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 shortage in Peru
While Peruvian infrastructure continues to improve, unequal access to safe drinking water remains a prominent issue affecting up to 5 million citizens — or a staggering 15% of the country’s population. The government recognizes that to properly tackle the pressing issue of water security, the crisis of water shortage in Peru must be addressed. This matter is particularly important in the capital, Lima, one of the world’s largest desert cities where 1.5 million citizens lack running water. Moreover, the city only receives nine millimeters of rain a year.

Peru’s Water Crisis

The government has made the goal to reach and offer all marginalized urban hotspots in need of water, such as Lima, public drinking services by 2021. Significant strides have been made since 2016 under both the Kuczynski and Vizcarra administrations. However, with 9% of its foreign investment now allocated to water and sanitation, the government also recognizes that public-private partnerships are key toward making significant strides to increase water supply. International sustainability NGO, The Nature Conservancy, has played a major role in combating the water shortage in Peru through its innovative water projects.

The Nature Conservancy

Amunas, water systems utilized in pre-Incan times, maximized the total amount of rainfall that could be used as drinking water. Given the increasingly challenging circumstances concerning Lima’s water supply, ranging from urbanization to climate change — in 2019, The Nature Conservancy decided to bring back this means of hydric regulation. The end-goal with this initiative is to alleviate the city’s distressing, water situation. Alongside the Caterpillar Foundation, NGO members are essentially building canals that funnel rain (during floods) into mountains — rather than have the rain undergo the natural processes of evaporation. Water will gradually surface in springs —an imperative for water distribution during Lima’s dry seasons. This effectively addresses the water shortage in Peru.

The amunas recovery project is taking place in the upper Rimac River Watershed, arguably Lima’s most important water supply. Given an increased amount of water within the soil, it has already resulted in the recuperation of 25 hectares of natural grasslands. Farmers located throughout the greater Lima area have therefore benefited greatly from this endeavor.

NGO and Government Partnership

As part of a new water utility effort in Lima called “Aquafondo,” The Nature Conservancy is working in conjunction with the Peruvian government to plan and develop an efficient tariff structure, funding infrastructure projects. The conservancy projects that, by 2025, $25 million will be directed toward critical hydrological services — addressing key issues such as the region’s adaptation to climate change. In addition to Aquafondo, the conservancy is organizing water funds in the Peruvian cities Piura and Cusco, both of which are also located in desert-like areas.

A Pivotal Role Going Forward

While the water shortage in Peru remains a security crisis that can impact the economic and personal development of millions of citizens — environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy play a pivotal role. These organizations ensure water access for marginalized populations who have a great need for it. The Nature Conservancy’s international efforts, ranging from improved infrastructure throughout Latin America to restoring wetlands in India, symbolize a greater effort toward water justice among powerful non-state parties.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Peru's water crisis
While Peruvian infrastructure continues to improve, unequal access to safe drinking water remains a prominent issue. Peru’s water crisis affects up to 5 million citizens—15% of the country’s population. The government recognizes that to properly tackle this pressing issue, the country’s water scarcity crisis must be addressed. This matter is particularly important in the country’s capital, Lima. Lima is one of the world’s largest desert cities, and only receives nine millimeters of rain a year. Nearly 1.5 million citizens of the Greater Lima area lack running water.

The government has developed a goal to offer public drinking services to all such marginalized urban hotspots in need of water by 2021. Significant strides have been made since 2016 under the Kuczynski and Vizcarra administrations. However, with 9% of foreign investment now allocated to water and sanitation, the government also sees that public-private partnerships are key to increasing water supply. The Nature Conservancy, an international sustainability NGO,  has played a major role in combating the water shortage in Peru through innovative projects.

Reviving the Amuna Systems

There are increasing challenges to Peru’s water crisis—and therefore Lima’s water supply—that range from urbanization to climate change. In 2019, The Nature Conservancy revived a pre-Incan method of hydric regulation called “amunas” to alleviate the city’s distressing situation. Amunas are water systems that capture rainfall for use as potable drinking water.

Alongside the Caterpillar Foundation, NGO members are building canals that funnel flood rains into mountains rather than leave it to undergo natural processes of evaporation. Water will then gradually surface in springs, which is imperative for water distribution during Lima’s dry seasons.

The amunas recovery project is centered in the upper Rimac River Watershed, arguably Lima’s most important water supply. The increased amount of water in the soil has already resulted in the recuperation of 25 hectares of natural grasslands. Farmers located throughout the greater Lima area have benefited greatly from this endeavor.

Government Partnership

The Nature Conservancy is working in conjunction with the Peruvian government to develop an efficient tariff structure for funding infrastructure projects. This new water utility effort in Lima is called “Aquafondo.” The Nature Conservancy projects that by 2025, $25 million will be directed toward critical hydrological services. These changes address key issues, including as the region’s adaptation to climate change. In addition to Aquafondo, The Nature Conservancy is organizing water funds in the Peruvian cities of Piura and Cusco, both of which are also located in desert-like areas.

Conclusion

Peru’s water crisis remains a security issue that could impact the economic and personal development of millions of citizens. Environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy play a pivotal role in ensuring improved water access for marginalized populations. The Nature Conservancy’s international efforts, ranging from improved infrastructure throughout Latin America to restoring wetlands in India, symbolize a greater effort toward water justice among powerful non-state parties.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Liberia's Water Crisis
Insufficient access to clean water sources is one of the primary issues that developing countries are facing today, particularly in Africa. Without clean drinking water, people in these countries turn to unsafe secondary sources which can spread disease and promote unhealthy living conditions. Particularly during COVID-19, access to reliable drinking water has become more critical than ever. Liberia’s water crisis is an example of why safe water sources are so important.

Causes of Water Insecurity in Liberia

Situated on the coast of West Africa between the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, Liberia is a relatively small country with a population of just over 5 million people. It is Africa’s oldest republic, declaring its independence and drafting a constitution that it modeled on that of the United States in 1847. It is a tropical country with ample water sources, but several wars and disasters are to blame for the country’s lack of water purification systems and a limited ability to transport those resources.

Two brutal civil wars, first from 1989-1997 and again from 1999-2003, severely damaged Liberia’s infrastructure and nearly destroyed its economy. The country experienced a subsequent period of economic growth but lost much of its progress during the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015. This outbreak caused the death of over 4,800 Liberians, causing the country to struggle in rebuilding its economy and infrastructure ever since. Liberia now relies heavily on international organizations and foreign aid, especially in securing potable water.

Combating the water crisis in Liberia is an undoubtedly daunting task. For example, 3.7 million Liberians or eight in 10 peopledo not have access to a functioning toilet. This deficiency forces citizens to relieve themselves outside in groundwater sources, which quickly become contaminated and allow for faster disease transmission. Ebola spread throughout the country as rapidly as it did because of the scarcity of clean toilets, which fostered diseases such as diarrhea. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children in Liberia, with over 700 children under the age of 5 dying each year due to the disease.

In addition to damaging people’s health, Liberia’s water crisis reaches into other aspects of society such as education. Many children remain at home to help around the house, particularly with water retrieval, instead of attending school. For those who do go to school, the shortage of proper toilet facilities in classrooms can result in disease spread and has contributed to the country’s ever-increasing dropout rate. While the water crisis is widespread and threatens to grow with the rise of COVID-19, several organizations are collaborating with the Liberian government to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and provide clean water to those who need it most. Here are three organizations providing clean water in Liberia.

3 Organizations Providing Clean Water in Liberia

  1. UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the most prominent organization combating Liberia’s water crisis. UNICEF has been working with the Liberian government to construct water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems in rural areas with extremely limited access to clean water, as well as schools and hospitals. These low-cost, high-quality centers are key to increasing nationwide hygiene and personal health. As of 2017, nearly 65% of all Liberian WASH systems were functioning properly and serving the country’s citizens, up from just 53% in 2011.
  2. Charity: Water: Charity: Water is a nonprofit organization focused on the global water crisis as a whole, and has an operation in Liberia. In Liberia, Charity: Water is working to restore an aging water-transporting infrastructure that has either experienced destruction or simply not received repair since the last civil war. In addition, the program educates communities on maintaining personal hygiene and teaches locals how to keep these water projects operational.
  3. Face Africa: Face Africa is another nonprofit organization that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to developing countries, but with a tighter regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the start of its mission in Liberia, the organization has completed 50 WASH projects in the country’s rural areas and brought clean drinking water to over 25,000 people. Similar to Charity: Water, Face Africa focuses on ensuring that pre-existing water projects in Liberia are functioning properly and serving their communities. Additionally, the organization is building its own WASH projects in the country.

While combating Liberia’s water crisis is no easy feat, UNICEF, Charity: Water and Face Africa are all doing their part to help end the issue. As Liberia’s economy grows and its ability to rebuild its failing infrastructure strengthens, the country will better able to fight off future water crises.

– Alexander Poran
Photo: Flickr

Water Disparities in NigeriaIn Nigeria, clean water does not always receive treatment as a public good available to everyone. Instead, access to clean water depends on the neighborhood a person lives in. As a result, the dangers of waterborne diseases affect low-income areas disproportionately. Additionally, clean water is a privilege pertaining to socioeconomic status rather than the public good it should be. Water disparities in Nigeria often affect those who need the most help.

The Problem of Water Contamination

Adriel Garrick, who grew up in Nigeria, knows about water inequality. Garrick told The Borgen Project that “When [she] was young [she] had a friend diagnosed with Typhoid,” an infection that drinking contaminated drinking water or food causes.  She also said that “[Her] friend did not know he was drinking polluted water, and he was in the hospital for about three weeks, then later passed away.”

Death from water contamination is not unusual. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, as of 2015, 42.7% of Nigeria’s rural population and 19.2% of its urban population lacked clean, reliable drinking water. Diarrheal diseases, usually from contaminated drinking water, are the fifth leading cause of death in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s rural population is in a worse situation than the urban population for one reason: wealth. Wealth is a massive determinant of who gets clean drinking water there.

Water Supply System in Nigeria

According to Chidozie Nnaji, a researcher at the University of Nigeria, Nigeria does not treat drinking water as a social right. “The government provides water for the highly placed and charges them peanuts, but the same gesture is hardly extended to the generality of the masses who have to provide (purchase) their own water,” Nnaji told The Borgen Project. “Water is perceived as a social right for the highly placed, but as an economic good for the rest of the people. What an irony!”

Nigeria has a privatized water supply, contributing to disparities between the access of the wealthy and the poor. “Privatized water supply in developing countries is known for little infrastructure investments, neglecting low-income areas, and prioritizing profit over service quality,” Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, an associate professor at the University of Dammam, told The Borgen Project.

Not only can privatized water add to economic disparities, but it is also often unhealthy. Water vending is not a sustainable solution, according to Abubakar.

“Water vending is supposed to be a stop-gap solution to water outages or for households not yet connected to piped water supply,” said Abubakar. “Water vendors have now become the primary source of water for numerous households, . . . they should not be allowed as a long-term solution. . . . Water vendors and packaged water are expensive and not free from contamination.”

UNICEF’s Solution to Clean Water

The United Nations Children’s Fund has been working with the Nigerian government since 2005 to implement the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. The program aims to provide clean water to all of Nigeria and implement hygiene education and sanitation facilities. WaterAid is a global federation of nonprofits. It has an initiative working with the Nigerian government to provide clean water and sanitation to families who need it most.

Safe, clean water is a necessity for all people, not a privilege. Given the disparities in access to clean water in different economic sectors, it is clear that Nigeria is experiencing a crisis that will not be resolved until the country as a whole is able to claim clean water and the physical health that depends upon this resource as an essential human right.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in Libya
Libya is an arid country that has been facing sanitation and water inadequacies for decades due to its geographic location. The Sahara Desert covers most of Libya, and political turmoil has embroiled the country for years, aggravating its problems. Many humanitarian groups that act in the region, like UNICEF, have aimed to improve access to clean water and sanitation in Libya. Despite new funding, the region requires significantly more work.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Libya illustrate its problems with sanitation and water access, as well as different organizations’ efforts to improve the quality of life in one of the driest and most turbulent countries in the world.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Libya

  1. Ninety-five percent of Libya receives 100 millimeters or less of rainfall annually. This makes Libya one of the most arid countries in the world. Libya has consistently suffered from water scarcity and ranks 20th among the top 36 water-stressed countries. Political instability and military conflict have held the country back from meeting the water security and sanitation needs of its people. Currently, only 60% of all households in the country are connected to a reliable water source.
  2. The man-made river project (MMRP) provides 95% of Libya’s water. Despite being one of the largest civil engineering constructions in the world, the pipeline provides water that is considered unfit for drinking. Safer, bottled water is hard to come by. As such, many Libyans rely on the pipeline’s poor-quality water for drinking.
  3. Libya’s dependence on the pipeline creates risks for the country. Both people looking to sell parts on the market and political groups looking to gain influence in the capital have disabled wells throughout the MMRP.  In May 2019, a militant group forcefully shut down all pipelines to Tripoli for three days, depriving the city of water. These strains, as well as inadequate chemical treatment and equipment shortages, have damaged water quantity and quality. Badr al-Din al-Najjar, head of the National Center for Disease Control, declared that “all water is contaminated,” and “there is no drinking water” in the country.
  4. Unsafe drinking water increases Libya’s risk of waterborne illness. In July 2019, UNICEF spokesman for Libya Mostafa Omar estimated that nearly 4 million people out of Libya’s 7 million people would not have access to safe water in the event of a pipeline disruption. Diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and diarrhea may spread as a result of this lack of sanitation in Libya.
  5. Bacteria often contaminates each of Libya’s water sources. In fact, coliform bacteria has contaminated piped, well and transported water sources at a certain level. Piped water presents the largest risk, making up 55% of contaminated water samples. Additionally, 26% of contaminated samples came from well water, with the remaining 19% coming from transported water. In this environment, finding a reliable clean source of water is a struggle for many Libyans.
  6. UNICEF delivered drinking water to 106,000 Libyans in response to heightened needs in 2019. Approximately 41,000 of these people were located in conflict-affected areas. UNICEF also established services providing sanitation in Libya for 166,000 people and delivering hygiene items and information to 57,000 Libyans.
  7. This lack of water and sanitation has a particularly negative effect on girls. Girls who bring water to their homes or travel to use a latrine risk sexual assault when they venture out. Additionally, poor sanitary conditions make menstrual hygiene difficult to maintain, especially at school. In 2018, the Humanitarian Response Program invested $5.3 million in helping school-age children with a focus on helping girls navigate these problems.
  8. On average, 71 students share one toilet in Libyan schools. The Ministry of Education standard is 25 students per toilet. In these school bathrooms, there is soap 49% of the time, and 17% of schools have soap on occasion.
  9. In Libyan schools, 54% of water contains potentially harmful bacteria. Some of these bacteria raise serious concerns. For example, E.Coli has emerged in 10% of water samples. UNICEF and the National Center for Disease Control have prioritized funding projects that brought water and sanitation improvements to schools. Such projects benefited conditions for 10,000 school children only months after their implementation, improving sanitation in Libya.
  10. In 2019, there were 267,000 people in need of safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene-related items and information. In 2020, only 242,000 people are in need of UNICEF’s WASH services. However, the effects of COVID-19 and continued violence through the pandemic are likely to create more work for humanitarian groups over the next few years.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Libya address concerns that have existed for years. Clean water is scarce, and many citizens drink water unfit for consumption. Military conflict has destabilized the country, and many Libyans are having increased difficulty finding clean water and taking proper sanitary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the incredible circumstances in the country, however, many organizations working to ensure that thousands of Libyans receive access to the resources they need.

Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

 Cape Town Water Crisis
Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital, has a population of about four million, which is nearly 8% of the entire South African population. South Africa has been successful in cultivating a democratic country, but it has a persistent inequity issue. In 2015, the bottom 60% of the country only held 7% of South Africa’s net wealth. Although more than 55% of South Africans live below the poverty line, 93% of black South Africans live in poverty. Cape Town, although not exempt from issues of inequity, is a thriving metropolis to South Africa. When the Cape Town water crisis rose to a peak in 2017, it became imperative for the city to make some serious changes before they ran out of water completely. Here is how Cape Town recovered from its devastating water shortage and a look at where the city is today.

How the Crisis Began

Cape Town has long been praised for its award-winning water management achievements and efficient use of the city’s six largest reservoirs, which can hold up to 230 billion gallons of water. The city was well aware of the impending climate changes and took measures to decrease overall water consumption.

Despite their efforts, Cape Town neglected to factor in the steady decreases in annual rainfall. This oversight was minor at the time and the city’s reservoirs were full in 2014. However, a sudden three-year-long drought drained the reservoirs to only 26% capacity by 2017. The city declared they would shut municipal water taps off when they reached 13.5% capacity.

City Measures

The term “Day Zero” became the name for the day that water taps would be shut off city-wide, essentially the day Cape Town would officially run out of water. With Day Zero looming and reservoirs draining, the city and its residents sprung into action to avoid the ultimate Cape Town water crisis.

At the beginning of 2017, the average city resident used 600 liters per day. City officials lowered that daily limit to 50 liters per day. To put that number into perspective, the average Californian used 321 liters of water per day during the 2016 drought. If a household went above that 50 liter limit, it faced hefty fines and a meter installation to shut off the water automatically once it exceeded the daily limit. The city also implemented severe quotas for agricultural and commercial institutions.

Residents Doing Their Part

The Cape Town water crisis could not have been averted if not for innovative action from the residents themselves. People began to recycle shower and washing machine water as well as limit toilet flushes to once a day. Farmers diverted their water supply away from their own farms for the city to use. Swimming pools and lawns were no longer essentials and residents no longer used water for such amenities. Social media played a key role as well by being a platform to share advice with a large audience. Local restaurants and bars started competitions to see who could refrain from washing their clothes the longest. The combination of these efforts is what saved the 4 million people from ever having to experience Day Zero.

The Role of Poverty

Although the Cape Town water crisis affected the entire city, it hit some residents much harder than others. South Africa is already a country known for its inequity issues, and the water crisis exacerbated that fact. Wealthy residents found ways to get around the restrictions by hiring companies to dig $6,000 wells for them, buying large amounts of drinkable water at inflated prices, and even installing filtration systems to make groundwater drinkable. Poor residents, on the other hand, were at the mercy of the city and had to sacrifice buying food to be able to buy water.

Where is Cape Town Today?

Cape Town finally experienced an average rainy season in January 2018, allowing the city to postpone the arrival of Day Zero indefinitely. After the immediate crisis had been averted, the city began planning for ocean water desalination and groundwater extraction as backup water sources. These are more long-term solutions, but they present issues of their own such as the affordability of such intense installations and the impact on local ecosystems.

Limits on water usage have been loosened slightly; however, they still exist and are strictly enforced. This continues to negatively impact the city’s poorest residents. Perhaps the most helpful action taken since the crisis has been the weekly reports on dam capacities. As of July 2020, all the dams are holding steady at around 80% capacity.

Although the Cape Town water crisis never fully culminated in a citywide water shutoff, the impact of the event still resonates with the poor. Moving forward, efforts need to be made to ensure equal water access for all residents.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Sudan
A major headline in 2012 as a result of South Sudan’s secession was the economic crisis facing Sudan after its oil revenue, which accounted for over half of the government’s revenue, sharply decreased. However, Sudan has also been facing an equally pressing water crisis that could adversely affect the country’s future for decades to come.

The current water crisis in Sudan has resulted in widespread water shortages and desertification, the process by which fertile land becomes too dry for agriculture. Ultimately, an International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) report predicted that lower annual precipitation in combination with other environmental factors will significantly diminish land productivity in Sudan by 2050.

Water Scarcity and Poverty

Such a warning is especially important because about 65% of Sudan’s population lives in rural and agricultural areas, which produce almost 40% of the nation’s GDP. Additionally, poverty in these areas reaches upwards of 58% while water scarcity forces women and girls to abandon their jobs and school to find scarcely available water for domestic use. With women unable to work and girls not receiving an education, families earn less money and they have a smaller chance of improving their socio-economic status in the future. Therefore, it is clear that water plays a crucial role in Sudan’s economy and social development. This importance has made creating resilience to future crises in rural communities a national security priority for Sudan.

Urgent Global Aid

Most notably, Khartoum works with multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the IFAD as well as countries like the United States to address the water crisis in Sudan. Such partnerships have led to the Agriculture Revival Programme in 2008, which has the goal of increasing rural citizens’ incomes and creating sustainable methods of natural resource use. Furthermore, the government implemented regulations like the Seed Act in 2010 to increase sustainable farming practices in the face of dwindling fertile lands. Sudan has demonstrated its commitment to solving its water scarcity issue through these multibillion-dollar projects. However, lots of work remains in order to eliminate the water scarcity, which has led to Sudan creating additional programs focusing on tackling water-related problems over the past few years.

Much like a pandemic, the most effective handling of the water crisis in Sudan will come through early investments and collective action. Without either of the former, water scarcity could grow exponentially and the damage could extend beyond the loss of lives today. As a result, the water crisis could extend to future generations, consequently exacerbating problems of poverty, migration and hunger in Sudan for decades to come.

What Now?

Sudan currently has the ability to create sustainable solutions before its water crisis becomes an unforgiving catastrophe — a point at which Khartoum will only be able to do damage control. Substantial progress in alleviating the water crisis in Sudan has already occurred thanks to partnerships with multilateral bodies and NGOs, as well as initiatives from Sudan’s government that encourage sustainable agricultural lifestyles. Ultimately, through pursuing further policies and strategic partnerships that reduce water scarcity in the long-run, Sudan should be able to bolster its economy and protect its citizens from poverty.

Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Morocco is a water-scarce country. It is greatly impacted by the effects of rapid desertification, poor water management and high susceptibility to droughts. Water resources in the country have fallen by about 71% since 1980. In rural communities it is common for families to rely on one water source, meaning water scarcity can have profoundly negative impacts on Morrocan families and their livelihoods. Drought, in particular, occurs on average once every three years and can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of Moroccans. About 51.5% of the Moroccan population is negatively impacted by droughts. With drought on the rise, sustainable water management is integral to the development of the economy. As a result, an organization called Dar Si Hmad is stepping in to use CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

Water Scarcity and Poverty

The citizen’s organization ‘Social Watch’ identifies the poor management of scarce water resources as a serious aggravator of rural poverty in Morocco. Farmers and women in Morocco are particularly burdened by the effects of water scarcity. Forty percent of working Moroccans are employed in the agricultural sector and 70% of farmers struggle due to the impact of frequent droughts. Women in rural communities in Morocco spend on average 3.5 hours a day seeking and carrying water, restricting their time in pursuit of other activities.

CloudFishing to Solve the Water Crisis

Dar Si Hmad, a female-led non-governmental organization (NGO), is taking an innovative approach to solving the crisis of water scarcity and alleviating poverty in Morocco. The NGO’s vision is to “enable sustainable livelihoods and create opportunities for low-resource communities to learn and prosper.” It is pursuing this vision, in part, by using ‘CloudFishing’ to combat poverty in Morocco. CloudFishing is an approach to solve the water crisis by utilizing the abundant resource of fog. In Morocco, fog gathers from the ocean and is captured in the mountainous landscape for about 140 days out of the year. Dar Si Hmad uses fine mesh to ‘fish’ for droplets of water within the fog which, once it accumulates, drops into a basin and is then filtered through a process of solar-powered UV, sand and cartridge filters.

The water collected by Dar Si Hmad is piped to 140 households providing approximately 500 people in southwest Morocco with access to sustainable clean water. Dar Si Hmad has developed into the largest functioning fog collection project in the world and is directly contributing to poverty alleviation in the country. The project is partly funded by USAID in Rabat, Morocco. Sustained foreign aid from the U.S. is integral to the organization’s continued success. CloudFishing has a positive impact on women in the community who now have more time to devote to pursuing economic activities to help them rise out of poverty. Sustainable access to water also allows poor farmers to have more stable livelihoods and escape the cycle of poverty in Morocco.

Looking Forward

While clean water is a human right recognized by a number of international organizations and countries, in water-scarce Morocco it has become a luxury. Dar Si Hmad is continuing its work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing to build two new CloudFishers to provide water to 12 additional rural villages in Morocco. Dar Si Hmad plays an integral role in providing solutions like CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr