Water scarcity in EthiopiaEthiopia’s water supply is scarce — only 42% of the population has access to clean water. For those that don’t have access to clean water, women bear the brunt of the work to get it for their families. Therefore, water scarcity in Ethiopia is, though some might not realize it, a women’s issue.

While men work and try to earn money, mothers, wives, and young girls carry the water burden, both physically and metaphorically. These women walk long distances, often three hours or more to get clean water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and more. These long distances take away valuable time from these women’s lives. Mothers often have to bring their young children on these long journeys or risk leaving them by themselves. Instead of spending time taking care of their children or working, many take six to eight hours every day collecting water and returning home. As for young girls, many sacrifice their education to get water, causing their chances of escaping poverty to dwindle. Women also have to carry heavy jerry cans for long distances, which could lead to physical strain or other health issues.

The Economics of Water Scarcity in Ethiopia

Water scarcity in Ethiopia affects 61 million people who do not have access to safe water. Although the water that they have access to may not be safe, many Ethiopians have no choice but to pay for their dangerous water supply. Water from sources like unprotected ponds and shallow wells can cost some Ethiopians around 20% of their total income.

Since this water is not safe, many people also get sick from water-borne illnesses like cholera and diarrhea, which takes time, money and energy away from working or finding a way to earn money, catapulting Ethiopians further into poverty.

Organizations Helping Supply Water

There are several organizations with a mission to supply water to people in countries that face water scarcity, including Ethiopia. WaterAid UK is one of these organizations. The organization supplies areas with a scarce water supply, like remote villages, with access to clean water. For example, WaterAid UK installed a 400-meter pipe from a spring which pipes water down to the center of the village of Ferenji in Ethiopia. The organization has supplied 26.4 million people with clean water since its establishment in 1981.

Another organization bringing clean water to Ethiopia is charity:water. Founded in 2006, charity:water uses different methods including piped systems, hand-dug wells, drilled wells, gravity-fed systems, spring protections and latrines to provide Ethiopians with clean water. Their efforts so far have helped 3,025,007 Ethiopians gain access to safe water.

A Progressive Future

Water scarcity in Ethiopia proves to be a burden for women, causing them to sacrifice work, education, money and providing for their families. Many do not have a choice but to make the long treks to retrieve clean water, but several organizations use their resources and funds to build water sources for Ethiopians. These efforts will help lessen the water burden for women across Ethiopia and allow them to focus on progress for themselves and their families.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

Biological Activated Carbon Filtration SystemsIndia is one of the many nations experiencing problems generating clean water for its population. More than 50% of India’s population cannot access safe drinking water. Like most of the world, the country currently adds chlorine to most of its drinking water sources to kill parasites, bacteria and viruses. While chlorination is effective at killing harmful pollutants, it generates harmful disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that include haloacetic acids (HAAs). These byproducts have links to colon cancer, negative reproductive effects during pregnancy and bladder cancer. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology studying the Ganga River, a water source for more than 200,000 Indian citizens, have found an effective way to remove most haloacetic acids from their drinking water. Using biological activated carbon filtration systems, the researchers were able to minimize HAAs.

The Situation Globally

Clean water is essential for life. With access to safe water, societies can turn their problems into potential and their citizens can flourish. Unfortunately, according to Water.org, almost 795 million people (one in nine) lack access to adequate drinking water and more than two billion people do not have toilets. Additionally, 4.2 billion people lack adequate sanitation services whereas three billion cannot access proper handwashing stations.

The effects of the water crisis are not limited to just health. The time that people spend finding passable water and safe sanitation accounts for billions in lost economic opportunities. Water.org has estimated that people lose $260 billion each year from subpar basic water and sanitation. Further, many children lose time enriching their education because they have to collect water for their families.

Issues revolving around accessibility to clean water will only increase in the years to come. Experts predict that water demand is going to increase over the next 30 years due to over-exploited groundwater, population growth, urbanization and rising industrial demand. However, recent technological advancements using biological activated carbon filtration systems could provide a simple and cost-effective solution.

Benefits of Biological Carbon Filtration Systems

Biologically enhanced active carbon filters combine the processes of ozonation and granular activated carbon. The removal of organic compounds within activated carbon filters offers many benefits. Among these benefits are decreased dissolved organic carbon and hydrogen sulfide. Researchers studying the Ganga River found that biological carbon filtration systems proved effective at reducing 75.8% of the harmful HAAs from the water source allowing it to meet U.S. EPA water standards.

However, these biofilters do have some minor drawbacks. They are unable to remove other contaminants such as iron and nitrate. Therefore, filters such as green sand or reverse osmosis (RO) may be necessary with the biological activated carbon filters to remove all potentially harmful pollutants from the water.

Optimistic Future in Water Filtration Technology

While the current statistics portray a harrowing present and future for clean drinking water accessibility, there are still reasons to remain optimistic. In India, biological activated carbon filtration systems coupled with chlorination are an effective and cost-effective method to increase clean water accessibility. If one adds reverse osmosis to this method and increases the scale, the Indian population could have nearly perfect drinking water.

As the international community continues to invest and filtration technology improves, the number of citizens lacking access to clean water and sanitation will rapidly decrease.

– Winston Davis
Photo: Flickr

water purification in LesothoLesotho is a small, mountainous country surrounded by South Africa. In recent years, the country has become a prominent player in regional water trading. Exports to South Africa and surrounding nations have provided a major revenue source, accounting for 10% of the country’s GDP. Despite this, clean drinking water is hard to access due to high levels of poverty. A lack of infrastructure and water purification in Lesotho means that the country’s most impoverished people struggle to obtain this critical resource. However, three companies, WASCO, Pure Aqua and World Vision, are working to solve this problem.

Water Purification in Lesotho

The United Nations reports that “In Lesotho, water, sanitation and hygiene lie at the center of the poverty cycle in which almost two out of every three Basotho live in poverty.” According to the World Bank, water is linked to the development of a country and is connected to almost every Sustainable Development Goal. Access to water is imperative for “protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks” such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explaining how water supports economic growth, the World Bank states that “water is a vital factor of production, so diminishing water supplies translates into slower growth.” As such, increasing access to clean and safe water directly correlates with global poverty reduction.

Hence, improving water purification in Lesotho as well as distribution and infrastructure are key to improving living conditions and fighting widespread poverty.

WASCO: Clean Water

Lesotho’s government is invested in improving water access for its citizens. In the year 1992, the Lesotho government created the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). WASA’s goal was to provide water access and sewer services to the cities of Lesotho.

In 2010, the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) replaced WASA. According to the Lesotho Ministry of Water, WASCO provides safe drinking water to 300,000 city dwellers. Additionally, almost 50% of city locations have water connections manned by WASCO and another 13% connect to sewer systems maintained by WASCO.

WASCO’s work has primarily targeted urban centers. However, a large portion of Lesotho’s population lives in rural locations where infrastructure is nearly nonexistent. Moreover, “80% of the rural population” obtains their drinking water from unfiltered and unprotected water sources in these rural regions. The next step for WASCO is improving water purification in Lesotho’s countryside. Providing clean water access to those living in rural Lesotho will help end the ongoing poverty cycle in the nation.

Pure Aqua: Filtration and Cleaning Systems

Given that Lesotho’s water supply is larger than the country’s demand, providing water to those in poverty, especially in rural areas, is a matter of economically affordable innovation. Pure Aqua is a company headquartered in California that aims to provide “efficient, high-grade water treatment solutions for people and places all over the world.”

The company has more than 20 years of experience providing water purification systems to nations around the world. The company uses different technologies depending on the water source in a local area. For example, Pure Aqua treats surface water with its Ultrafiltration System, while brackish groundwater can be put through reverse osmosis or UV treatment, among other methods.

World Vision: Water for Children and Families

Lastly, World Vision is a global humanitarian organization that works to improve the welfare of children. One of World Vision’s main goals is providing access to clean water and improving sanitation standards. World Vision seeks to improve water purification in Lesotho by drilling new boreholes where people can draw water from the ground. These untapped sources are likely to be cleaner than surface water or previously available groundwater.

On top of this, World Vision performs repairs, upgrades and maintenance to existing infrastructure. With this support, the organization also aims to provide hygiene and sanitation education to children and adults. As a result of its work, World Vision reports that, in Lesotho, “33,874 people [have] gained access to clean water sources” and “18,780 people are benefiting from improved sanitation facilities.”

The Future of Water Purification in Lesotho

Fortunately, these technologies and approaches to water purification show that it is possible to improve the lives of those living in poverty with relatively inexpensive filtration systems, repairs, education programs and more. Overall, this work is certainly making a difference in Lesotho while upholding the fundamental human right to water.

– Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in SomaliaSomalia is facing an ongoing humanitarian crisis that has affected millions. Over 70% of the country’s population is currently living in poverty, with more than 4.8 million people suffering from food insecurity. Political instability, armed conflict and extreme weather coupled with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has caused the country’s GDP to decrease by 1.5%. Extreme weather caused over $3 billion worth of damage to Somalia in 2018 which was more than 50% of the country’s GDP. The current state of Somalia has only deteriorated with the need for humanitarian support increasing. Food insecurity, malnutrition and access to clean water in Somalia are major issues requiring continued humanitarian attention.

Access to Clean Water in Somalia

The United Nations has reported that over 2 billion people globally lack access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only 52% of the population of Somalia has access to a water source. With such a low percentage of the Somali people having readily accessible clean water, preventable diseases become a greater threat. Access to clean water in Somalia means improving sanitation, hygiene and decreasing susceptibility to diseases like cholera, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Save the Children has reported that droughts have left 70% of Somali families lacking access to clean water. The survey gathered responses from over 630 families in 18 provinces of Somalia. Droughts have led to crop failures resulting in more people struggling with food insecurity. Without access to clean water, women and children face an increased risk of health-related issues, like preventable diseases and childbirth complications.

Providing Clean Water in Somalia

Mercy-USA for Aid and Development is a nonprofit organization from Michigan that has been working in Somalia since 1997. The United States-based nonprofit has projects spanning several countries including Syria, Kenya and Yemen. The programs in Somalia are developing self-reliance skills through education, skill training and food and water assistance. In order to combat the crisis of accessibility to clean water in Somalia, Mercy-USA is building wells for the Somali people. The organization has built over 700 wells, which have provided clean water to over 750,000 people. The organization can build a new well for $3,500 which can provide water to an entire community.

CARE International is a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland that has been providing humanitarian aid to Somalia since 1981. The organization has been helping mitigate the damage that extreme weather like floods and droughts have had on Somali agriculture. CARE’s programs in Somalia have helped over 250,000 people through improvements to clean water accessibility, sanitation and hygiene. The organization works with local authorities and international organizations to treat preventable diseases like acute watery diarrhea. CARE International has provided over 10,000 people access to clean water. The organization’s ongoing projects include efforts to improve agriculture, sanitation and develop local businesses.

Looking Forward

With extreme weather displacing communities and damaging agriculture, more people are finding themselves without access to clean water in Somalia. The Somali government is working to expand assistance and opportunities to those suffering from the effects of poverty with the support of humanitarian organizations like Mercy-USA and CARE International. The poverty rate is expected to remain at 71% as the Coronavirus pandemic further exacerbates food insecurity and displacement. Continued humanitarian support is necessary to improve the situation of the Somali people and ensure everyone has access to clean water in Somalia.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo:Flickr

Eco-Technology Initiatives Combating Global Poverty
There are more than seven billion people worldwide, and approximately two billion are without sanitation methods or a proper toilet. Many of these people have to defecate in open areas, including gutters and water sources. As a result, 10% of the world’s population may consume wastewater through their food’s irrigation. Thankfully, initiatives in eco-technology are working to help rid communities of disease and, most importantly, poverty.

Eco-technology Initiatives

Without access to a clean bathroom or sanitation necessities, millions of people are at risk of contracting deadly diseases and polluting their environment. Organizations worldwide have prioritized supplying those in need with the right education and tools to keep themselves safe. The United Nations estimates that if communities have access to clean water, proper hygiene and regulated sanitation methods, more than 840,000 people per year will live more safely. The work of eco-technology groups is necessary now more than ever. Here are three of these initiatives.

OXFAM Teaches Hygiene

OXFAM is a global initiative that aims to eradicate poverty. It works with local groups and governments worldwide to provide sustainable eco-technology for community sanitation needs. The OXFAM team specifically focuses on providing clean water and restrooms and teaching hygiene to communities facing crises. OXFAM works with locals groups and the government to find the best and most affordable way to implement sustainable hygiene.

In Bangladesh, OXFAM has built sewage treatment systems to handle the waste of approximately 150,00 people a month. In addition to waste management, OXFAM visits schools and communities to promote and distribute hygiene kits. These kits often include a clean bucket and cover, soap, sanitary pads, diapers and more. The group mobilizes volunteers and resources globally. OXFAM reached approximately 20 million people in 2018-2019, more than half being women. The organization seeks to implement long-term strategies and humanitarian assistance through its efforts.

Toilet Twinning Gives Communities A Choice

Toilet Twinning is a highly innovative international initiative. For approximately $80, buyers can “twin” their toilet with an impoverished family in any country they like. Upon buying their toilet, customers receive a certificate and photo with map coordinates of their twin toilet’s location. Buyers’ donations go straight to providing clean water, sanitation basics and proper hygiene education. The initiative’s partners take the time to talk with and understand communities’ immediate needs to choose the best toilet setup.

Toilet Twinning eco-technology toilets come in various designs. The simple pit latrine is the most basic setup and the cheapest form of “improved sanitation.” The pit is 1.5 meters deep with a cover for use in any weather. Once the pit is full, it is topped with soil, and a new pit is dug. Another option is the ventilated improved pit latrine, containing a simple pit latrine with a vertical ventilation pipe for odors. It has a mesh cover for the hole so that air may flow freely and flies are kept out.

The choice to put in these systems is often the first chance villagers have to decide something in their lives. Therefore, the organization encourages the locals to have input on the design, materials and to help build the latrine. Toilet Twinning currently has partners in more than 35 countries, more than 140,000 toilet twins and more than 800,000 changed lives.

ECOLOO Makes Improvement Affordable

ECOLOO is a company focused on creating and distributing green eco-technology to communities in need. Accordingly, the company has developed a new way to treat waste while also providing eco-friendly toilets. The science behind the company’s waste management is relatively simple. The waste is broken down into ashes while urine turns into a pathogen-free liquid fertilizer. ECOLOO makes a point to use safe bacteria to treat the waste and turn it into fertilizer for agriculture in the local community.

Meanwhile, the latrine system is waterless, odorless, chemical-free and low-maintenance. The setup is a stand-apart toilet made up of a two-tier box. One box is for urine, waste, bacteria and an organic filter. The other is below, where the waste is treated and undergoes nitrification to transform into safe and organic fertilizer.

What makes this company stand out above the rest is its comfortable design, waterless needs and affordable cost. When a user buys the setup, they only have to pay 40% upfront with the rest in installments. This payment model makes it far more affordable for communities to access sanitation stations. Through its efforts, ECOLOO has provided more than 1,200 eco-technology toilets, created a job market and changed thousands of lives.

Moving Forward

These eco-technology initiatives, along with others around the world, change lives by providing sustainable bathroom basics and consequently fighting poverty. Moving forward, it is essential that these organizations and others continue to prioritize improving sanitation around the world.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Sunlight-Powered Desalination ProcessAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to clean sources of drinking water. This figure is often quite surprising to many because it is difficult to comprehend how water can be so scarce when it is seemingly so bountiful. However, in truth, only 3% of Earth’s water is freshwater. Additionally, with current trends of rising temperatures and increasing worldwide consumption of freshwater, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water scarcities. For this reason, researchers in Australia have developed a sunlight-powered desalination process to quickly convert tainted water into a safe, drinkable form.

The Process of Sunlight-Powered Desalination

In August 2020, a team of Chinese and Australian researchers based at Monash University in Australia announced via the science journal, Nature Sustainability, that they had developed a new sunlight-powered desalination process. The method uses their self-developed metal-organic framework (MOF), an extremely porous metal, called PSP-MIL-53. Once exposed to sufficient sunlight, this MOF is “activated” and absorbs particles like salt and bacteria from brackish water to create water that can be consumed by humans.

This sunlight-powered desalination process, according to the scientists participating in the study, produces water cleaner than WHO standards. WHO sets the standard for drinking water at having less than 600 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved solids. Meanwhile, this new method was able to reduce the number of dissolved solids from 2,233ppm to 500ppm of dissolved solids.

Clean Water in 30 Minutes

Along with creating water cleaner than WHO standards, the new sunlight-powered desalination process can desalinate brackish water in less than 30 minutes. This approach is more efficient than other methods of desalination with it generating nearly 37 gallons of potable water per day from only one kilogram of PSP-MIL-53.

Benefits for the Impoverished

By using sunlight for activation energy, the newly developed method does not require heat or electricity to jumpstart the active desalination. While other technologies that use processes like reverse osmosis require sophisticated energy infrastructure and dangerous chemicals to operate, the Australian-developed procedure does not. This will allow poor, rural areas in developing nations, places where water is increasingly becoming most scarce, to use this sunlight-powered desalination process to obtain drinkable water without needing to create a robust power grid nearby. Lack of chemicals and reliance solely on sunlight also makes this type of desalination energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly, minimalizing damage to surrounding ecosystems.

Further Potential for Developing Countries

With the potential to quickly and efficiently provide millions with safe, drinkable water, Monash University researchers are continuing to perfect the technology. According to lead scientists on the project, the sunlight-powered desalination process can be cheaply distributed to areas in dire need overcoming the cost barrier of desalination plants that have previously prevented developing countries from purchasing desalination technology. Professor Huanting Wang, one of the lead scientists, also stated that the byproducts of the desalination process, those being the minerals and other materials extracted from the water, could function as a secondary benefit of the technique by providing an environmentally-friendly source of raw materials that could help boost the economies of poor regions.

The Future of PSP-MIL-53

Much is still to be done by researchers at Monash University before PSP-MIL-53 is ready for widespread distribution. Despite this, it is clear that this new discovery provides hope for impoverished communities who face threats of drought or unclean water. The cost and energy requirements have always been an entry barrier to gaining access to potentially life-saving desalination plants. These scientists are gunning to change the world by providing the poor with access to clean, drinkable water.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation Practices in Tanzania
Tanzania has made considerable strides in decreasing extreme poverty. For example, from 2007–2018, the country’s poverty rate declined from 34% to 26% (of the total population). However, this progress in poverty reduction has not translated as successfully when addressing sanitation. Improving sanitation practices in Tanzania directly relates to decreasing infant mortality and malnutrition. Currently, 23 million of Tanzania’s 57 million residents obtain drinking water from potentially hazardous sources. Acknowledging these disparities and the value of potable water in eradicating poverty, the initiative Project SHINE works in rural communities where low access to clean water and poor hygiene practices are common. The organization is on a mission to improve sanitation by inventing cost-effective, simple solutions that enhance hygiene in Tanzania.

Poor Sanitation and Resulting Diseases

Poor sanitation practices in Tanzania contribute to a host of preventable infections in the country. Tanzania suffers frequent cholera outbreaks, which cause extreme diarrhea and dehydration. Diarrheal disease is one of the largest contributors to child mortality in countries facing extreme poverty. Moreover, those who do survive, suffer developmental obstacles. Cholera, as well as the related disease typhoid, can transmit through drinking water polluted with human feces. Open excretion, a widely spread issue in Tanzania, is easily preventable by developing water sanitation infrastructure.

In terms of parasitic infections, malaria commonly transmits through mosquitoes. This illness and schistosomiasis easily spread due to a lack of proper drainage systems in Tanzania. Finally, skin, eye and oral infections are a common result of the lack of knowledge among Tanzanians regarding proper hygiene practices.

Rural communities in Tanzania learn and influence hygiene practices based on previously established knowledge and cultural practices. Therefore, many children are predisposed to the same habits — and therefore, the same risks as their families. To help combat these norms that often pose significant health risks, Project SHINE is introducing innovations in sanitation and hygiene for Tanzanians.

Sanitation and Hygiene Innovation in Education (SHINE)

Project SHINE uses science to educate children and motivate changes in their hygienic behaviors by cooperating with schools. The program also reaches out to parents and other community members to develop a better understanding of attitudes toward health within this field. Through its educational initiatives, Project SHINE engages pastoralists who, even though many children come from these families, often lack access to resources and are actively involved with livestock. In particular, SHINE highlights the importance of both animal and human health for these audiences.

Education Strategy: Science Fairs

Project SHINE promotes science fairs in its target schools to encourage greater conversation and education about sanitation. These events focus on three subjects: water, sanitation and hygiene. This project’s aim is to help motivate youth, health care workers and community members to adopt improved health care practices. The long-term goal of motivating future generations to permanently incorporate these habits into their daily routines is paramount.

During this process, teachers receive private training in separate workshops where they gain strategies for presenting hygiene and sanitation to students in engaging ways.

Students engage in these science fairs by conducting research and forming hypotheses. One project students can complete, for example, is to create sustainable hand-washing stations using local, low-cost materials. Project SHINE also incorporates a One Health Paradigm that emphasizes the connection between livestock, humans and the environment. Notably, this is a relevant framework for children from pastoral families. Overall, fitting sanitation practices in Tanzania into the school curriculum has become a priority for SHINE.

The Journey Ahead

Progress for hygiene and sanitation practices in Tanzania has been a long, difficult journey for many families who still struggle to obtain clean water. Nevertheless, interventions from Project SHINE have already made significant differences. The initiative is planning to expand to other parts of the community, including out-of-school youth and the disabled. Overall, the work of Project SHINE offers promise for the health and prosperity of thousands across Tanzania.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Clean Water in Mexico City
Mexico City, built on a lake, gets more rain than London. Yet, the city is facing a severe water shortage due to mismanagement and the massive growth of the city over the last half-century. Founded by the Aztecs in Lake Texcoco nearly 700 years ago, the city is nestled in a valley, making it especially prone to flooding. In ancient times, people got their freshwater from the surrounding water sources, but they drained them over time as the population increased. In the last 50 years, the city’s population has ballooned to more than 20 million people, exacerbating the crisis. Luckily, an NGO has emerged to provide clean water in Mexico City.

The Situation

Today more than 30% of the water in Mexico City is from far-off lakes and rivers, while the rest comes from an aquifer beneath the city. As people bring water up from the underground aquifer, a new problem arises: the city is sinking. The city has added steps to popular monuments because the bases are now so much higher than the ground around them. Some parts of the city are sinking by more than a foot per year. Many of the pipes that supply the city’s water are over 60 years old and are prone to leaking, with the sinking land making it more difficult to fix them. One government study estimated that Mexico City loses up to 40% of its drinking water to leaks, further draining the aquifer without any benefit to citizens.

While the Mexican government spends billions of dollars trying to manage the city’s water woes, poor residents suffer. Many must depend on unreliable water trucks that bring non-potable water, leaving residents to buy more expensive bottled water or soda for drinking. Trucked water is still valuable for washing dishes and running toilets, but the unreliability of delivery means that one resident in each household typically must always remain at their residence – causing economic losses among the poor.

A Practical Solution

In this precarious and damaging situation, the nonprofit Isla Urbana has found a solution to provide clean water in Mexico City – mass rainwater collection. Isla Urbana installs rainwater collection systems at households in impoverished parts of the city that do not connect to the city water system. A 100 square meter roof is capable of producing up to 100,000 liters of water each year at no cost to residents. The nonprofit describes four key benefits of this system:

  1. It reduces the flooding that plagues Mexico City by preventing water from going into storm drains.
  2. It decreases energy use in the form of pumping water or trucking water into homes.
  3. It provides water independence for families.
  4. It allows aquifers and rivers to heal and grow as people rely on them less for water resources.

Isla Urbana’s system consists of a gutter on the roof, a pipe to drain the water into a simple filtration system, a chlorinated basin underground and a pipe to bring water up after any remaining particles have fallen to the bottom of the basin. The system can connect water directly to a house’s plumbing system. The initial system does not produce potable water, but it is affordable enough that people can add to filtration systems, reducing the need to buy expensive bottled water. The government also does not charge people for the use of rainwater, freeing up income that citizens would have used to connect to the city water network or to pay for trucked water.

Making Progress

To date, Isla Urbana has installed over 20,000 systems, providing over 120,000 people with access to clean water in Mexico City. Currently, these systems collect over 800 million liters of water each year, the equivalent of over 80,000 water truck deliveries. With the help of funding from aid groups and the Mexican government, Isla Urbana plans to install 100,000 of its systems in Mexico City in the coming years. In the fight against extreme poverty, Isla Urbana is filling a crucial role in providing clean and safe drinking water to those in poverty or at a disadvantage.

– Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

The History of the UNICEF Tap Project
In 2006, Esquire magazine’s advertising executive, David Droga, created a newfound ad campaign that would spark positive social change: the UNICEF Tap Project. The goal of the UNICEF Tap Project was to inspire regular individuals to supply UNICEF water. This is a subset of the UNICEF foundation that provides water, sanitation and hygiene services to disadvantaged children and adolescents. The project launched in 2007 and began as a physical campaign in collaboration with New York City restaurants. There, those dining would donate $1 to receive the tap water that they normally would receive for free. By 2008, the project became a massive success, as several thousand restaurants became involved.

Campaigns that Help Raise Money and Awareness

As the Tap Project continued, UNICEF leaders wanted ordinary people to understand what it is like for individuals in developing countries to only have access to dirty water. In addition, UNICEF created a vending machine, where you can pay $1 and push to have a bottle of dirty water come out. The buttons on the vending machine are the names of different diseases that people in countries that lack clean water are exposed to. For example, including typhoid fever, dengue and hepatitis. Moreover, in an advertisement for the Tap Project that shows footage of New York participants, UNICEF notes that nobody drank the water. However, many donated to the cause.

Soon, the campaign morphed into a website. This website asked participants to give up their phones, as a symbol of an unnecessary but desired item. In return, the participants can give another person something that they desperately needed: water. In 2014, the Tap Project launched this web app. For as long as participants did not use their mobile devices, UNICEF would donate water to those in need. The project took off and was sponsored by generous donations from companies like Giorgino Armani Fragrances and S’well Bottles. To amplify this campaign, celebrities and YouTube moguls like Bethany Mota began to promote it through their platforms. Through the UNICEF Tap Project challenges, every minute counts that the participants do not touch their phones. For instance, if participants did not touch their cell phone for 30 minutes, they would donate 11 water purification tablets.

Successful Mobilization Efforts

The UNICEF Tap Project mobilized thousands of individuals to give up their phones to give others access to clean water. After participating, users could share the page with friends and family, or they could chip in a donation of their own. Although the UNICEF Tap Project ceased after a decade, the project’s efforts contributed to a dramatic decrease in the number of children dying from waterborne illnesses. For example, the numbers reduced from 4,000 a day in 2006 to 1,000 a day in 2015. All in all, the UNICEF Tap Project directly aided almost half a million people and raised over $6 million.

What Can People Do to Help?

Although the UNICEF Tap Project ended in 2015, help is still needed. Today, 2.2 billion people still do not have access to clean water. Although the organization has moved onto the creation of new campaigns to aid those without access to clean water, there are a plethora of ways for individuals to help today.

  • Donate: One way that individuals can help is by donating to causes like UNICEF or Save The Children. The proceeds will go directly to those who need assistance with access to clean water.
  • Volunteering: A person can also volunteer their time with organizations that focus directly on helping and spreading awareness, such as charity: water or water.org. Alternatively, they can help sponsor nonprofits that aid those with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.
  • Education: People can educate themselves, their peers, or their family members about the struggles that occur in regards to the world’s poor in other countries.

Despite the end to the UNICEF Tap Project, there is a multitude of ways to bring clean water to communities around the world that need it. Whether it is through donations, volunteering or education, the acts of many may be able to continue in the UNICEF Tap Project’s footsteps.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

water management in africaAccess to safe drinking water is the building block for a healthy society. Unfortunately, 780 million people worldwide do not have access to improved water sources. This means that they are more likely to become ill or even die from consumption of contaminated water, which can cause diarrheal infections, cholera, and an array of other deadly diseases. It is estimated that roughly 801,000 children under the age of five die from diarrheal infections every year, and about 88% of these deaths can be traced back to the consumption of contaminated water. Innovation in water management in Africa is therefore sorely needed.

Many communities in Africa have historically suffered from inadequate clean water access due to factors such as geography, urbanization, population growth and low GDP. For this reason, in March of 2020 the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy suggested new policies for water management in Africa. The goal of these policies is to “increase Africa’s preparedness to address water and climate change vulnerabilities, with less fragmentation of efforts, as well as improve upon monitoring and forecasting tools, and enhance knowledge sharing and technology transfer.” To do this, the Commission is focusing on innovation and enhancing the existing skill sets of local organizations concentrating on water management in Africa. Here are five innovative solutions focusing on water management in Africa.

Five Innovative Solutions for Water Management in Africa

  1. Decision-Analytic Framework (DAFNE): The DAFNE Project is funded by the European Union and focuses on improving collaboration efforts regarding resource management among African countries. Many water sources in Africa, such as rivers, flow through multiple countries, posing a risk that water-related conflicts could emerge. Additionally, water pollution from one country can influence water quality downstream in others. DAFNE is consolidating existing data and processing it in order to explore alternative water management techniques that could be utilized to maximize efficiency in water management in Africa. It also aims to reduce conflict between neighboring countries for water access.
  2. FLOWERED: The FLOWERED Project has designed a device that can remove fluoride from water sources. This is important because in many rural African countries, groundwater is the primary water source for drinking, crop production and cooking. Unfortunately, groundwater in many areas contains toxic levels of fluoride. Although this filtration device has not been fully developed, a prototype has proven to be successful in Tanzania. In the coming months, FLOWERED intends to complete production of its de-fluoridation devices and conduct research to determine which communities are suffering from toxic fluoride levels in their water.
  3. MADFORWATER: MADFORWATER is a project that focuses on cost-effective water treatment allowing water to be reused and utilized for irrigation. Many communities in Africa face extreme heat that makes water a scarce resource. This makes water treatment a necessity, as people rely on clean water not only for direct consumption but also for farming. This project focuses on ensuring that this water treatment technology is affordable, user-friendly and environmentally conscious.
  4. AfriAlliance: AfriAlliance is a project that began in 2016 and is projected to be completed in 2021. Sixteen partners from all across Europe and Africa are connecting social networks throughout Africa to consolidate water-related innovation and make this knowledge readily available to community organizers. Additionally, a large goal of the program is to improve upon existing water accessibility research.
  5. SafeWaterAfrica: SafeWaterAfrica is a project that has developed a solar-powered water purification device. This device removes dangerous pathogens and chemicals from water sources, making water safe to drink. There are currently one of these devices in Mozambique and one in South Africa. These devices can make roughly 10 cubic meters of water per day, but have the potential to produce much more. Since they utilize solar energy, these devices may generate close to 10,000 liters of clean water per day in African countries.

While there is still more work to be done, these five projects have already made lasting impacts on many communities throughout Africa. An important aspect of these projects is their focus on creating sustainable solutions and including community leaders. These long-term solutions are a necessity, as they allow members of these communities to focus on economic stability while improving water management in Africa.

– Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr