Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

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

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

Improving Water Supply in Palestine
Water is an extremely important resource in Palestine; yet, its inhabitants struggle to obtain adequate amounts of it to survive. When Palestine and Israel signed the Oslo Accords, Palestinians were to receive a certain degree of water access. However, the population of Palestine has doubled since the Oslo Accords came into play. Despite its growing population, Palestine retains the same amount of water access as in 1995. This is troublesome, considering the Oslo Accords’ purpose was to guarantee Palestinians’ water supply would increase to about 200 million cubic meters by 2000. The current amount of water access the Palestinian people have is simply insufficient. In the face of this dire situation, various international organizations are working on improving the water supply in Palestine.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

One organization that has assisted Palestinians for some time now is the international development agency, USAID. Since 1994, the group has been committed to improving Palestinian infrastructure. One of the agency’s key successes in improving water resources in Palestine was the upgrading of water distribution networks. This resulted in access to clean water for about 310,000 people as of 2014.

Since 1994, USAID has drilled or refurbished 17 wells and installed 900 kilometers of water pipelines. In addition to helping residents meet basic human needs, USAID initiatives have improved the state’s economy. In total, the organization’s accessibility efforts have provided 1,300,000 days of employment for Palestinians.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme has also been improving the water supply in Palestine. One example of the program’s support is in the Palestinian city of Rafah. Here, only 7% of water is utilized for domestic use as defined by the World Health Organization. Fortunately, the UNDP aided these Palestinians by building a 3000-cubic-meter water tank. This water tank has raised the water supply for about 50% of the city’s population. To date, the UNDP has conducted 200 other projects aimed at improving water supply in Palestine.

The UNDP has also initiated its Emergency Water Supply and Rehabilitation Programme. Many of the ongoing improvements have helped people in Rafah. Moreover, the Tel Al Sultan area, near Rafah, has seen boosts in its water supply as well. For example, 75,000 people living in the area have access to a reliable water supply for about 12 hours per day. This stands in stark contrast to previous statistics of half that amount, provided every three days. Another city the Emergency Water Supply and Rehabilitation Programme reaches is Beit Hanoun. About 70,000 Palestinians in this area now have a reliable source of water due to the implementation of two water tanks. Both tanks fairly distribute water from wells throughout the city. Finally, the UNDP has installed 10,000 meters of a new and improved water network that will prevent pipeline contamination.

Hope Flows

While Palestinians still struggle to obtain the water resources that they need, they have received crucial assistance from international organizations like USAID and UNDP. As Palestine continues receiving this beneficial assistance and reaps the subsequent health and economic benefits, there is hope that this state will soon provide clean water to all of its inhabitants.

– Jacob Lee
Photo: Flikr

H2O in Nepal
Margot Krasojevic Architecture will be responsible for a device that has the capability of extracting water in Nepal from clouds and store it for later use. Importantly, due to humidity and a landscape that is copious with mountain ranges and hilltops — this region of Asia would benefit greatly from water irrigation. The clouds that naturally form in the region will allow for a maximum of 5,000 liters of water production per day. This water, in turn, will be held in a water reservoir.

Water Irrigation and Reservoirs

The majority of the potential 5,000 liters of excess water in Nepal will likely serve to water tea and other crops. About 70% of all freshwater that is taken from the source is used for growing crops. Notably, a negative aspect of relying on water irrigation to feed crops is that, compared with water for in-home use, only 50% of the water returns to a natural water source. The remaining 50% — farmers/workers lose through leaking pipes or evaporation from watered plants. This stands in stark contrast when looking at in-home (and business) water use — where 90% can return to natural water supplies through sinks and toilets.

The potential (daily) 5,000 liters of cloud water that would be used for irrigation will be held in a man-made lake, known as a reservoir. Reservoirs are used when there is not enough rain flow for water to naturally hydrate vegetation. The water stored in this advanced, cloud-water, irrigation system should have a protective covering and cleaning mechanisms inside of it, to protect water from evaporation and accumulated sediment buildup.

The Commissioning of Margot Krasojevic Architecture

Having a well-functioning, cloud-water irrigator with minimal evaporation and sediment buildup will benefit the 6.1% of Nepali citizens who live on less than $1.90 per day. The process to draft worthy architects for the project included informing architects of what was expected and then choosing between various concept designs. The concept design turns into more complex scale drawings and ends with a finished structure.

The finished structure used to obtain water in Nepal will include landscape-inspired contours and solar power. In that same vein, this architecture firm has a plethora of environmentally-friendly structures. The founding architect of Margot Krasojevic Architecture, Dr. Margot Krasojevic, believes that other builders should design based on social changes and environmental events of the past as well. Dr. Margot Krasojevic would also like to see the footprint of modern technology in building designs.

Dr. Krasojevic believes that architects should have guidelines for building projects. Project guidelines should incorporate proportions of materials that are renewable and not damaging to the environment. Also, Dr. Krasojevic believes that it would be wise for builders to aid in the preservation of the planet’s limited resources. She sees the potential in extra steps taken to mitigate environmental depredation and resource misuse.

Architects and Project Commissioners: A Joint Effort

As Nepal commissioned this architecture firm to build a sustainable structure, there may be changes/additions needed for the structure. Architects can work hand-in-hand with the commissioners of projects and take feedback and alter projects as necessary. As the leaders look to procure useful water in Nepal, the need for continued supplies of water and interplay between structure and environment may add more dimensional depth to the project. Nepal will positively benefit from this structure and its potential to increase water-security within the country.

DeAndré Robinson
Photo: Pikist

Water Transport in Low-Income Countries
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50 percent of the world’s population will live in water insecure areas by 2025. Around the world, about 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed water sources. This forces them to travel 30 or more minutes to get water and creates missed opportunities for those who have to take time out of their day to travel for water. Companies have created innovative solutions for water transport in low-income countries. Here are four facts about water transport in low-income countries.

4 Facts About Water Transport in Low-income Countries

  1. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that women and children fetch water for around 71 percent of households without a water source at home. This creates a disadvantage to women and girls who hope to go to school and work in the future. Studies have also shown negative physical effects on the body from constant water carrying. Individuals often have to carry much more than they can handle for 30 minutes or more on the journey home. People in these situations experience missed opportunities because of physical or mental fatigue, as well as time lost due to water collecting. A study that Jo-Ann Geere and Moa Cortobuis conducted found that the time to retrieve water ranged from 10 minutes to 65 minutes. They also may repeat this journey time multiple times per day depending on how much water they need. New ways of water transport in low-income countries are integral to the welfare of women and children in these communities.
  2. The Hippo Roller is an invention helping with water transport in low-income countries. The rolling water devices can carry up to 90 liters of water at a time and remove the need for heavy lifting. The device can last up to 7 years on rural terrain and provides a non-strenuous method of moving water from source to home. This innovative invention has made carrying water easier for around 500,000 people and the company hopes to continue to grow its outreach to more vulnerable communities.
  3. Communities continually attempt to shorten the travel distance from house to water source by building water services closer to living areas. The organization Water.org created a system called WaterCredit for people to take out microloans to install wells or sanitation facilities. The ability of homeowners to create their own source of water eliminates the need to transport water at all. The organization helped 27 million people so far in 16 countries and continues to expand on innovative ideas to bring clean water and sanitation to low-income communities.
  4. Another organization working to eliminate the need for water sources outside the home is Charity: Water. With a focus on local development, the organization takes an individualized approach to each community. It believes that by providing training and technology to local communities, individuals will have the knowledge to continue long-term maintenance on projects while expanding to new ones. The organization has empowered more than 11 million people through the funding of around 51,000 projects.

While these four facts about water transport in low-income countries show that water collection can be a challenge for many in the developing world, there are efforts to make water transportation easier. Through continued innovations like the Hippo Roller and efforts by organizations like Charity: Water and Water.org, water access for developing countries should become easier going forward.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Pakistan
Pakistan had a population of 210 million people as of 2017 and is the world’s fifth-most populous country. Further, it is surprising that Pakistan’s GDP has grown 3.3 percent in a single year considering that 24 percent of its population lives below the national poverty line. Poverty has contributed to citizens’ ongoing struggle with inadequate sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world that lack access to clean water. The nonprofit organization WaterAid conducted a study revealing that 21 million people out of the country’s total population lack access to clean water. Out of Pakistan’s total population, 79.2 percent of the rural poor have access to clean water. On the other hand, 98 percent of Pakistan’s rich have access to clean water. 
  2. Seventy-nine million people in Pakistan do not have access to a proper toilet. According to WaterAid.org, every two out of five people, or the majority of people living in poor rural areas, do not have access to a toilet. The lack of adequate facilities can create additional problems for citizens, such as bacterial infection or diarrhea. In fact, 16,800 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea each year. WaterAid is currently working to combat the sanitation issue in Pakistan by working with government and local officials to provide proper toilet facilities throughout disadvantaged communities.
  3. Pakistan’s women and young girls often stay at home rather than partaking in normal activities, due to a lack of menstruation supplies and proper facilities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 75 percent of women stay at home during menstruation. Due to a lack of resources and cleaning facilities, many girls have no choice but to use unsanitary methods for managing menstruation, such as homemade sanitary pads. Further, these methods are prone to cause vaginal infections as a result of reuse. 
  4. Improper sanitation and food storage are some of the major sanitation issues in Pakistan. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reveals the prevalence of illness from improper food care. Contamination of food due to washing it in unsanitary water sources can cause bacteria like E. Coli, salmonella and other pathogens to enter the human body, causing severe illness.
  5. Waterborne diseases are prevalent as a result of untreated drinking water. According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), 62 percent of the urban population and 84 percent of the rural population of Pakistan do not treat their drinking water to prevent waterborne diseases. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that 40 percent of all diseases in Pakistan are due to unsanitary drinking water.
  6. Stunted growth due to unsanitary conditions affects 38 percent of children in Pakistan. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that unsanitary conditions like drinking and bathing in unsanitary water stunt growth. In the state of Sindh, stunted growth affects 50 percent of children, which can also cause cognitive development stunting. The consequences of stunting are irreversible, causing lifelong implications for the child into adulthood. Working with these communities, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a stunting reduction program to work with families to provide children with clean water and facilities to fight against poor sanitation in Pakistan.
  7. The misuse of pesticides in Pakistan’s agricultural fields results in an annual death rate of 10,000 people per year from agrochemical poisoning. Around 500,000 people fall ill annually as a result, although most are fortunate to recover. When people do not properly use pesticides, they can persist through rain and flooding, eventually entering water sources. People drink these water sources, in turn causing illness. Training is crucial for agricultural workers to properly prevent water contamination.
  8. The population growth rate has been climbing since the late 1900s. According to the United Nations, the total population of the country will reach 220 million people by mid-2020. A researcher with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) stresses that millions of people still live without access to clean drinking water, which includes large metropolitan cities where drinking water is scarce. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) recommendation for government intervention to bring clean water to overpopulated areas should help improve sanitation in Pakistan.
  9. The lack of proper toilet facilities is a part of 41 million people’s lives in Pakistan. According to The United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the lack of toilets leaves people with no choice but to practice open defecation, which can lead to the spread of diseases among communities. Pakistan is the third-largest country where people practice open defecation. UNICEF is working with the government to help build toilet facilities for communities that need them to ultimately improve sanitation in Pakistan. These facilities are especially important for girls to protect them against assault, which happens often during open defecation.
  10. Only two cities in Pakistan — Islamabad and Karachi — have biological waste facilities. These facilities clean only about 8 percent of wastewater due to limited functioning, even with the already limited number of facilities to filter wastewater. Industrial waste also pollutes water in Pakistan. Out of 6,000 of the country’s registered businesses, 1,228 have “highly polluted” water sources. Government officials are working towards improving water treatment centers. Pakistan established the National Water Policy (NWP) to ensure that the country applies 10 percent of national funding to the development and repair of water infrastructure.

Pakistan’s impoverished citizens experience sanitation issues the most. The solutions are fairly simple but Pakistan’s acceptance of outside support will be a substantial step. If one considers the progress that Pakistan is already making to change the lives of people facing sanitation challenges in Pakistan, it is clear that the country should be able to implement real change and help communities thrive for years to come.

– Amelia Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Libya
The country of Libya has suffered from civil war since the violent removal of its former dictator Muammar Ghadafi. Challenges with the country’s water supply was one of the many humanitarian problems that have arisen due to this conflict. Yet, even in darkness, there remains some light as one can see in the efforts to resolve the water crisis in Libya.

The Libyan Desert

In order to first understand how resolving the water crisis in Libya has taken place, it is important to understand the environmental qualities of Libya itself. The country is a dry and arid place and the presence of freshwater and rainfall is extremely scarce. However, Libya contains many groundwater aquifers, which offer available quantities of water underneath the ground.

The Water Crisis

The Libyan people have been tapping into this water supply to sustain life and plan on continuous aquifer use. Even with this underground supply, there has always been a struggle to ensure the availability of freshwater. This shortage of water does not mean that the aquifers are emptying, but rather that they are becoming contaminated by seawater intrusion. The extraction of freshwater has caused seawater to invade the aquifers. Due to the intrusion of seawater since the 1930s, it is alarming that no one knows exactly how much freshwater remains in the aquifers. Further, records have determined that seawater intrusion has compromised about 60 percent of freshwater wells. The freshwater in these aquifers cannot replenish either, meaning that every drop must count for use.

Another reason for the Libyan freshwater shortage is the expanding agricultural industry. Some crops demand vast amounts of water; typically this extensive use results in water waste throughout agricultural production and processing. In fact, Libya uses about 93 percent of its water for agricultural purposes.

Since Muammar Gaddafi’s ousting, a third strain has impacted water availability as a result of oil conflict. Gunmen forcing water-workers to turn off supplies in Tripoli for two days exacerbated this violence. Additionally, the country’s power grid and water control systems suffered damage due to fighting.

The Impact on Libyan People

These problems have adversely impacted the Libyan people. The country pumps about 6 percent of groundwater for drinking use and domestic wells. Drinkable water is a daily issue for the people of Libya; some local bottled water might even be unsafe. The fact that this small amount of water (6 percent) is not reaching people outlines the dire situation in Libya.

Some Libyans have resorted to looting their fellow countrymen and women in a desperate search for viable drinking water. According to UNICEF, these problems in the Libyan water supply have adversely impacted poor sanitation.

The Attempt Towards Resolution

As bleak as some of these problems appear, there are some attempts to solve the water crisis in Libya. The IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, for example, gives support and training to impoverished nations to better manage water resources. In 2018 IHE Delft reported training programs for Libyan governmental authorities in water management, water resources planning and water desalination. The IHE Delft training should allow Libya to accomplish the maintenance and management of the water supply in Libya effectively.

America has noticed the troubles the Libyan people have faced as well. In 2019, the U.S. government provided $31.3 million in aid to address the humanitarian needs of the country. With this aid, the Libyan people can fix the infrastructure including the damaged power grids and the water control systems.

Resolving the water crisis in Libya has been no easy task. Today, the country still struggles with the water supply. Although, victories due to the help of USAID and IHE Delft have been impactful achievements. These organizations have provided financial aid and programming to the Libyan government which is exactly the type of support necessary to formally resolve the water crisis in Libya.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Water Access in Niger
In 2004, Niger ranked second to last on the UNDP Human Poverty Index scale. Since then, Niger’s poverty rate of 97.10 has decreased by 3.7 percent. While the poverty rate, based on those living on $5.50 a day, has declined throughout the past decade, 93.4 percent of poverty is still an extremely high value. Such high rates of poverty pose a daunting challenge to organizations attempting to lift Nigeriens out of poverty through endeavors such as implementing better sanitation and water access in Niger. Luckily, the company CityTaps is striving to improve make water access easier for the residents of Niger. 

Sanitation and Health in Niger

There are two systems available: improved and unimproved. The unimproved systems account for everything from open defecation to unsanitary toilets aiding in bacteria growth. In urban areas, 62.1 percent of the population has access to unimproved sanitation facilities. Without reliable access to water, improved sanitation facilities continue to be low in number.

Water Access in Niger

The World Bank has made great progress in improving sanitation and access to water in Niger. In June 2016, The World Bank invested $35 million in the Urban Water and Sanitation Project (PEAMU). Currently, an infrastructure project is underway to improve water treatment throughout the nation, in the hopes of improving living conditions and the Nigerien ecosystem. Although these achievements are making a positive impact, some of these projects are slow-moving, leaving the majority of the population without access to water in Niger. Organizations are seeking to fill the gaps from these international initiatives. 

Technology Behind CityTaps

The internet of things (IoT) has continued to grow with the use of technology to give physical objects more impact on the surrounding communities. IoT works by assigning an IP address to physical objects, which people can then use to track the object along with information about it. People can accomplish this anywhere, including Niger. Water monitoring has become one of the main areas of IoT implementation in north-west countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

CityTaps is utilizing this technology to improve current water meter systems. If people connect to a digital network, they can accomplish better measurements of water usage. In turn, this network is saving on water resources and money by identifying the water movement and the pump’s power consumption.

CityTaps’ Impact on Water Access in Niger

Since its implementation, consumers have begun paying 15 times less than with traditional water meters. Further, many people have gained access to water in Niger. CityTaps has chosen to take the innovative approach of allowing prepayment for water usage, giving people the chance to pay per use versus paying a very large bill. The one-time, large payment is too much for some families, forcing companies to turn off the water. Millions of Nigeriens have unstable or irregular incomes, making it difficult for them to pay monthly bills in full. Additionally, companies often take advantage of people with nonnegotiable bills, resulting in already impoverished individuals accruing more poverty.

Consumers also have access to the account through cell phones, providing constant access to rates of use. Budgeting is much easier with the ease of use through CityTaps. Implementing such technology has benefited over 13,000 people, which has encouraged CityTaps to set higher goals of reaching more people and extending a greater impact. In 2019 and into 2020, CityTaps will begin deployment of an additional 10,000 meters which will result in about 100,000 more people than the original 13,000 people and continue to have ripple effects in consumer’s ability to build up community sanitation and health.

CityTaps’ Longterm Goals

CityTaps’ ultimate goal is to reach 2 million people by 2022. The team behind CityTaps aims to continue developing time, money and water savings for consumers and countries in need of water access improvements. Being a fairly dry country, better usage of water resources in Niger is crucial, especially in the event of droughts. Additionally, saving money for the urban poor allows these families to invest in greater opportunities or otherwise improve living conditions. Finally, women and girls will no longer have to spend long hours retrieving usable water.

Innovation of CityTaps

Similar to other organizations, CityTaps is focusing on improving the quality of life and well-being for the urban poor. CityTaps is paving the way by connecting data from the water utilities and metering to people’s cell phones. This easy-to-use technology aims to remove barriers for Nigeriens to gain reliable access to water. 

Additionally, CityTaps is working to make government utilities become financially independent, allowing investment into water and sanitation infrastructure to further support these communities.

CityTaps understands that access to clean water at home will support the development of sustainable sanitation and health. Water access in Niger has already seen growth with CityTaps technology.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts About Sanitation in AnguillaAnguilla is a Caribbean island about half the size of Washington D.C., nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Its tropical climate and terrain of low-lying coral and limestone have all contributed to this beautiful island’s dramatic water crisis. With a population of only 18,090, islanders have survived the island’s dry environment for more than 300 years. With careful husbandry, water conservation and the use of cisterns, Anguillans have found ways to make their erratic rainfall schedule work for them even during unpredictable drought periods, which can last up to three or four months. As access to improved sanitation facilities increases and tourism flourishes, the islands underground aquifer has been pushed to capacity. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Anguilla and how they contribute to the depletion of the island’s supply of drinking water.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Anguilla

  1. In 1995, improved water sources were only available to 57 percent of the Anguillian population. Improved sanitation facilities include the use of a “flush or pour-flush sewer system, septic tank or pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine; pit latrine with slab or a composting toilet.” In 2011, records showed an increase to 95 percent. By 2015, that number increased again to 97.9 percent of the population; at least 98 percent of those facilities were flush toilets.
  2. Because Anguilla does not have rivers, its drinking water consists of collected rain, wells connected to underground aquifers and desalination. Reportedly in 2000, 60 percent of the population had access to drinking water. Later, 61 percent of households indicated that their main source is from bottled water.
  3. At least 73 percent of the Anguillan population still gathers water from a cistern that pipes water into their homes. The same report from 2011 says that 15 percent of the population used the public water piped into their homes. At least 4 percent used a “public standpipe, well or tank.”
  4. The poor quality of water obtained from cisterns is of concern it is used for drinking purposes in addition to other domestic uses. Contaminants from rainwater can grow in containers like cisterns. They pose a health threat to those consuming the water. Pathogens like bacteria, viruses and Protozoa in cisterns can be treated with chlorine. However, chlorine can lose effectiveness within 24 hours of entering a cistern and these microorganisms that are transmitted in water can cause disease, which includes the potential of death.
  5. A combination of agricultural fertilizer, animal wastes as well as wastewater run-off from domestic and commercial septic tanks are seeping untreated into groundwater. This causes a chemical pollution problem for what little drinking water the island does have.
  6. Nitrate concentrations are increasing in most of the production and test wells connected to the underground aquifer. For many years, Anguilla’s aquifer has been subjected to periodic laboratory analysis by those concerned with public health and environmental quality. It shows nitrate concentrations in excess of the maximum acceptable drinking water limit.
  7. Pollution in groundwater that spills into coastal ponds and phosphates from detergents in domestic wastewater provide the right chemical nutrients to accelerate the growth and proliferation of unpleasant marine algae. This creates murky coastal waters, prevents coral growth.
  8. Chronic illnesses and diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer from which Anguillans suffer are believed to be a result of the poor quality of water that they drink. In an attempt to improve the health of the population, Ms. Ursuline Joseph of Dominica has recommended a solution to create acceptable levels of alkaline in water. X20 is “a mineral-rich alkaline product” containing 77 different types of minerals to prevent diseases from developing in the body. Manufactured by Xooma, X20 originates from an ocean source off the coast of Japan. When the powdered product is added to 1.5 liters of water, it alkalizes with minerals and becomes healthier to drink.
  9. Anguilla’s primary water management problems arise out of the fact that there is not very much to manage. With an annual average rainfall of about 40 inches per year. Evaporation rates can reach 70 inches per year during droughts. The number of wells dug into the aquifer over the years is unknown. However, professional hydrologists and water engineers worry about the prospect of over-pumping in the near future. That being said, professionals are finding themselves less worried about the amount of groundwater left and more concerned with the quality of the groundwater itself.
  10. Pure Aqua provides a range of filtration and economical solutions to meet Anguilla’s water needs based on its resources. Focusing on reverse osmosis and water treatment, Pure Aqua manufactures and supplies high-quality water treatment systems built with cutting-edge technology. It custom-designs its systems for specific applications across many different industries. Anguilla has only a few options for sources of water. These include surface water, desalination, groundwater and government water. Pure Aqua provides systems with the ability to treat any of these sources with a host of different methods such as ultrafiltration systems, media water filters, brackish water RO, seawater reverse osmosis systems, chemical dosing, UV sterilizers and water softeners.

The demand for water resulting from the expansion of new residential areas and tourism facilities has devastated groundwater supply in Anguilla. The root problem is that pumping rates at the wells now in use are maxed out. Trying to extract more water would risk the structural integrity and possibly allow seawater intrusion, thus destroying the aquifer. Sanitation as a whole has seen enormous strides forward while also being part of the reason pollution threatens the water sources that are available.

Janice Athill
Photo: Wikimedia