Hydroelectric Power in Kyrgyzstan
The increasing demand for centralized electrical power has put growing pressure on the government to modernize Kyrgyzstan’s hydroelectric capacity. Kyrgyzstan’s government has sanctioned the expansion of its energy infrastructure to mitigate extreme poverty and improve access to fundamental necessities in rural communities. As a focal point of its export economy, hydroelectric power modules supply 76 percent of its electricity. With lowering water inflow and deteriorating infrastructure, Kyrgyzstan faces a unique problem in mitigating and expanding its hydroelectric import/export industry while balancing the rampant poverty and income inequality among rural and urban communities. The surrounding Kyrgyzstan economy relies mostly on agricultural cultivations and the cotton export industry. With the increased development of modules of hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan, the controlled water supply offers the potential for massive growth in the agricultural industry. As a renewable energy source, hydroelectric energy provides the potential to control the rate at which the water flows and of the amount used, which is crucial to energy production.

Socioeconomic Implications

Traditional agricultural methods that rural communities commonly practice create the potential for extensive economic growth through the implementation of an updated hydroelectric system. Through a controlled system, the irrigation of various crops is more efficient with a renewable energy source that has less pollution. With substantial economic implications, hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan encourages more commercial enterprises to migrate to agrarian areas where people cannot access basic public services like running water and education as easily.

With 32 percent under the poverty line, the need for a centralized hydroelectrical grid can have vast socioeconomic implications, with an improved water supply system and improved access to basic health necessities. With Kyrgyzstan’s main hydroelectric infrastructure outdated and in need of a sufficient upgrade the inconsistency attached to this older hydroelectric module creates insecurity in basic necessities. With access to basic social programs tentative on ideal weather conditions in urban communities, the expansion of clean renewable energy sources can potentially create an influx of economic prosperity and improve energy efficiency throughout the country.

A focused effort toward improving consistent energy output will allow the quality of life to improve and give the impoverished a promising start toward economic mobility with increasing hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan. Reducing toxic chemicals put into the air from traditional cooking/heating methods in rural communities can allow room for a more comprehensive hydropower infrastructure. Rural communities on average tend to use more fossil fuels with more than 60 percent using those perishables due to inconsistencies within hydroelectric distribution and no updated grid system that would make those other methods obsolete.

Government Legislation

Since its independence, Kyrgyzstan established a network of standard practice in energy distribution with a comprehensive legislative agenda. People are underutilizing the potential for an increased hydroelectric presence as a larger kinetic energy source with geographically crucial bodies of water producing 5-8 billion kW·h per year and the country only using 3 percent. A more consistent hydroelectric grid is necessary for Kyrgyzstan’s economy to boost its agricultural sector. The government introduced the National Energy Program that assists in renovating abandoned hydropower plants and initiates constructing new ones. Additionally, government sectors have committed to actively work on the cultivation of Kyrgyzstan’s massive untapped energy sector. Along with a growing private sector and updated technology to improve the essential food and health infrastructures hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan will increase the capacity of its economy.

Adam Townsend
Photo: Flickr

Provide Access to Clean Water
Back in 2011, the creator of AquaSafi, Kevin Cluff, wanted to provide a solution to those 800 million people in the world who do not have access to clean water. He then created water purification systems to place in developing countries to provide people with access to clean water. Cluff and AquaSafi partnered with NGOs in India to bring the systems to the country due to how expensive the systems are. AquaSafi has already provided over 100,000 people with access to clean water and helped communities in other ways too.

Water Purification Systems

Having access to clean water is arguably the biggest necessity in developing countries. Clean water access is crucial because, without it, people can contract waterborne diseases such as polio, malaria, cholera and diarrhea. Diarrhea alone causes 2.2 of the 3.4 million deaths from waterborne diseases a year because developing countries often do not have access to modern medicine. Unfortunately, having access to clean water is becoming harder when people are polluting more and more of the water supply.

Luckily, AquaSafi has provided a potential solution to this widespread problem. The water purification systems that AquaSafi has created utilize reverse osmosis systems, which is a process that uses pressure to eliminate contaminants from water. Because the systems use only pressure, they require little electricity, water and space to operate.

Clean Water at an Affordable Price

To bring its systems to developing countries, AquaSafi partners with NGOs in those areas. By gaining the investments from organizations like H2O for Humanity, AquaSafi opened up stores in India where people can buy 20 liters of water for 3 cents. This affordable pricing is essential in making this an effective solution, as those living in extreme poverty are frequently living under $1.90 a day.

Other Benefits of AquaSafi

Through opening these stores, communities have benefited in ways that one might not think. Before, up to 4,000 children died every day due to waterborne illnesses. Now, in the communities with AquaSafi, the child death rate has dropped so much that school attendance is up. Additionally, the removal of fluoride from water sources has made cramps and joint pains go away for many people. Lastly, by opening up stores in the communities that most need them, AquaSafi has provided employment opportunities for locals. The organization trains those people on how to operate the system and perform maintenance when necessary.

By providing the solution of its water purification systems, Aquasafi has helped provide access to clean water to hundreds of communities. To lower the price per 20 liters, AquaSafi partnered with NGOs like H2O for Humanity so that those living in extreme poverty can afford it. The stores placed in these communities have also allowed those living in extreme poverty to gain employment opportunities which allow for the money spent on the water to go back into the communities. Overall, these water purification systems can save thousands of lives at an affordable cost as well as benefit the communities financially, which could potentially start to uproot people out of extreme poverty.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Solving the Water Crisis in Iraq
Iraq faces a deepening water crisis due to the consequences of war, upstream damming and decreased rainfall. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have dropped to precariously low levels, negatively affecting public health and agriculture productivity. The water crisis in Iraq requires international cooperation and innovative solutions.

The Problem

Iraq’s water supply has reached dangerous levels due to a myriad of reasons, perpetuating a cycle of constant crisis. The war in Iraq has resulted in the destruction of infrastructure necessary for potable water, such as dams and treatment plants.

Furthermore, dams in Syria and Turkey have decreased water levels in both major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. Iraq, historically reliant on these two rivers, has suffered greatly as a result of the upstream dams. Maintaining the crisis is the fact that average precipitation has decreased to among its lowest recorded levels.

The Consequences

The water crisis in Iraq produces several key consequences for the country. Among them are public health concerns, decreased agricultural productivity and political unrest.

If Iraqis have access to water, it is often unsafe for consumption. In Basra, 120,000 residents required hospital treatment in just one year due to contaminated water. Additionally, according to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi government often fails to warn citizens about the dangers and presence of poor water quality.

Iraq’s agriculture sector places additional stress on the already limited water supply. In fact, the water crisis in Iraq prompted the government to suspend rice farming entirely. One in five Iraqis is employed in the farming industry. The water crisis has left many without an income and has forced others to find work elsewhere. This affects not only the farmers but the thousands of Iraqis who rely on the food they produce.

Many Iraqis are dissatisfied with the government due to the water crisis. They believe that Iraq’s government should have done more to protect water security such as by building dams of their own. In a country racked by instability and violence, protests over the government’s mishandling of water have left nine dead, hundreds injured and many more detained in prison according to the Human Rights Watch.

The Solution

No easy solution for the water crisis in Iraq exists. However, progress will require international cooperation. An international dialogue will need to address the Syrian and Turkish dams that starve Iraqi portions of the Tigris and Euphrates. Additionally, Iraq is in desperate need of aid to build its own water infrastructure.

In July 2019, Turkey published a detailed report regarding its plan to assist Iraq through the crisis. Turkey plans to take three critical steps in order to alleviate the strain placed on its southern neighbor. They will allow more water to flow into Iraq from the Tigris and the Euphrates. To help rebuild infrastructure, Turkey will provide financial aid. Finally, they promise to train Iraqi engineers and technical personnel on wastewater treatment and hydrology.

The United Nations, through UNESCO, hopes to provide training and financial aid to Iraq as well. The organization believes updated irrigation systems will deliver relief to Iraq’s struggling farmers. UNESCO plans to target aid in the two regions most affected by the water crisis, the northern and southern tips of Iraq.

The water crisis in Iraq stands in the way of further development. The country has, unfortunately, endured many hardships in recent history, but international cooperation remains its best hope for stability and prosperity.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Pixabay

Ghana’s Water Crisis
Much like many other countries in Africa, Ghana’s water crisis is straining the nation. The local government has taken steps to try and minimize the damage, but a growing population, faulty equipment and rapid urbanization are outpacing most improvements. Here are eight facts about Ghana’s water crisis.

8 Facts About Ghana’s Water Crisis

  1. While some African countries suffer from a lack of water, Ghana suffers from too much polluted water. The problem lies in a lack of functioning water filters. The government plans to replace these defective filters, but the costs can run to an estimated $35 million. Despite this, the government is going ahead with the project with the support of outside companies, such as Native Energy and NGOs.
  2. The rapid urbanization in Ghana causes water pollution. Unsafe housing with poor housing facilities like sinks and toilets pour polluted water into waterways. This causes families to resort to water vendors, which are often not sanitary. This leads to a vicious cycle of water pollution, where more people get sick as a result.
  3. One of the leading diseases affecting the people of Ghana is cholera. It spreads primarily through the use of faulty toilets and plumbing. A flash flood further exacerbated the situation in 2014 when copious amounts of polluted water mixed with water supplies, affecting 30,000 people.
  4. The government has taken steps to improve the state of affairs with the Ghana Clean Water Project. This project seeks to improve the water situation by hiring skilled individuals to administer water quality testing as well as teaching communities how to maintain sanitation practices. The cleanliness is especially important since as mentioned before poor sanitation contributes heavily to Ghana’s water issues.
  5. Dry winter winds, called harmattan, also cause water shortages in Ghana. This leads to water rationing, which of course leads to protests and public discontent. Deforestation and illegal gold mining further exacerbate the problem by further polluting the limited water supply.
  6. Seventy-three percent of the population, or about 23 million people, use water that may not follow sanitary standards. This would mean that only 3.9 million people in Ghana can access water that is safe. Everyone else has to sift through contaminated water.
  7. Population growth, alongside rapid urbanization, also causes water pollution. Between 2016 and 2050, projections estimate that the population of Africa will double. For Ghana, this means that while new economic activities could crop up, the strain on water resources will also increase. Ghana’s situation can only get worse as time goes on if it leaves these issues unchecked.
  8. The African Development Bank calculated that granting universal access to water across Africa would cost $66 billion. This does not even include the $170 billion necessary to create a sustainable infrastructure to keep water supplies high. Officials in the government say that Ghana will need a better allocation of resources to see through possible improvements.

Unless the government receives outside help, however, it may be some time before it acquires any substantial gain in sanitation or water production. This is why these eight facts about Ghana’s water crisis are so important.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Africa Water Solutions
John Ochieng knew his people deserved better. After all, access to water, the world’s most basic need, should not be this difficult. Now, Ochieng has been with Africa Water Solutions (AWS) for eight years working as the Operations Director. The nonprofit organization focuses on helping communities have access to safe water in their homes. This year alone they have their sights set on nearly 200 villages.

John Ochieng

A native of eastern Uganda, Ochieng’s parents passed away when he was young resulting in the loss of their property. Through the experience with the legal system, Ochieng found “justice was not for the poor” which inspired him to pursue a law degree. Ochieng graduated from Makerere University with a law degree in 2007 and practiced as a judge for six months before resigning. Ochieng noted the justice system in Uganda is not as effective as it is in the United States. After returning to his hometown, Ochieng found a hole being utilized as a latrine behind several homes. This discovery is what led to his involvement with Africa Water Solutions, and how he ultimately found himself doing what he is doing today.

Uganda’s Struggles with Water

Despite recent steady economic growth, more than 23 million Ugandans still do not have clean water. Even though the small country is home to the world’s largest lake and longest river, the open water is undrinkable. The high demand for clean water and poor management of sanitation systems has led to these shortages. Uganda suffers from erratic rains, deforestation, environmental degradation and pollution. This water crisis affects education, health and poverty, as well as women and children.

A 2016 World Bank Poverty Assessment shows Uganda has reduced monetary poverty faster than any other sub-Saharan African country, decreasing from 31.1 percent in 2003 to 19.7 percent in 2013. However, Uganda lags behind on non-monetary areas like sanitation and education.

The United Nations found Ugandans lose nearly 40 billion hours a year fetching clean drinking water, leaving little time for other things throughout the day. Further, Oeching stated Ugandans walk between three to four hours a day for clean drinking water, “wasting time to fetch 20 liters of water.” Women and children carry the heaviest burden as they are responsible for retrieving water for the family. This responsibility then places them at increased risk for assault and injury.

Children often miss school because they are collecting water or are sick from a water-borne illness. Females are kept home when menstruating because there is no private place to attend to their hygiene needs. Because children are unable to attend school and get an education, the entire nation is affected as it becomes more difficult to emerge from the cycle of poverty.

In Uganda, 20 percent of the population lives in urban centers while the remaining 80 percent reside in rural areas. The 80 percent often lack clean water, washrooms and electricity. Africa Water Solutions helps these communities have those amenities by encouraging self-sustaining practices.

Africa Water Solution’s Impact

Africa Water Solutions aims to “trigger people’s minds to think they can solve their own problems.” Each village has between 100-150 homes. Ochieng said the process begins by mobilizing the leaders to mobilize their people. To do so, they first identify key brokers, government and kingships, and meet with local leaders who then call for a village meeting. At the village meeting, conversations are started as pictures of houses in that village are displayed. Africa Water Solutions is then able to share what they have done with other villages. Once the villagers begin to realize “they have been drinking feces,” people begin to ask, “how can we do this?” Ochieng commented they transform homes to show them they can have something different and do not have to wait for aid.

Africa Water Solutions provides a range of solutions. For areas with rainfall but few sources of water, they construct 6,000-liter tanks to reduce the time spent fetching water, which also decreases the risks faced by women and children. Africa Water Solutions also teaches communities how to build simple household infrastructure and how to clean up waste in and around their homes. Additionally, the nonprofit organization teaches Ugandans Solar Water Disinfection, a simple water purification technique using a water bottle and the sun’s UV rays.

The Results

In response to their efforts, Africa Water Solutions has seen a 23 percent increase in school attendance because children are not sick from waterborne illness or retrieving water. Through menstrual hygiene management training at schools, teachers are better equipped to help female students who are menstruating, so they do not have to miss out on their education.

Outside media presents the need of the nation, not the opportunity Ochieng mentioned. “As a country, we are blessed with so many resources,” said Ochieng. “There is life, happiness, and people doing great things, but the struggles are what is represented.” The country is on track to transformation and Africa Water Solutions is helping them get there.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

water quality in pakistanOf the many problems plaguing the country, one of the biggest issues is that of water quality in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis have poor access to safe water, and in many cases, they do not have access to any water at all.

Lack of Water

Despite having some of the most glaciers of any country in the world, Pakistan is considered both water-stressed and water-scarce. Pakistan has the highest water intensity rate- the amount of water used per unit of GDP- in the world and also has the fourth-highest rate of water usage in the world. Many of Pakistan’s communities are situated in arid or semi-arid areas, receive very little rainfall and commonly experience droughts. The agricultural economy relies on flood irrigation to care for water-intensive crops. Ghulam Murtaza, a senior research officer at Pakistan Water Council said that farmers use 10 times more water than is needed for their crops. Industrialization and rapid population growth have led to the country’s water being used at a rapid rate, forcing many to walk miles to collect water or drink from the same sources as animals.

Water Contamination

Poor access to water makes it difficult for many to avoid drinking polluted water. Only 20 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. The other 80 percent are forced to drink water that has been contaminated by sewage and poor chemical disposal practices. Most of the water in Pakistan is obtained from groundwater which is easily contaminated by improperly disposed of waste. Waste contamination in water can transmit many human diseases. About 50 percent of all diseases people suffer from in the country are caused by poor water quality in Pakistan. Many diarrheal diseases are endemic in Pakistan and cause up to 100,000 deaths each year and account for 33 percent deaths. The lack of safe water has led to a rise in the bottled water industry, but this is just as unsafe. A recent study found that 100 out of 111 bottled water companies were selling unsafe water to consumers.

What is being done

Fortunately, the Pakistani government is taking the water situation seriously. Set up of higher quality water filtration plants is underway in the Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. Additionally, the government is also sponsoring dam-creation programs to lessen the strain on water requirement. The country also plans to improve sanitation conditions to reduce the amount of groundwater contamination.

Water quality in Pakistan is a long way from perfect. The many people of the country have limited access to any kind of water at all, and those who do likely are not drinking clean water. Poor management on many fronts has led to these shortages and issues. However, recognition of these issues is the first step to solve the water quality issues in Pakistan. The Pakistani government and other outside groups have taken notice and the country is taking its first steps to change the unsafe conditions surrounding drinking water.

– Owen Zinkweg
Photo: Unsplash

Water Crisis in Iraq
Historically, Iraq has been a particularly fertile region, containing both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. However, wars, economic sanctions, damming, pollution and decreased rainfall have together created a water crisis in Iraq.

Current Status

River levels in Iraq have dropped by 40 percent in the past two decades, according to the Ministry of Water Resources of Iraq. The drop has been partially caused by dams and reservoirs built by Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor, and decreased rain levels.

Canals branching out of the Tigris which are used to water rice, wheat and barley fields have run dry, leaving the fields barren. In a country where an estimated fifth of the population participates in agriculture, this has been particularly devastating. Some farmers have been reduced from cultivating 60 hectares of land to just five.

Basra, a governorate of approximately 4 million people, has been hit especially hard by the water crisis in Iraq. The region has suffered from a lack of reliable clean drinking water for the past 30 years. Basra relies mostly on the Shatt al-Arab river and its smaller canals for water. However, upstream damming has diverted river water for use on sugar plantations and other agricultural projects. This combined with decades of decreasing rainfall levels, predicted to only get worse with climate change, has created a severe lack of clean water in Basra.

Not only have water levels decreased, but the water available is also often contaminated. Iraqi water management plants suffer from a shortage of chlorine to treat contaminated water due to government regulation aimed at preventing armed groups from acquiring chlorine for use in weapons. However, even sufficient levels of chlorine would be unable to get rid of certain contaminates. The water of the Shatt al-Arab has been affected by seawater due to reduced river flow and by fecally contaminated groundwater which seeps in through cracks in pipes.

Contaminated water carries the risk of waterborne illnesses. In the summer of last year, 118,000 people in Basra were hospitalized to treat afflictions related to contaminated water. Additionally, highly salinized water damages soil and kills crops, a significant issue in Basra where agriculture is the primary method of sustenance. In the face of water shortages and contamination of the existing water sources, residents have been forced to purchase water at high prices. Those who cannot afford this are forced to rely on tap water which may carry diseases.

Efforts to Address the Water Crisis in Iraq

Although the water crisis in Iraq seems dire, steps are already being taken to rectify it. UNESCO is partnering with the Iraqi government to reform the water management sector and improve irrigation systems.

The agency is assisting the Ministry of Water Resources’ efforts to expand the capabilities of water management experts, strengthen the institutions which impact water resource management and create a national policy for water sustainability. Additionally, UNESCO works to facilitate agreements on water management between Iraq and its neighbors. Iraq depends on water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, water sources also shared by Turkey, Syria and Iran. Water security for all of these countries, therefore, depends on cooperation. UNESCO promotes dialogue between these countries in order to ensure the water is managed in a way that provides for all.

Additionally, UNESCO addressed the water crisis in Iraq through improvements to irrigation systems, often utilizing ancient methods that have existed in the region for millennia. In the northern Kurdish governorates, for instance, UNESCO has worked to restore the Kahrez system, an ancient method of providing drinking water and agricultural irrigation. Through this system, water is collected at the base of hills and transported to fields by a network of wells. Although the Kahrez systems have fallen into disrepair in past years, UNESCO is currently engaged in cleaning and restoring the wells in order to provide drinking water and irrigation for the surrounding communities.

The agency is also collaborating with officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government to train workers in the water management field and has provided hydrological testing equipment.

Through these efforts, the water crisis in Iraq may be alleviated. It’s yet another example of what can happen when nations work together and help each other out.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water Management in SomaliaSomalia is a South African country frequently plagued by droughts and floods. The nation is currently receiving the bulk of a $45 million assistance from the United Nations’ aid meant to help Ethiopians, Kenyans and Somalis suffering from a major famine caused by the ongoing drought. To break this cycle of famine, an efficient and affordable water management system in Somalia is desperately needed.

Infrastructure Improvement

The majority of Somalis depend on livestock and agriculture for income. Yet, frequent floods and droughts result in a lack of basic necessities, such as food and water. One way to reduce this lack is to implement an intelligent system capable of storing water during floods to preserve it for coming droughts. Reusing greywater, which is water from sources such as sinks and bathtubs, is one efficient way of preserving and reusing water for crops. Somalia thus needs infrastructure development to control floodwater, especially in the construction of aquifers.

Most Somalis live along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers, but many depend on groundwater. Dug wells, boreholes and springs are the most common sources of water. Somalis heavily rely on groundwater, however, it does not provide enough water in times of drought. The Somalian Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) partnered with the European Union and Somaliland to improve infrastructure, water and land management. Dr. Hjordis Ogendo of the EU Chard d’Affairs said, “Water and land are critical resources for Somali economy and people’s livelihoods but are also extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.”

Floodplains and Groundwater Replenishment

Infrastructure improvements could help mitigate the cost of restoring the land and relocating those who return to destroyed homes. These improvements include through-reservoirs and flood canals that divert water away from farms and homes. Moreover, California farmers have recently begun implementing floodplains and groundwater replenishment strategies. Don Cameron of Terranova Ranch experimented with flooding his 1,000-acre land with water from a river that was high from recent rains.

Cameron was concerned about the amount of water in the reservoir during a long drought after repeatedly digging wells. The replenishment strategy enables water to soak into the ground and collect in an aquifer. As such, Cameron’s grapevines remained unharmed. This began a trend to keep a steady amount of water in the aquifer and above ground.

For Somalis, an affordable method could be as simple as storing water in aquifers to combat future droughts. Therefore, the floodplains and groundwater replenishment strategy presents one prospective Somali water management system that could improve the future outlook of drought mitigation.

Water Desalination Plants

A sophisticated and long-term solution for a water management system in Somalia includes water desalination plants. Although desalination plants are expensive, there are positive and lasting aspects of investing in a single plant. Desalination plants simply transform salt water from the ocean or sea into potable water. Israel currently receives 40 percent of its water from desalination plants. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water usage. Since more than 70 percent of Somalis work in the agriculture industry, water availability is crucial.

Future technological advances may reduce the high cost of constructing and operating desalination plants. Saudi Arabia also relies on desalination plants to desalinate seawater. As a semi-arid country, Somalia possesses an environment similar to that of Saudi Arabia. Although comparatively poor, Somalia could opt for desalination plants in the future once technological advances reduce implementation costs.

Future Outlook

With the help of funding a future water management system in Somalia, the need for external aid could be reduced and lead Somalia out of poverty conditions that result from devastating floods and droughts. Desalination plants are an expensive alternative, yet simple solutions such as the construction of aquifers to store floodwater could help millions of Somalis affected by droughts and floods. The implementation depends on the Somali government and its efforts in improving infrastructure. This includes not only managing water during floods and droughts but also reducing poverty by helping the nomadic herders and farmers making up the majority of Somalis.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

africa water grabWater is an essential but limited resource that is unfairly allocated in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Although one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG7) is to lower the number of people that currently live without sustainable access to safe water by at least half, there is much work to do. The African water grab by international banks and corporations is leaving small African farmers quite vulnerable.

Water Rights

The term “water rights” means the right to extract water from groundwater and other bodies of water. It grants access to desalination projects, water-purification and treatment technologies, irrigation and well-drilling technologies, water and sanitation services and utilities, water infrastructure maintenance and construction. Restrictive permit systems in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe have resulted in 100 million people being left with insufficient water.

Water rights for large commercial operations in Africa are granted primarily by permit laws that were established in colonial times. Small farmers have only customary water rights, which are agreements based on tradition rather than written law. Their operations are often too small to gain permits either because the government does not have the infrastructure to grant so many permits or farmers do not know to get them. Approximately half of sub-Saharan Africa governments use customary rights to water for home use and limited farm irrigation.

Inequitable Water Distribution

Since the end of Apartheid in South Africa, water distribution has remained inequitable despite the legislative efforts of the National Water Act (NWA 36 of 1998) and the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS2), which prioritize the allocation of water for socio-economic growth over commercial uses.

In Malawi, 80 percent of the people live in rural areas are dependant upon rain for agriculture success. This leaves the population vulnerable because there are frequent droughts, variations in climate and natural disasters. Recent estimates suggest that foreign investment in Mali’s land jumped by 60 percent between 2009 and 2010. In locations like Mali and Sudan, a new approach is badly needed. Some investors have been given unrestricted access to water. The chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, has called the buy up of farmland a “great water grab.”

Traditional access is efficient until there’s a conflict. In those cases, large-scale water users, with superior entitlements to use water for large-scale irrigation, mining, industry and hydropower generation, are better able to win disputes with the government. Internationally, water rights consolidated in the hands of a few is also a problem.

These new “water barons”—international banks and investors—are buying up the world’s water quickly.  With international and influential agents having extensive rights, and local farmers having questionable rights, the already limited water systems will be further stretched. “Exclusive reliance on national permit systems has, at least on paper, “criminalized” up to 100 million people lacking water permits in the five countries studied,” wrote Barbara van Koppen, the lead author of the report.

A Hybrid Approach

A recent report argued that the consolidation of water rights is hurting the environment and the small farmer, who holds only traditional water rights. The solution, the authors argue, is to support African governments in “decolonizing” water laws through a “hybrid” approach to water-use rights.  They recommend that permit systems be retained but used instead to regulate large-scale water users that have a large impact on small farmers and the environment. The hybrid approach would also extend legitimate rights to customary laws, which have guided investments in water infrastructure as well as water sharing for centuries.

Certain aspects of this hybrid approach are already in use in parts of Africa. Uganda is focusing on providing permits to 20 percent of its large-scale water users. These users require 80 percent of the resources. In Kenya, targeted permitting has been formalized. Water users are categorized from A to D, depending on the impact their water use has, and they are regulated accordingly. However, the legal protection for small-scale users still remains unaddressed.

Heather Hughes
Photo: Flickr

India's current droughtRecent efforts to stem corruption and promote economic growth have caused many to proclaim that India has a bright future ahead. However, India’s current drought poses a grave threat to their future. From 2001 to 2011, India’s annual per capita water availability decreased by 15 percent and most estimates have projected it to fall by almost 30 percent by 2050. In addition, India’s ever-growing population is expected to grow to 1.8 billion by 2050, making the already difficult task of providing clean water throughout the country that much harder. Needless to say, India has a major challenge on its hands that could define the future of the country.

What Has Caused These Issues?

While there are many reasons for India’s current drought, most experts point to a few main culprits. One of the biggest is India’s changing climate. As India has experienced progressively warmer summers, it has seen reduced snow cover throughout the Himalayan mountain region. This has resulted in decreased water runoff and increased water shortages over time.

Secondly, India has seen its water supply decrease as a result of poor agricultural practices by farmers. Considering that agriculture accounts for 90 percent of India’s water consumption, these practices, including improper use of pesticides and indiscriminate use of groundwater, have resulted in substandard water availability for the millions of Indians across the country.

Lastly, the country has been plagued by water pollution due to improper sewage systems and the dumping of waste in lakes and wetlands. This waste often finds its way into groundwater and contaminates it, resulting in drinking water that is unsafe to drink.

Improvements in Sanitation

While water scarcity in India is by no means a simple issue, there are many promising solutions to the problem, some of which are already being implemented throughout the country. One of the biggest areas of focus for many NGO’s working in India is on improving sanitation practices. Nonprofits such as Water.org and WaterIsLife have both done great work in recent years with to improve sanitation. Water.org has focused its work on providing people with the opportunity to use clean bathroom facilities, which has reduced open defecation. WaterisLife has helped install many wastewater treatment plants, which have helped treat dirty water and make it drinkable.

Rainwater Catchment Systems

India can also continue the good work that has been done by installing water catchment systems around the country. These systems can help recycle water and are a sustainable solution to the water scarcity issues that currently plague the country. Charity: Water, a non-profit based in New York City, has already played a major role in the installation of such systems around the country, which has helped make water more accessible for thousands of Indian citizens.

Looking into the Future

India is not the only country currently facing a drought. Many countries around the world, especially those located in warm or desert climates, are going through similar issues. However, swift action must be taken lessen the effects of the drought. Such action will require heavy contribution from both Indian citizens and the Indian government, along with NGO’s from around the world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pixabay