apps improving access to clean waterThe United Nation’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal is devoted to enhancing clean water and sanitation. Specifically, it calls for equitable access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation for all by 2030. However, nearly one-third of the global population lacks access to clean drinking water. Some companies are making solutions to this problem in the form of apps improving access to clean water.

The Problem

The World Health Organization defines safe water as 20 liters per person per day of accessible, clean drinking water within one kilometer of a household or business. Without safe water, families must spend more time caring for sick loved ones and fetching water from far-away sources. This often prevents them from joining the workforce and earning an income. Businesses and schools that are unable to provide safe water often struggle to retain staff and students. Overall, communities without safe water are more susceptible to illnesses and destruction from natural disasters. Indeed, diarrheal diseases stemming from unsafe water usage and poor sanitation kills nearly 1,000 children per day.

Thankfully, technological innovation for accessing clean water is on the rise. New technological solutions range from fog-to-water conversion systems to easy-to-use water filters. Below are three apps improving access to clean water by collecting, harnessing and sharing important water systems data around the world.

mWater

John Feighery, a former NASA employee, and his wife Annie Feighery created mWater in the mid-2000s for Android devices. After working for a company testing well water in El Salvador, Mr. Feighery learned that the process of testing for clean water was cumbersome and expensive. He collected samples with heavy machinery, transported them to a far-away lab for testing and recorded locations by hand. Mr. Feighery decided he could simplify the process using technology he used with the International Space Station.

He and his wife created mWater, which records the results and precise locations of water quality tests on a mobile device. Anyone with the app can view the data. Users can add pictures and write notes on scent and appearance. Additionally, they can add data from new tests they’ve conducted using the $10 water testing kit available from the app.

With its global water quality database and expedited process of identifying safe water, mWater is one of the most comprehensive apps improving access to clean water. Today, more than 75,000 governments, NGOs, health workers and researchers use mWater for free in 180 countries. They include UN-Habitat, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and The Water Project. Altogether, mWater receives and records 250,000 water surveys per month for public use.

Akvo Flow

One of the few apps improving access to clean water is Akvo Flow. Peter van der Linde and Jeroen van der Sommen founded Akvo Flow after meeting at the World Water Week conference, in Stockholm. They wanted to improve the way that water quality data was presented via open-source technology. This allows governments and organizations to better address the issue of finding safe water. Akvo works with users to design projects, capture meaningful data, understand the data and act to improve conditions. To date, Akvo has implemented software in 70 countries by working with more than 20 governments and 200 organizations.

It aims to increase accountability, transparency and productivity for each partner organizations. Akvo Flow does this by streamlining the data collection process, which allows for quicker decision making. Some of its partnerships include setting up a sanitation monitoring system in Mauritania and working with Water for People in Peru to design solutions. Additionally, it works with UNICEF and the Ministry of Water Resources to test water quality nationwide in Sierra Leone.

Open Water Data

As the name suggests, Open Water Data makes water data available to the public. Founded in 2017 by a group of software engineers and data scientists from Datameet, Open Water Data only applies to India, where it is based. Extreme flooding followed by water-source depletion in India led the group to question the country’s water management systems. They found that the public is unable to access much of India’s water data, despite the fact that local governments need extensive data to implement water management systems.

In response, the founders created an easy-to-use map-based web app with available data from Google’s Earth Engine. It includes datasets from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Now, the app is one of a few improving access to clean water. It is a one-stop-shop for information on daily rainfall, soil moisture, groundwater and reservoir shortages. Researchers and local governments can create simple models in water-scarce regions and plan for flood mitigation using Open Water Data’s tools. Additionally, plans are in place to create a database that all parties can contribute to.

The Future of Apps Improving Access to Clean Water

In July 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern about the progress of Sustainable Development Goal 6. Specifically, he cited climate change, pollution and increasing demand as obstacles. If clean water and sanitation remain problems in 2030, global health, education and climate change will suffer. These apps improving access to clean water through data management are just one way that technology can crowdsource solutions to the global water crisis.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr

poverty and pollutionPollution impacts people’s air, water and food worldwide. In general, pollution affects impoverished individuals the most. Many individuals in developing countries already struggle to find clean water, edible food and good healthcare. Unfortunately,  pollution only exacerbates these pre-existing issues. The city of Nairobi, Kenya is a prime example of this. Its largest garbage dump surrounds and pollutes churches, schools, shops and places of business. As such, poverty and pollution are closely related. Eliminating pollution may be able to help eradicate global poverty. 

Poverty and Pollution

Runoff from factories, farms and towns has made drinking water sources dangerous because of contamination. In some places, the effects of pollution also decrease the crop yield and increase food prices, as runoff also contaminates farm land. Additionally, imported food products are often tainted with bacteria, thus making these food products dangerous for consumption. These circumstances could increase the number of people suffering from malnutrition, especially in developing countries. Poverty and pollution are therefore connected through causation: high food prices and food insecurity can both contribute to poverty. Indeed, pollution could contribute to the number of people living in global poverty increasing by 100,000 million.   

Pollution and Hunger

There are currently 815 million people around the world suffering from chronic undernourishment. Importantly, one of the main causes of malnourishment and undernourishment is contaminated food. India, for example, lost an estimated 24 million tons of wheat in one year due to an airborne pollutant. More recently, India may also lose 50% of its rice production because of the same pollutant. On a global scale, studies have found that air pollutants decrease the production of staple crops like wheat, rice, maize and soybeans from 5% to 12%. Experts estimate that this is equivalent to the loss of up to 227 million tons of crops, which equals $20 billion in global revenue lost.

However, food is also becoming contaminated through industrial runoff in the ground. Pollution via industrial run-off affects crops in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and South America. In these regions, access to foods that are high in nutrients is low and irrigation runoff is high. Runoff especially impacts Africa, where farmers depend on subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.

Both of these types of pollution can increase food insecurity and hunger. In these conditions, individuals cannot use their land to grow clean food for themselves and their families. Worldwide, 33% of children who come from middle- to low-income countries already endure chronic malnutrition. This contributes to the fact that 45% of all children’s deaths are due to undernutrition or a related cause. Furthermore, there are at minimum 17 million children worldwide who are acutely malnourished, resulting in the death of two million children each year. Thus, pollution and poverty are related through the issue of hunger, which is fatal for children around the world.  

Pollution Clouds the Water

Unfortunately, pollution does not only amplify the issue of hunger, it also contributes to a lack of clean water. Globally, 844 million people do not have regular access to clean water. The vast majority of these people live in extreme poverty. In Uganda alone, there are 28 million people who cannot readily access clean water. These Ugandans must drink water polluted by sewage, mudslide debris and other contaminants.

Due to these conditions, 70% of all diagnosed diseases are directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene methods. These diseases include hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Unfortunately, these diseases kill 3.4 million people each year, 43% of whom are children younger than five. In Uganda, these illnesses force 25% of children to stop attending school each year. 

Poverty and pollution are directly related through water pollution. On a global scale, the world loses $18 billion when people are to sick with waterborne illnesses to work. Additionally, the time many people must spend finding water results in missed economic opportunities valued at over $24 billion worldwide. 

The Fight Against Pollution

Thankfully, many organizations are addressing these pressing connections between poverty and pollution. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), based at M.I.T., received a $25 million gift from King Philanthropies to combat many issues that both poverty and pollution create. It plans to do so by launching the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). The K-CAI focuses explicitly on helping those who live in extreme poverty. Its aims include reducing carbon emissions, reducing pollution, acclimating to the climate change and transitioning toward cleaner energy.

The K-CAI plans to accomplish these goals by creating and evaluating many smaller projects. Once the K-CAI determines which projects are the most impactful, it will implement them in impoverished countries on a large scale. Thus far, J-PAL has focused on improving the production of food, education, policy and healthcare in impoverished countries. K-CAI is using J-PAL’s successes to help determine the most efficient ways to achieve these goals 

The correlation between poverty and pollution is clear and direct. As such, pollution can make the fight to end global poverty more challenging. However, with promising initiatives such as the K-CAI, the global battle against pollution and poverty seem like a much easier feat. Defeating pollution will give the world a much-needed advantage in ending global poverty once and for all. 

Amanda Kuras
Photo: Flickr

sanitation during covid-19COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is often spread through airborne droplets released by breathing or talking and by touching infected surfaces. Good hygiene is therefore an initial line of defense in preventing viral infection. However, hand washing requires access to clean water and effective sanitation. While COVID-19 has changed the way people think about hygiene, the lack of access many people in developing countries have to sanitation during COVID-19 remains the same.

Water Crises and Sanitation During COVID-19

More than one half of people around the world do not have access to high-quality sanitation facilities. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated this already tenuous water and sanitation situation in many parts of the world. Areas with hotspots, like Cairo and Mumbai, are often crowded with restricted public services.

To manage the immediate effects of COVID-19, governments in developing countries have turned to various short-term solutions. For example, Rwanda has installed mobile hand washing stations, while South Africa has begun to use water trucks. The Chilean government has also suspended water and sanitation charges for citizens. In a pandemic, automated water management systems are especially helpful in reducing loss, expanding access and preserving social distancing. In addition to these governmental reforms, many companies have used technology to shore up water and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries. Here are five organizations looking to improve sanitation during COVID-19.

Five Companies Improving Water and Sanitation During COVID-19

  1. Wonderkid: This start-up delivers smart solutions to the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The organization supplies water management software to utility companies to help address customer problems, billing, payments and running water meters. Wonderkid’s smart water meters track non-revenue water that does not reach the customer or leaks out of faulty pipes. Thus, Wonderkid allows water utilities to function more effectively and service more people. As of 2018, Wonderkid had expanded to help 36 utility companies in Mozambique, Nigeria, Malawi and Liberia.
  2. CityTaps: This organization provides poor families in Niger access to water at a much cheaper price than water vendors. Its smart water meters give water utilities more financial stability. Importantly, they can then expand their services to more poor families. This allows companies to meet the current needs for effective hygiene to fight COVID-19.
  3. Drinkwell: Impoverished people in Dhaka, Bangladesh often rely on illicit or expensive water sources. The social enterprise Drinkwell, a brainchild of American English Fulbright fellow Minjah Chowdury, provides water through ATMs. Drinkwell works with mobile service provider Robi Axiata and Dhaka WASA, a local water utility, to do so. It is also collaborating with Happy Tap, a mobile hygiene provider, to provide hand-washing services to people in Bangladesh.
  4. Sangery: Container-Based Sanitation (CBS) like Sanergy are an up and coming sanitation alternative for people in low-income areas. These systems are simpler and cheaper than sewer systems, but they are also cleaner than latrines and open defecation. CBS systems use a container to capture waste, which then turns into fertilizer. Sanergy uses this technology to resolve the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. Run by three M.I.T. students, the company provides Fresh Life Toilets that fit into cramped urban dwellings and empty safely. The ability to have a private toilet is essential in practicing social distancing during the pandemic. During COVID-19, Sanergy has also provided 18 hand-washing stations that allow residents to practice good hygiene.
  5. Mosan: Similar to Sanergy, Mosan is a sanitation project based in Guatemala that provides container-based system toilets to people’s homes. The toilets have a durable, urine-diverting design, which keeps urine and feces in separate containers. They cover feces with dry materials like ash instead of water and eventually recycle them into usable fertilizer material. Such innovations make it more likely that people will stay at home during the pandemic. Additionally, Mosan is providing contactless pickup of containers to encourage people to stay home and social distance.

The Future of Sanitation in Developing Countries

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in global abilities to provide safe, clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Now, many people lack the water they need to combat the coronavirus. While it is not clear if COVID-19 can spread through human waste, proper sanitation also stops the spread of infectious disease in general.

By shoring up water services and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries, governments and other organizations in have provided stop-gap solutions to water and sanitation issues. Technologies like digital water meters, water ATMs, container-based toilets are now saving lives in a new way. Because they help people stay home and keep clean, these solutions allow developing countries to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

water politicsWater scarcity and unequal water access are two pressing problems facing the global community. The political response to this crisis has created the field of water politics. In order to address this crisis, the global community must consider water as a human right and prioritize implementing sustainable solutions for the future.

The Problem

Water is one of humans’ basic needs. However, every continent has regions experiencing the effects of water scarcity. With experts predicting that one in five people will live in areas with unsatisfactory resources to meet water needs by 2025, this is an urgent issue.

Although water is a renewable resource, restored by snowmelt and rainfall, human practices are depleting the world’s water supply. Diverting water for agriculture, households and industry has become so taxing that some of the largest rivers run dry before reaching the ocean. Human activity can also pollute water sources to such an extent that they cannot support aquatic life or be used as drinking water.

Water Scarcity and Conflict

Water Politics Limited, a geopolitical risk advisory and consulting firm, found that water scarcity could lead to conflict or political instability in many countries. Sources including the Euphrates, Tigris, Jordan, Nile, Danube and Okavango rivers as well as the Tibetan watershed and resources will become insufficient to support the surrounding areas. These sources currently provide water to dozens of countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Water scarcity will therefore affect communities across the globe. Importantly, it may spark conflict over remaining water resources, within a nation or even between nations. Anya Groner at The Atlantic points to evidence of past conflicts that have revolved around water. These include the riots in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2012, which responded to inequality in the distribution of water resources.

The Pacific Institute put together a timeline of water conflicts from the earliest records until 2019. Causes of these conflicts include territorial disputes, drought, inequities and municipal water cuts. The severity of conflict may range from protests and theft to more violent killings and bombings. This makes it clear that decreases in water access may lead to political or violent conflict if the world does not take action to ensure sustainable, equitable water access for all.

Water Politics: Managing the Resource

Countries facing water scarcity have the difficult task of allocating a limited resource. To ensure that everyone can access water, these countries must take many different steps. Cape Town, South Africa, is an apt case study. In 2018, a combination of a dry climate, a three-year drought, and high water usage all put the city within 90 days of running out of water. The severity of this crisis required the whole region to pull together to decrease their water usage.

To avoid turning off the taps, the government restricted residents to 50 liters of water a day. Violators faced large fines for overusing water. Further, the government banned wasteful activities like refilling swimming pools and washing cars. Residents also took to social media to share tips about saving water. Specifically, the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” campaign emerged to encourage everyone to resist flushing when applicable.

Social media, however, was not just useful as a tool to disseminate information and motivate residents to conserve water. Perhaps more importantly, it also drew the global community’s attention to the state of the world’s water resources and the consequences of water scarcity. The Environmental Protection Agency has also used social media to inform the public about the value of safe drinking water. The agency aims to get users to create their own water conservation campaigns to implement into their communities.

Technology and Water Politics

However, awareness about this issue cannot solve it on its own. Innovators around the globe have engineered new ways to collect freshwater and provide clean water to communities worldwide. These solutions may be as simple as rain barrels used during monsoon season in Vietnam, or as complex as a nylon net hoisted into low clouds to collect condensation in island nations. Technologies like desalinization and iodine tablets have also helped transform water sources into safe drinking water.

Additionally, Water Politics Limited is conducting research on how to maximize water access through political action. It is investigating water transport and pipeline initiatives, exporting water, worldwide water rights and public participation in water conservation.

Moving Forward

As nations move forward with water politics initiatives, we must pay attention to regions most at risk of experiencing severe water scarcity. Places like sub-Saharan Africa with dry climates have already been plunged into prolonged droughts, facing political conflict as a result. Thankfully, public awareness campaigns, technological innovations and governmental cooperation can ensure that everyone has a right to safe drinking water.

Ellie Williams
Photo: Flickr

Water Access in PakistanJust a few months after assuming office in 2018, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a dire declaration to his nation, pronouncing the water crisis to be the most pressing problem facing Pakistan today. Soon after, one team of Pakistani-American college students decided to launch the Paani Project to address the issue. Since then, the group has made astounding strides toward improving water access in Pakistan.

The Water Crisis in Pakistan

The Paani Project is addressing one of the most acute water crises in the world today. With a population of 212 million, poor water management, climate change and intensive agriculture, access to clean water can be scarce. An estimated 40% of deaths in the country are linked to unclean water.

Pakistan also has a shocking disparity in water access between its urban and rural areas. With up to 70% of rural regions having no access to clean water, millions in Pakistan’s more remote areas face a severe risk to their health and livelihoods.

Origins of the Paani Project

In order to combat this critical issue, four University of Michigan students decided to launch the Paani Project. The mission began on a local scale. For three months, on their way to class and around campus, the students would sell doughnuts, slowly collecting enough funds to build their first well in a rural region of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Since funding their first well, the team has put hours of effort, collaboration and organization into the project, creating a fully functioning nonprofit that has seen widespread success.

The Paani Project Impact

With over 850 wells built across rural areas as of 2020 and more than $300,000 donated, the Paani group has made an undeniable impact in improving water access in Pakistan. Their work has spread from Sindh to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, serving rural needs across the country.

In addition to building wells, the project has also diversified its mission by leading a number of different humanitarian efforts around the country. In Azad Kashmir, Paani led a winter coat drive and in Karachi, the group operated a dental clinic to provide care for those that would not have access otherwise.

The organization has also provided relief from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing food to thousands of workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh who rely on daily wages to support their families.

Other Initiatives

Paani also believes that education is an important step in combatting poverty and increasing water access in Pakistan. With every well that has been built, Paani has held “hygiene education seminars” to teach community members about proper sanitation practices and how to maintain the well. The group has also helped develop education curriculums in Sindh, through which they hope to increase knowledge about the water crisis and proper hygiene practices.

Although Pakistan’s water crisis is one that continues to make headlines and threatens the lifestyles of millions of people across the country, work by organizations such as Paani has helped to turn the tide. With tens of thousands of people directly reaping the benefits of Paani’s wells, the group’s contributions are sure to be much more than just a drop in the bucket in the fight for universal water access in Pakistan.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

water insecurity in south sudan
South Sudan has been in a civil war since December 2013. As a result, millions uproot themselves and thousands die. Essential resources are scarce, particularly for the most vulnerable people. Specifically, water insecurity in South Sudan is a major crisis within the country. Moreover, this water insecurity permeates both the lack of drinking water and essential water for sanitation.

The South Sudanese Conflict

South Sudan’s people are currently engaged in a civil war between the government (led by President Salva Kiir) and the opposition rebels — led by former Vice President Riek Machar. The country splits along ethnic lines, which primarily determine where support lies. That is to say, the president is supported by the Dinka and the former vice president’s opposition forces, supported by the Nuer.

The conflict results in major displacement, creating internally displaced persons (IDPs) and casualties throughout the country. Due to this displacement, regular access to living resources and basic services, such as healthcare and education, have been greatly diminished. Of the displaced persons, it is estimated that 40% are adults and 60% are children.

A consequence of the conflict: 7.2 million people require humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, 3.7 million people displaced — 383,000 people have died and 1.8 million children are unable to attend school.

Does the Conflict Affect Access to Resources like Water?

In short, yes. The continued violence and inability to secure stable conditions with access to utilities like clean water and sanitation have caused a major water insecurity crisis in South Sudan. The water crisis specifically presents major issues for civilian populations, including a lack of water for infectious disease prevention.

USAID outlines the extent of limited access to water in South Sudan, as a result of the conflict. The organization estimates that only about 34% of people in rural areas have access to water. Given that 84% of the nation lives in rural areas, this statistic quite alarming. Additionally, 90% of those living in poverty reside in rural areas with the aforementioned, limited (or lack of) access to water. This affects vulnerable populations like IDPs, women and children. Furthermore, it hinders their ability to ensure basic health needs like hydration and prevention of infectious diseases like cholera, hepatitis E and Guinea worm disease (GWD).

Weaponizing Water

Infrastructure specifically used for water access systems has been a major resource that the warring parties target in attempts to harm the opposition forces, both military and civilian. To destroy their enemies’ access to water is to debilitate their ability to recover. Equally important, targeting water sources puts severe pressure on the civilians whom an adversary protects. Women in South Sudan particularly feel the effects of this strategy as it can take days to get to a safe source of drinking water. Women are the primary “water fetchers,” but the journey to water sources leaves them extremely vulnerable to death by starvation or thirst (during these on-foot trips). Worse still is the fact that women traveling into rural areas amid the country’s conflict puts them at risk of being killed or assaulted.

Water Insecurity, Nutrition and Disease Prevention

South Sudan’s resource security crises reveal how internal conflicts within countries do not just affect the warring parties or military; they affect civilians, infrastructure and public health alike. Water insecurity in South Sudan, especially, is one of the many resource insecurity crises that should remain a priority of USAID. The crisis shares an intimate connection to nutrition and disease prevention; addressing it will likely have multiple benefits for the citizens of South Sudan.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Food Security and Innovation ProgramAs the world encounters one issue after another, food insecurity increases in countries with inadequate resources or less-than sufficient agriculture systems. With the pandemic at the helm and climate change an ongoing phenomenon, to survive these stressful times, innovative strategies are necessary. In this advanced society, new ways are necessary to process, distribute and reshape food production. Connections between food security and innovation seem far-fetched, but the United Arab Emirates/UAE’s food security and innovation program has found state-of-the-art techniques that relieve their people of this struggle.

Key Constraints Facing Food Security

The UAE aims to rank in the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021, and number one by 2051. In this arid region, however, traditional farming is next to impossible from limited water for irrigation and an unequal ratio between people and the UAE’s production. Due to these hardships, the country is reliant on its imports. For a food-dependent country, when disaster hits, food systems are unstable.

While there are several reasons for poor food production in the UAE, the scarcity of water contributes heavily. Most of the water in the country is recycle and reused, but this process can only occur for a given amount of time. Given that traditional agriculture utilizes a significant amount of water, UAE’s food security and innovation program is the answer. . To combat the issue of their unstable food system, the UAE has set up the FoodTech Challenge. This global competition seeks out innovative solutions for the country to address food production and distribution.

Vertical Farming: An Innovative Farming Technique

In response to the FoodTech Challenge, the company Smart Acres has provided a technique that utilizes vertical farming to support the UAE’s food security and innovation program. Vertical farming consists of vertically stacked plants, providing more produce per square area, resembling green walls as displayed in shopping centers. Smart Acres used South Korean vertical farming technology to decrease water usage and monitor temperature and nutrients. Regarding the UAE’s water issue, vertical farms save over 90% of the water in comparison to conventional farming methods. The constant flow of water across the plants provides the necessary nutrients for all the plants to grow. This high-tech design allows the company to produce clean crops without any chemicals and negligible interference.

Although the farm has not been implemented yet, this form of food production is expected to produce 12 cycles of crops annually; the farm will expand from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country gradually. By using vertical farming, this technique expects to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce and other leafy greens per cycle. In addition to the increased number of crops, the variety is also expected to increase and include items, such as strawberries, arugula, potatoes, etc.

Aquaculture Farming: Decreasing the Dependence of Imports

On average, the UAE consumes 220,000 tons of fish annually. However, imported food is 90% of the UAE’s diet, suggesting that advancements in the country’s aquaculture would be beneficial. To aid the seafood industry in the UAE, the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center has taken the responsibility to use advanced technology to harvest marine organisms. The center utilizes photo-bioreactors to generate food for juvenile fish.

In addition to manufacturing primary live food for marine organisms, UAE’s food security and innovation program also include water recycling technologies, where water is cycled through fish tanks to reduce water consumption. To make aquaculture a more efficient and sustainable system in the country, the center is establishing a disease diagnostic laboratory, which will reduce the number of disease-related deaths associated with marine life.

While many countries face tumultuous times currently, UAE’s food security and innovation program seems to be a ticket out of poverty. Through the FoodTech Challenge, the country has found multiple viable options to strengthen its food system. With water scarcity, a large problem regarding food production, both vertical and aquaculture farming, has found a way to recycle the limited water and attend to other problems the UAE faces, such as dependence on imports from other countries. The challenge is open to the entire country, increasing the country’s opportunity in establishing a sustainable system. Through these systems, the UAE’s food security and innovation program is well on its way to stabilizing its food security and achieving its goal as a titleholder in the Global Food Security Index.

Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr

Water Insecurity in KosovoThe World Bank has secured aid for Kosovo to help the country’s water security efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 10, 2020, the World Bank approved a budget of $27.4 million to invest in aid to address water insecurity in Kosovo. The new “Kosovo Fostering and Leveraging Opportunities for Water Security Program,” implemented nationwide, will reach struggling regions within the country, such as Morava e Binces — the driest area of all.

COVID-19 and Water Security

In a statement from the World Bank, the manager for Kosovo, Marco Mantovanelli, stated that addressing Kosovo’s water crisis is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access (or lack thereof) to clean water for drinking and sanitation has a direct impact on the COVID-19 crisis. The World Bank representative described clean water as an “essential barrier to preventing virus spread and protecting human health from COVID-19 and similar diseases.”

The World Resources Institute (WRI) reports that hand washing is one of the primary combatants against a disease like COVID-19. Additionally, both water management and security impact the spread of a disease like COVID-19. Without proper storage, water shortages occur and people have limited access to water for sanitation. Water management (pollution control and distribution) directly impacts the quality and quantity of water accessible  to the population. WRI reports that improving both domestic and industrial water waste treatments improves water quality and helps improve issues related to water use for sanitation and health.

Water in Kosovo

Kosovo’s water crisis is only worsened by the virus as the crisis existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The issues of water pollution are rooted in Kosovo even from when it was a province in the former Yugoslavia. It was the most polluted province then and now, a majority of the Kosovo municipalities have no form of treatment plants for wastewater. Additionally, the World Bank reports that Kosovo has the lowest water storage level in the region — as well as high pollution levels.

The new water security plan will address some key issues in water security. These issues include management of resources, water storage, addressing natural disasters and their impacts, dam safety, updating equipment and facilities and general emergency preparedness.

The Impact on Struggling Regions in Kosovo

While the entire country will benefit from the plan, the strategy will specifically benefit the driest region in Kosovo — Morava e Binces. Morava e Binces has had significant problems with water access for its civilian population. The region has suffered greatly with water access interruptions. Some of these interruptions last hundreds of days. However, with the implementation of the new plan, the World Bank estimates 190,000 people will be positively impacted in the Morava e Binces region alone.

The World Bank’s approved aid will begin work on installing new and updated equipment, replan the water storage processes, and make additional renovations to dam maintenance and safety. This aid program is an essential step in ending water insecurity in Kosovo. While the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated an already existing, water security problem within Kosovo, government initiatives are a good, forward step.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Pixabay

Water Crisis in Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) has had conflicts with the U.S. since the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the people of Iran have suffered in many ways since then. Hardships as a result of both international sanctions and domestic government actions have affected Iranians. The Shah of Iran sparked the current water crisis by nationalizing the country’s water resources, before the revolution. However, the new Islamic Republic ignored the warnings of Iranian environmental experts and accelerated dam and well building. This, in turn, effectively caused the disappearance of about 85% of groundwater sources. Today, Iranians are at the precipice of a water crisis that government mismanagement, a population boom and climate change all brought on. Without a drastic change in government policies, some posit that around 70% (i.e., about 56 million Iranians) may have to flee to more developed countries if the water crisis in Iran is not adequately addressed within the next 20–30 years.

The Nationalization of Water

Before its nationalization, water in Iran was a sustainable resource, with 34 million Iranians relying on millennia-old, natural underground canals for their drinking water. This preserved aquifers in the country, maintaining renewable water resources at 135 billion cubic meters. However, now with a widespread population of more than 80 million and government-supported infrastructure contributing to rapid water consumption — renewable resources are less than 80 billion cubic meters. This problem has contributed to conflicts in the region, with water shortages and poor-quality, drinking water as driving forces behind large-scale, violent protests. Here, many poor, frustrated Iranians are the first to see the effects of the water crisis.

The Iranian government has accelerated the depletion of water resources in the hopes of expanding agricultural and infrastructure projects in pursuit of self-sufficiency. The agriculture sector claims more than 90% of the country’s water supply, leaving only a small percentage for Iranian citizens. The regime awarded huge, dam-building contracts to companies connected to those in power and encouraged farmers to grow crops (no matter their level of water consumption). Government-supported dams blocked large rivers throughout the nation and prevented aquifers from replenishing. This, in turn, forced farmers and other individuals to drill deeper wells into the depleting groundwater resources. As a result, the number of wells in existence since the revolution has multiplied by more than 13 times.  Around half of the wells are illegal and produce far beyond what is sustainable, according to the deputy agriculture minister. The situation has created a negative feedback loop of government-mandated, harmful infrastructure projects and unsustainable water consumption — producing the current water crisis in Iran.

Environmental Challenges

Environmental issues have exacerbated the water crisis in Iran. Drought has struck the region as a whole, but especially Iran, with 2017 being its driest year in nearly seven decades. Declining rainfall, higher temperatures, desertification and extreme weather all place added pressure on Iran’s water supply. Further, the intense burning of fossil fuels has contributed to an overall decline in biodiversity and increased water pollution — putting what little remaining water at risk.

Taking Action

A proposed solution includes increasing the use of water desalination, especially in the Capsian sea. This proposal is extremely expensive and could also cause undue harm to already low sea levels and territorial disputes. Within Iran, there are examples of individuals who have bravely stood up against the regime and advocated for more sustainable policies. Saeed Pourali writes in the Tehran Times that the current band-aid solutions in Iran will not be nearly enough. Pourali claims that the regime must listen to experts and environmentalists. Further, Pourali claims that Iranian individuals must also take it upon themselves to lower their water usage. Victoria Jamali, an assistant professor at the University of Tehran, founded Iran’s leading environmental organization — the Women’s Society Against Environmental Pollution. Since the early 2000s, Jamali has worked to bring comprehensive legal reform to Iran, to protect water and other natural resources. Taking after U.S.-styled environmental law, Jamali now teaches young Iranian activists and environmentalists to stand up for this important cause, despite the Iranian regime’s reluctance to create and enforce environmental legislation.

The Need for Reform

Corrupt management of resources and a close-minded approach to economic development has led to the severe depletion of Iran’s water supply over the past four decades. Although, it is a popular belief that the Shah started Iran down this path himself, even before 1979. Today, the water crisis in Iran is especially poignant. A massive population boom and civil unrest against the corrupt regime brings this issue to both the national and international stages. The consumption rate has proven itself to be extremely unsustainable, which is why individuals like Saeed Pourali and Victoria Jamali have been so active in trying to bring about real change. The ultimate goal is to protect Iran’s environment and natural resources. Reform will be expensive for Iran, especially under strict, international sanctions. However, reform is necessary to combat the water crisis in Iran and protect those impoverished Iranians who will suffer the most.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Pixabay

Water Crisis in UgandaWater is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world’s experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 663 million people are without access to clean water. The country of Uganda is no exception: 51% of Ugandans are in need of safe water resources. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here are some of the realities everyone needs to know about the water crisis in Uganda.

The Current State

Currently, 21 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. One in nine people lack quality water and have no alternative to dirty, contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Up to three-quarters of the surface water in Uganda is polluted, making it unsuitable for consumption. With no other choice but to drink contaminated water, people are often too sick to work or attend school.

Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. Additionally, the lack of adequate filtration systems and the loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, creates dirty water that leads to various health problems. 144 million Ugandans are still collecting water directly from these rivers, lakes, and other surface water sources. According to the World Health Organization, over 3,000 small children die a year from diarrhea in Uganda. Other waterborne diseases include hepatitis A, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

The water crisis in Uganda also makes 40%  of Ugandans travel more than 60 minutes to access safe drinking water. Some travel up to three hours a day, without a guarantee of finding water. Excess time spent on water provision hinders people’s ability to work, maintain the household and take care of children.

Initiatives for a Better Future

Many initiatives are underway to address the water crisis in Uganda and the problems it has created. For example, in 2013, Water.org launched its WaterCredit solution, which has led growth for water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached 259,000 people and disbursed $10.3 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.

Another program addressing water in Uganda is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. Over 300 women in Gomba, Uganda were trained to build rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. The simple filter consists of layers of rock, sand and gravel that remove 99% of bacteria from water. Funded by Aveda and GreenGrants, this initiative also conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation to support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safe from typhoid and diarrhea that could keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by nearly two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.

Additional projects that focus on drilling new boreholes in barren areas and repairing existing boreholes help relieve long travel times for water. Generosity.org has concentrated on rehabilitating boreholes by working closely with the District Water Departments of communities in need. Generosity.org also aided in the development of water user committees, which create an infrastructure to ensure the boreholes are maintained and cleaned through fee collection. Its work aims to achieve the sustainability of these boreholes for the future, putting an end to the water crisis in Uganda.

Looking Forward

Ugandan leaders have recognized that water is a basic human right and understand that better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. The Ugandan government now aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030. Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructures, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities. The organizations that are providing loans for wells, restoring boreholes and creating filtration devices are helping realize this ambitious goal. This focus on making clean and safe water available to everyone is critical. Without water, there is no life.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay