hinders Poverty Reduction

Not only does water scarcity threaten the health of rural communities in Latin America but it is also a major obstacle to poverty prevention. Without clean water, it is nearly impossible to stay healthy enough to manage a job, go to school, construct a home or undertake other essential endeavors necessary to pull oneself out of poverty.

When women have to travel long distances to collect water, they waste hours of time and energy that can otherwise go toward more productive endeavors such as education and paid employment. Areas lacking clean water are also more vulnerable to food insecurity as it is more difficult to grow sufficient crops to feed the populous. Food security, education and employment are all key to poverty reduction, however, a lack of access to water presents a barrier to these outcomes.

Efforts to Alleviate Water Scarcity

Organizational efforts play a role in driving the decrease in overall water scarcity. EOS International is one such organization. EOS stands for “Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability.” The organization’s work aims to empower rural families in Central America by facilitating access to clean drinking water through technological advances and education.

As part of this goal, EOS volunteers help rural communities to safeguard clean water. The volunteers regularly test water quality and then treat unsafe and contaminated water, usually with chlorine tablets. The volunteers then monitor the water system over time, providing chlorine tablets to communities when required. Not only does EOS provide base-level support but it also manufactures and installs simple technologies that provide long-term support for the water supply. Since its establishment in 2008, EOS has installed more than 2,000 simple, affordable and “locally serviceable technologies” in Central America.

The organization also supports economic growth and income generation in communities. EOS International has “provided clean water services including training, education and support for 1,169 communities,” positively impacting more than 500,000 people. Furthermore, the organization’s “50 chlorine distribution centers have created income-generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”

Looking to the Future

EOS International has made a measurable impact on the health of rural Latin Americans. The organization has installed technologies that provided lasting clean water access to more than half a million people in Honduras and Nicaragua alone.

EOS International’s successes in combating Latin American water scarcity are not possible without the support of donors and volunteers. The implementation of technologies is done in large part by people willing to give their time to support rural families. Nonprofits make a measurable impact in the lives of countless families facing water insecurity. However, their work is not possible without generous contributions of time and monetary support. EOS International’s efforts are an example of the vital work being done by nonprofits to combat global poverty.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

Essential Tech in Water AccessWell systems prove to be a life-saving technology, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where 40% of the population lacks access to improved water sources. These sources include pipe connection, public taps, protected wells and boreholes. The regions generally rely on surface water from streams or lakes with no protections against the bacteria infiltrating from farming run-off or open defecation practices. Every community deserves clean water, yet each community is unique and requires a water access system that fits its lifestyle. Several innovations surrounding modern tech in water access present potential keys to achieving this goal.

Rainwater Catchments

One cheap and effective innovation is rainwater catchment systems. These systems are undertakings for facilities containing three or more buildings with large roofs, such as medical clinics and schools. Gutters (also called downspouts) attach to the roofs of the buildings and connect to a large, sanitary holding tank. The gutters collect rain run-off and pour it directly into the holding tank — providing a safe source of water for the community.

Rainwater catchments are extremely reliable. This is due to the holding tanks avoiding any kind of exposure to the elements or outside contaminants. They do not lose water to evaporation as open-sourced water systems do. Even in communities with just one or two large buildings, rainwater catchments are useful during dry seasons as they provide rationed drinking water for school children. About 33% of Africa receives enough rain to provide sufficient amounts of safe drinking water for their populations. In this same vein, rain catchments offer the potential to harvest water in a way that benefits entire communities.

Boreholes and Other Drilled Wells

Borehole wells are essentially drilled wells with vertical pipes that extend down, past groundwater and connect to an aquifer below. These systems are typically hand-pumped. All wells (drilled) can be costly and require heavy equipment, skilled laborers and ample fuel to successfully operate. However, they are sustainable and can provide reliable sources of clean drinking water for approximately 50 years (with only minor repairs and upkeep). Drilled wells are a viable option of tech in water access for larger communities due to the high volume of water they provide. On average, operating borehole wells cost about $3,000, or approximately 51,000 South African Rand.

Spring Protections

Natural springs are abundant and depending on their specific outputs — a single protected spring can provide safe water for an entire village. Protected springs have naturally enclosed with walls made of concrete or similar material that extend into the earth until they meet the spring source. Workers then seal the tops of these walls to prevent contaminants from groundwater and animals. Workers install a spout on the side of the spring so water can flow out. Additionally, technicians can install another spout under the surface, to flow directly to a holding tank. Also, spring systems carry naturally filtered properties, they are economical and a solution for communities of any size. The only prerequisite to this option of tech in water access is that a natural spring must be present.

Benefits of Water and Sanitation

Every hour, 115 people in Africa die from diseases that are preventable through sanitary water access. From extensive water drilling projects to inexpensive spring protections, there is a solution for clean, reliable water for every community. With the consistent pursuit of well system installations across sub-Saharan Africa, tech in water access can improve health, food and education across the continent.

Madalyn Wright
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water TechnologyNearly 30% of the world’s total population does not have access to clean, on-site water service. Roughly 26% of the world also consumes toxic water. Toxic water spreads various diseases including hepatitis A, cholera, diarrhea and polio. Therefore, it is essential for communities and populations to receive access to clean water. Numerous nongovernmental organizations are attempting to tackle this issue by providing affordable clean water technology to developing regions.

Maji Safi

An engineering student and two professors at the University of Purdue are founders of Maji Safi. Their goal was to provide affordable clean water technology to developing regions. The organization began doing so by installing sand filters in rural communities.

The sand filter technology requires rudimentary supplies that can be found within the region they are implemented. For example, containers are made out of plastic buckets that are filled with sand and water. A plastic dish with a webbed bag is then used to collect water at the bottom. Finally, the filter purifies the contaminated water by utilizing sand as a breeding ground for bacterial growth. This type of bacteria absorbs and digests specific materials in the water that are toxic. As a final precautionary step, minimal quantities of chlorine further purify the water.

Maji Safi International has successfully applied this sand filter technology, ceramic filters and wells in various developing communities. The nonprofit organization would like to install a thousand of these filters over the next decade as well as improve its filter technology with the use of water pumps and smartphones.

The Paani Project

Paani is another NGO that has a mission of providing affordable clean water technology to developing regions. Four students at the University of Michigan are founders of the Paani Project. Their parents were raised in Pakistan. These students focus primarily on preventing Pakistan from becoming a water-stressed nation. Therefore, the students created a nonprofit organization that builds sustainable wells.

Since the organization’s creation, more than 750 wells have been built. Each well generates safe drinking-water for one hundred citizens. The organization also aids in providing Pakistani hospitals with supplies to effectively treat water-borne diseases.

The Paani Project’s mission is not only to provide affordable clean water technology to developing regions in Pakistan. It is also to raise water security awareness, provide hospitals with supplies for disease treatment and educate citizens about water-borne disease prevention.

Water.org

This NGO may not provide an innovative solution to purify water, but water.org does break down economic obstacles prohibiting individuals from acquiring water. Water.org does so through its “WaterCredit Intiative.” In over a dozen countries, this initiative allows individuals to apply for financing to acquire water services.

 

These are just three examples of NGOs that aim to provide affordable clean water technology to developing nations. Founders of these organizations understand that having access to clean water is necessary for health, economic development and more. Clean water allows our bodies to sustain healthy organs, eradicate the possibility of water-borne transmitted diseases and is essential for sanitation and hygiene, which is why it is crucial.

John Brinkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons