Water Crisis in Uganda
Water is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 40% of people experience water scarcity. The country of Uganda is no exception; 8 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here is what to know about the water crisis in Uganda.

The Current State

One in nine people worldwide has no safe alternative to contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades in Uganda has put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Approximately 19% of Ugandans only have access to streams, ponds and unprotected hand-dug wells as sources of drinking water.

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, lead to various health problems. According to BioMed Central, 22% of deaths of Ugandan children under the age of 5 are a result of diarrhea.

The water crisis in Uganda also results in 32% of Ugandans having to travel more than 30 minutes to access safe drinking water. The excess time that people spend on water provision hinders their 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 to increased water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached more than 276,000 people and the organization and its partners have disbursed approximately $13 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.

Another program addressing the water crisis is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. More than 300 women in Gomba, Uganda, received training 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 conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation that support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safer from typhoid and diarrhea which would keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by approximately two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.

An additional project tackling the water crisis in Uganda is the result of a partnership between Generosity.org and the International Lifeline Fund (ILF). The project has three initiatives that include clean water projects, education on sanitation and hygiene practices and strengthening local health services in Northern Uganda. The goal is to improve conditions for approximately 10,000 people.

Looking Forward

Better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. In many countries, organizations such as UNICEF have made efforts to combat water issues. This is especially true in the fellow country of Liberia, where the organization strived to developed water, sanitation, and hygiene systems (WASH), with 65% of such machinations functionally today. 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. Organizations like Water.org and ILF are helping realize this ambitious goal.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Water in India and Nepal
With populations totaling over one billion people and high economic growth rates, the middle classes of India and Nepal are rising quickly as the 21st century progresses. However, with this rise in standard of living comes increased demand for resources. This includes one of the most precious resources on Earth – water, or “paani” in Hindi, a commonly spoken language in both India and Nepal. As Indians and Nepalis elevate themselves out of poverty, the demand for freshwater grows higher. Water in India and Nepal is used for activities ranging from cooking to leisurely use. The limited financial resources of the Indian and Nepali governments pose a significant challenge for ensuring adequate water for each nation’s urban middle classes and rural, largely subsistence farmers. Luckily, local initiatives and international partners are chipping in to solve this issue, with considerable success.

The Challenge

India is home to 1.3 billion people, and its population increases by over 10 million people per year. With an urbanization rate of 34.9% and rapidly growing, the strain on natural resources is significant. The quick expansion of India’s middle class and the problem of resource mismanagement lead to the popularization of the term “Day Zero” across India’s metropolises. “Day Zero” refers to a hypothetical future date in which Indian cities will run out of the groundwater supply required to quench the thirst of their urban populations. Unfortunately, for some Indian cities, that hypothetical scenario is already reality.

The city of Chennai, home to over 10 million people, experienced a “Day Zero” event last year. After losing access to groundwater resources, Chennai and cities like it are forced to tap into the resources of neighboring towns and villages, jeopardizing millions of farmers and their livelihoods. This also limits farmers’ chances at rising out of poverty. Some estimates suggest that by 2030 demand could outpace supply by a factor of two.

Similarly, the nation of Nepal faces rising challenges ensuring water for its people. While considerably smaller than its southern neighbor, Nepal’s population density is high, home to the same number of individuals (over 30 million) as the much larger Canada. With higher average glacial melt as a result of climate change and an increasingly thirsty economy, the Nepali government must contend with more flooding coupled with more consistent drought. Its financial issues mirror those of India, so it too must find innovative ways to conserve and replenish its water supplies. Addressing water in India and Nepal is essential for their success as emerging economies.

The Paani Foundation – India

Though many NGOs, IGOs, and state governments are currently attempting to address challenges with India’s water supply, one in particular stands out: The Paani Foundation. Founded by famous Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, The Paani Foundation assists villages in creating natural water tables and irrigation systems. It works to sculpt the land in order to limit topsoil runoff, maintain water levels during drought and improve local biodiversity. The foundation’s focus is primarily in the Indian state of Maharashtra, located west of the Arabian sea, home to 110 million people. The scale of The Paani Foundation’s work in Maharashtra is so immense that it is often recognized as the largest permaculture project in the world. The work of this NGO showcases how inexpensive and innovative solutions are working today to address the growing water challenges in India.

The Paani Programme – Nepal

Unlike the Paani Foundation, developed by a famous Bollywood actor, the Paani Programme is a cooperative between Nepali villagers, the non-profit AVKO and the United States Agency for International Development. Though the focus of this initiative centers on biodiversity conservation, this program, like India’s Paani Foundation, aims to develop irrigation and management systems that are sustainable in design and easy to maintain. The benefits of preserving biodiversity are two-fold, as resilient ecosystems that improve local wildlife numbers also contribute to the sustainable use of water supplies. With more reliable water access and more resilient ecosystems as a result of the investments of the Paani Programme, villagers across Nepal are more able to enjoy economic resilience and elevate themselves out of poverty.

With booming populations and increasingly thirsty economies, water in India and Nepal must rely on better systems to maintain its flow. Homegrown initiatives like The Paani Foundation are showcasing how local creativity can earn international praise. At the same time, programs like USAID’s Paani Programme provide an important example of the necessity of American federal interest in global poverty reduction and sustainable resource management. With “paani” being the most valuable natural resource on Earth, it’s time to give it the attention it truly deserves.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Organizations Alleviating Pakistan’s Water Crisis
Water is a necessity to any living being and yet some countries struggle immensely with it. One such country is Pakistan. Pakistan’s water crisis and sanitation issues have lasted more than 15 years. Pakistan has reached a level where it has less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per person and could potentially run out of water entirely within five years. Fortunately, there are several organizations that are working to solve Pakistan’s water crisis.

Change the World of One

Change the World of One has recently finished a campaign concerning the water crisis in Pakistan. Its effort, Pakistan Clean Water Project, identified water access and sanitation as the two biggest problems of the water crisis and aimed to lessen the water crisis by building water hand pumps and electric pumps in a rural village in Pakistan.

The project was a success with the installation of around 10 hand and electric pumps as well as two handwashing stations and latrines. While the work focused mostly on one village, one cannot ignore the outcome of the Pakistan Clean Water Project, especially considering what the project brought to light as possible.

Paani Project

Paani Project is one of the newest organizations working in Pakistan to address its water crisis. The project’s method centers around creating outside-of-the-box solutions to public health problems, donations and creating what they call a “movement.”

Donations and direct action are important for Paani Project as they are for any NGO. This is especially critical considering the costs of developing water pumps and systems. Paani Project recognizes that through their own actions, Pakistan’s water crisis can be tackled day by day.

Charity: Water

Charity: Water has recognized the link between poverty and a lack of clean water in many countries, including Pakistan. The organization is almost entirely transparent with its projects, donations and direct goal of providing clean drinking water on their company website. Its work in Pakistan has provided a significant number of people with water and essential resources. Since 2013, Charity: Water has funded approximately 320 projects and helped around 35,458 people by drilling wells.

USAID

USAID, an organization dedicated to giving aid to foreign countries, has a current four-year plan to aid Pakistan’s water crisis. The Sustainable Water Partnership works to establish water security in Pakistan, which will improve other aspects of life such as public health, economic gains and ecosystems.

This is not its only dive into tackling Pakistan’s water crisis. It also implemented the Pakistan Safe Drinking Water and Hygiene Promotion Project that ran for approximately four years to implement better management of water, improve hygiene and better the technical aspects of water treatment, all of which was able to cover 31 districts in Pakistan in the program’s first phase.

Alkhidmat Foundation

Alkhidmat Foundation is another organization that has found success in alleviating Pakistan’s water crisis. The organization has installed approximately 131 water filtration plants, 6,312 hand pumps, 1,846 water wells and around 930 submersible water pumps.

Giving to communities that are the most vulnerable is exactly how Alkhidmat Foundation has been successful. Many of these impoverished villages do not have the funding like in bigger cities, meaning these communities cannot afford water wells and pumps. The Alkhidmat Foundation has recognized this and is working tirelessly to bring more water to Pakistan.

While Pakistan’s water crisis continues well into the 21st century, these five organizations are doing their part to alleviate Pakistan’s water crisis and are moving one step closer to ending the global water crisis through direct feet-on-the-ground action, advocacy and awareness.

– Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr

PCPartPickerPCPartPicker and charity: water formed an unexpected partnership, united in their common goal of providing clean drinking water for communities in developing nations.

PCPartPicker

PCPartPicker was founded in 2011 by Philip Carmichael. The website was designed to guide computer enthusiasts on how to build their PCs from scratch.

Carmichael, a Texas A&M University educated software engineer, started PCPartPicker with the intention of creating something that would impact more than just the PC-building community: “My desire was, and still is, to help people with fundamental needs that we often take for granted, such as access to clean water and sanitation.” That is why PCPartPicker has supported charity: water, a non-profit organization that provides access to clean drinking water in communities across 29 developing countries.

The World’s Water Crisis

In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that 2.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed water services. Of those 2.2 billion, 785 million do not have immediate access to clean drinking water. Immediate access in this case refers to access that takes less than 30min of travel time. In other words, 10% of the world’s population often have to travel long distances to collect water for themselves and their families.

Most of those who are unable to use a safely managed drinking water source end up using water that is contaminated as a result of poorly maintained sanitation and water services. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and dysentery can be spread through these contaminated water sources. Almost a million people die each year due to infected drinking water, unsafe sanitation and poor hygiene. These deaths are completely preventable.

If clean drinking water was more accessible, millions of people would not have to spend hours every day traveling to collect it. Instead, children could spend more time in school and community members could spend more time growing food, starting small businesses and earning an income. The 40 billion hours a year women spend walking to collect water in Africa alone could be invested in those activities which are far more beneficial for improving livelihoods and in turn alleviating poverty.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water seeks to end the global water crisis. The organization raises funds to provide safe drinking water in communities that historically have not had access. According to its website, charity: water works with experts within each community to develop clean water solutions that will be sustainable over time. Examples of sustainable solutions include rainwater harvesting tanks, wells, piped systems or BioSand Filters that treat contaminated water to make it safe for consumption.

Once the community has been provided access to safe drinking water, charity: water’s partners implement training for preventing disease through safe hygiene and sanitation practices. A “water committee” is also elected from within the community in order to keep the standard of the water safe for years after the organization completes its project.

As of November 2020, charity: water has completed or is working on 59,608 projects helping more than 11 million people across the world. Transparency is a priority to the organization, which has an interactive map on its website showing every location at which it has completed a project.

An Unexpected Team

In order to fulfill his desire to help others, Carmichael began donating PCPartPicker profits to charity: water right from the start of the company’s journey. After many requests, the website launched a merchandise store in 2012 and Carmichael pledged 100% of proceeds to be donated to charity: water. The first completion report was posted in 2014 when Carmichael shared that the merchandise proceeds as well as the portion of earnings he donated monthly, funded access to clean drinking water for 373 people in Malawi.

The latest report, posted in July 2020, shows that charity: water has completed several projects in Ethiopia, Malawi, Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, Niger, Nepal and Uganda as a direct result of PCPartPicker’s donations. Together, these organizations have helped 34, 853 people gain access to clean drinking water.

Clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. Organizations such as charity: water and PCPartPicker are dedicated to helping the cause and ensuring clean water access for as many people as possible.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Ganges RiverMore individuals depend on the Ganges River in India than there are people in the United States. More than 400 million people live at the basin of the Ganges, making it one of the most important natural water resources in the world. A holy river in the Hindu faith, the Ganges River (or Ganga) is used to bathe, cook, wash clothes, conduct funerals and more. Entire businesses along the basin depend on the river, adding an economic dependence to it as well. Due to this immense usage, pollution has run rampant. The Ganga Action Parivar estimates that “2.9 billion liters of wastewater from sewage, domestic and industrial sources are dumped” in the river every single day. Pollution reduction in the river is a top priority to prevent hundreds of millions of Indians from facing water insecurity.

The World Bank Assists

In 2011, the World Bank targeted the Ganges River pollution issues by launching the National Ganga River Basin Project (or NGRBP). A $1 billion initiative, the NGRBP looked to create bank investments in the water sanitation department and develop better waste management control in India. While this did prove to be a step in the right direction, the Ganges still saw a rise in pollution. India’s inability to properly dispose of waste outpaced the World Bank’s project. After nine years, the World Bank looked to bolster its contribution to the fight to save the Ganges as more and more Indians were becoming sick. In June 2020, the Second Ganga River Basin Project received approval from World Bank directors despite the bank focusing on COVID-19, proving how dire the situation at the basin truly is. An 18-year commitment, this second NGRBP adds another $380 million to clean up the Ganges until 2038.

Ganga Action Parivar’s Impact

Along with international help from the World Bank, India also made pollution control a national issue. An array of agencies have come about in India centered around the purification of the Ganges. For over a decade, the Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) has taken a diplomatic approach to fight water pollution. Through communication with government officials, media outlets and fundraising, the GAP looks to bring awareness to the issue and demand action from within India. In 2016, the GAP launched the National Ganga Rights Act and began asking for support for it. The act detailed how there are both natural environmental and human rights on the line with the continued pollution of the Ganges River. More than just a body of water, the Ganges is an epicenter of religion, prosperity and life. Creating a natural rights act helps to ensure that action will mobilize to protect the water resource and that is exactly what the GAP has set out to do.

The Year 2020 and Beyond

The year 2020 has been a promising year for pollution reduction in the Ganges River. The World Bank launched and financed its second project centered around cleaning the water back in June 2020. New research suggests that there has also been a natural cleansing that has taken place over the past few months. Since COVID-19 forced India to shut down, the Ganges’ usage has dropped. In a video released by BBC News, just a mere 10% drop in usage throughout the pandemic has led to significant improvement in the sanitation of the Ganges. For years now, India’s government has been trying to find ways to heal the Ganges. While India and the world fight the COVID-19 virus, the Ganges River is healing. Once the lockdown ends, the work of the World Bank and GAP will be vital to keep the momentum going. If pollution rates continue to climb, India will have a water crisis on its hands. Sanitizing and protecting the Ganges is instrumental in helping India reduce its poverty rates and preserving a crucial water resource.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

WASH advancements in IndiaWater, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a public issue in India. Launched in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SMB) of India has seen great success in recent years in improving the health and sanitation of India’s people. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has aided in the mission, helping to educate and institute new technologies, such as Sunidhi toilets. Aided by UNICEF, additional initiatives like the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and the implementation of WASH in schools and health facilities are contributing to the reduction of harmful and unsanitary practices. There have been several key WASH advancements in India.

6  Facts About WASH Advancements in India

  1. Urban Centers Bear the Brunt. Nationally, 910 million citizens do not have access to proper sanitation. With the rapid increase in population density in cities, there is an increasing strain on water and sanitation services. Despite urban centers housing the majority of India’s population, urban sanitation has been underfunded.
  2. Swachh Bharat’s Toilet Access and Job Creation. SMB’s primary objective is to reduce open defecation in India. Between 2018 to 2019, 93% of households had access to toilets, a noticeable jump from 77% in the previous year. SMB’s efforts have also seen economic benefits, including an increase in job opportunities. The construction of the sanitation infrastructure is responsible for employing over two million full-time workers. The creation of an additional two million jobs is expected in the coming years.
  3. Water in Rural Communities. Between 2017 to 2018, India’s national water mission expanded to become the National Rural Drinking Water Mission (NRDWM). While other programs and departments addressed sanitation in urban centers, NRDWM cares for the rural regions of India. One goal is the institution of piped water supplies to rural households. As of 2019, “18% of rural households had been provided with Piped Water Supply (PWS) household connections.”
  4. iJal Safe Water Stations. The Safe Water Network, a nonprofit organization created by Paul Newman, has reached communities through its iJal water stations. The locally owned stations provide access to clean, quality water in communities where water security is scarce. In 2019, 86 new stations were built, with a total of 319 stations built, reaching over a million people across 319 communities.
  5. Better Community Toilets. Improper sewer networks and poorly maintained public toilets lead to open defecation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sought solutions to this crisis, including the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011. The lack of safe public toilets is especially burdening on women. To address this concern, the WASH Institute leads the Sunidhi Toilet project. The project sees the construction of easily installable, self-cleaning public toilets.
  6. WASH Allies. USAID and UNICEF have worked in cooperation with the Government of India. As of September 2020, USAID reported recent achievements, including greater access to safe drinking water,  more household toilets and a decrease in public defecation. UNICEF has aided in the education and implementation of hygiene, particularly in schools and health facilities.

Recent years have seen several WASH advancements in India. The Indian government, large and small businesses as well as nonprofit organizations, are all playing an important part in ensuring access to safe water and sanitation. Education and creative solutions are made possible thanks to hard work and global cooperation.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Clean Drinking Water in the PhilippinesAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking, with people in rural areas with limited infrastructure being mostly affected. Within the Philippines, this concept manifests in that 91% of the country’s estimated 100.7 million population have access to basic water services, but access is highly inequitable across the country, with regional basic water services access ranging from 62% to 100%. To combat water insecurity, government bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and independent parties have collaborated to ensure that all citizens have access to clean drinking water in the Philippines.

The Philippine Clean Water Act

In 2004, the government passed the Philippine Clean Water Act which aims to protect water bodies from pollution and monitor their safety. This was implemented through multiple boards of governors and local mayors who were given specific water sources to monitor and maintain. By localizing management, the government found that leaders were more driven to clean their water because it affected their personal community. In addition, this strategy hinged upon community involvement as well, which led to a greater public awareness of water sanitation. In other countries with a similar problem, this localized strategy could work to create a body of legislators invested in water access, which would lead to cleaner water overall.

Hydropanel Fields

Water sanitizing technology has also been instrumental in guaranteeing access to all populations in the Philippines, specifically the rural ones. For the indigenous people of Palawan, the lack of clean drinking water is due to their lack of access to city centers and infrastructure. SOURCE Global and Conservation International collaborated to create a field of hydropanels that will create 40,000 liters of clean drinking water each year. Because the hydropanels are portable and easy to assemble, they can theoretically be used anywhere in the world. This opens up possibilities globally for communities with inadequate drinking water access. Going forward, this model could be used to eradicate water insecurity.

Water.org

Another influential NGO has been Water.org, which provides no-interest loans to families trying to gain access to clean water in their homes. These loans are used to rig homes with plumbing as well as build wells. The organization is unique in that it addresses the economic issues associated with a lack of clean water. Without clean water, families contract diseases at higher rates, which limits their ability to work and earn an income. In addition, because these illnesses tend to affect children at higher proportions, access to clean water means a chance for education. Water.org’s belief is that by providing rural communities with their own funding, the people in that community will be able to build themselves up independently and ensure a legacy of success. As of now, the goal of the organization is to help the government in the Philippines reach its goal of access to clean drinking water for all by 2028.

Other Organizations for Water Access

Two other notable NGOs are DAI and Clean Water International. Both of these organizations work globally to ensure all people have access to clean water. In the Philippines, DAI specifically works to improve sanitation techniques. This has been accomplished through infrastructure projects that transport water in safer ways as well as education campaigns that teach communities how to check if the water is clean and how to clean it properly. Similar to this, Clean Water International has worked to increase sanitation. Both of these organizations maintain that proper sanitation is essential to access to clean water and have provided the funds to create proper water sanitation.

Access to Clean Drinking Water

Without access to clean water, communities are barred from work opportunities, exposed to disease and experience the effects of poverty at higher proportions. As seen in the Philippines, a multi-faceted and robust approach is needed to address this crisis and it requires the cooperation of all. The problem of lack of access to clean drinking water in the Philippines cannot be addressed simply by giving communities water bottles. It must be a ground-up approach that gives communities the tools to create and access clean water for years to come.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water poverty in NigeriaWater poverty in Nigeria is still a pressing issue today. Only 30% of northern Nigeria’s population can access safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. The subsequent use of unclean water leads to the spreading of waterborne diseases such as cholera, guinea worm and hepatitis. The lack of water has impaired the livelihoods of farmers and led to a lower enrollment rate at schools, especially with girls. However, the situation is not without aid.

The History of Water Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1995, Nigerians have benefitted from WaterAid, a charity organization that has established a multitude of water and sanitation projects. The organization works through partnerships with local government authorities, civil society groups and state agencies to implement its programs. The projects have led to progress in development plans and data collection efforts that have increased clean water supply and access to safe toilets.

WaterAid has worked to improve water poverty in Nigeria by implementing its services in over 100 of Nigeria’s poorest communities, which include:

  • Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, where safe tap water is only acquired by 7% of the population.
  • Bauchi State where fewer than 50% of its people can access safe water and sanitation.

  • Benue State where most streams are contaminated.

  • Ekiti State where the main source of domestic water is pre-packaged water sachets and water vendors during the dry season.

  • Jigawa State where waterborne diseases are common.

  • Plateau State where most households rely on an unsafe water supply from government sources.

WaterAid, along with government support, has provided over three million Nigerians with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Data4WASH Programme

The Abuja-based nonprofit Media for Community Change and US-based NGO BLI Global have a similar goal of eliminating water poverty in Nigeria. On August 27, 2020, they formed a partnership to launch The Data4WASH Programme. The program consists of an interactive online platform that accumulates data and maps GPS coordinates. It then creates a map that water-impoverished communities can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Through the map, empirical and widespread evidence can prove the need for adequate investment in the design and installation of clean water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, the program empowers civil society by involving them in the national initiative to improve water poverty in Nigeria. The map encourages people to identify and report water-deficient and poorly sanitized areas in their communities. For instance, final year students from The Department of Statistics at the University of Ibadan will participate in the data collection process.

COVID-19

The Data4WASH Programme has been especially valuable after COVID-19 disrupted Nigeria’s progress in alleviating water poverty. According to WaterAid, 60 million Nigerians lack access to a clean water supply and services, and 150 million people lack basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

By enhancing data collecting processes, Nigeria can fortify its most vulnerable communities and health care systems to withstand the present detriments of COVID-19. Further, it can institutionally protect against potential health threats in the future. These measures established by The Data4WASH Programme’s interactive map system would also satisfy The U.N.’s Global Goal 6 — “clean water and sanitation access for all, including safe and affordable drinking water.”

Locally crafted, community-driven initiatives like The Data4WASH Programme and intergovernmental organizations are vital to ending global poverty. One sets guidelines and the other provides outlets that encourage entrepreneurship. The two must work together to end water poverty in Nigeria and all around the world.

Joy Arkeh
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
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