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

Women and WaterOver 600 million people struggle to access clean water for drinking and sanitation worldwide. While for many this is a communal problem, the burden of finding and collecting water often falls onto women. In developing nations, gender inequality becomes apparent when observing water management within communities. Women are responsible for this vital resource, yet often excluded from larger water management decisions. Engaging women in community water management solutions empowers them and establishes greater equity in developing communities.

The Burden of Water

Women and children bear the majority of the burden when it comes to water collection. Every day, they collectively spend almost 200 million hours locating and obtaining water for their communities. Over 50 million more hours are spent searching for sanitary places to relieve themselves. Hours devoted to collecting water take away time from education, employment and family. Additionally, in some areas, water scarcity is so severe that women have to settle for dirty and contaminated water for drinking, cooking and cleaning, exposing them to water-borne diseases and parasites.

Providing sources of clean water and sanitation to women in developing nations has the potential to do much more than reducing health risks. The hours women and children reclaim when they get access to clean water in their homes or villages can instead be used to pursue higher education, start small businesses or even grow food for their families. One study conducted by UNICEF in Tanzania found that cutting down the time needed for collecting water from 30 minutes to 15 increased rates of girls attending school by over 10 percent. However, since women are rarely actively included in the process of supplying and financing water management solutions, their perspectives are not addressed in the long run.

Access to Clean Water’s Impact on Women

When women get the opportunity to elevate their responsibility for water beyond collection and into management, their potential can blossom. Water.org features stories of the impact access to clean water can make on the lives of women. In India, they found that women are often forced to collect water from outside their communities due to a lack of funds for installing water taps near their homes.

This inspired the creation of WaterCredit, a service providing affordable, short-term loans going towards constructing taps that offer long-term access to clean water in developing communities. Women like Manjula make up nearly 90 percent of borrowers, reducing the need to travel so far outside their communities to obtain water. This gives them the time and energy needed to manage personal businesses, which earn enough income to easily repay the loan from WaterCredit. Water.org reports that WaterCredit provided around 4.6 million loans, amassing a total value of 1.7 billion dollars, demonstrating what a feasible and impactful solution this service offers.

Emmitt Kussrow
Photo: Flickr

World Water Day 2019While water might seem like a basic necessity, more than 650 million people worldwide lack easy access to clean water. Every year, the United Nations sponsors World Water Day. World Water Day raises awareness about global water crises, demonstrating the need for water in developing nations. Take a look at these interesting facts about how the U.N. celebrated World Water Day 2019.

5 Interesting Facts About World Water Day 2019

  1. “Leaving No One Behind”
    The theme for World Water Day 2019 was “Leaving No One Behind.” Technology is providing new methods to increase access to clean water. Additionally, it mobilizes programs combating water scarcity. Above all, technology connects individuals interested in making a difference, no matter where they are. However, these advances can’t only benefit privileged populations. Improvements must be available to marginalized groups, as well. World Water Day 2019 emphasized access to clean water is a human right, as recognized by the U.N. in 2010. Everyone deserves water, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or age.
  2. USAID’s Strategy
    The U.S. government is working to implement a strategy to improve global water access through the U.S. Agency for International Development. While the fight to bring access to clean water is global, USAID renewed its commitment to providing clean drinking water this World Water Day. As such, USAID supports the core objectives outlined in the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy. These objectives include promoting better stewardship of freshwater resources and expanding the availability of sanitation services. Additionally, USAID is enacting policy and programs aimed at providing 15 million people access to clean water by 2022.
  3. “Water Action Decade”
    This World Water Day marked the first completed year of the U.N.’s “Water Action Decade.” Three years ago, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously decided to make the global water crisis a top priority for 10 years straight. The “Water Action Decade” kicked off in 2018. Therefore, efforts to increase sustainable water management and access to safe water will last through World Water Day 2028. And nations around the world execute large-scale programs, addressing water scarcity stemming from pollution, drought and urbanization.
  4. Women and Water
    Women played a key role in the message of World Water Day 2019. While many suffer due to water scarcity, women disproportionately carry the burden. According to U.N. research, women and girls make up the majority of people responsible for obtaining water in areas where clean water isn’t accessible. Collectively, women devote around 200 million hours to finding and gathering clean water. Subsequently, a major goal for World Water Day 2019 was improving women’s access to water, which can lead to awesome opportunities that promote independence for women. Therefore, the U.N. sponsors women-led projects in rural areas to include women in community decisions about water as just one part of its commitment to improving universal access to clean water worldwide.
  5. U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
    In fact, World Water Day is just one example of U.N. efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6. Overall, the U.N. has agreed on 17 different goals to promote sustainable development worldwide, specifically in growing and impoverished nations. These Sustainable Development Goals must meet their goals by 2030. Particularly, the primary task of Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to make water safe, affordable and accessible universally. And World Water Day marks just one of many U.N. efforts to reach this crucial goal on target. Ultimately, the first step in achieving universal access to clean water is raising awareness.

Nevertheless, on World Water Day 2019, nations joined hands to strengthen efforts toward making clean water accessible worldwide. The celebration honored organizations that provide aid, unite communities and save lives. And they celebrate innovations that revolutionize water management, along with the people dedicated to campaigning for water access without leaving anyone behind.

Emmitt Kussrow
Photo: Unsplash

Water Resources in EthiopiaEthiopia — located in the horn of Africa — is the most populated landlocked country on earth with 102 million citizens. It is incredibly ecologically diverse, with mountains, river valleys, highlands and deserts existing side by side. There are significant surface and groundwater resources but the country is considered water-stressed due to its rapid population growth. Climate change has been affecting the already inconsistent rainfall patterns, and during the dry season puts pressure on remaining water sources.

Water resources in Ethiopia should be three things: available, accessible and free from contamination. But where does the country stand in terms of achieving these goals?

Availability of Water Resources in Ethiopia

In a 2017 UNICEF survey, 78 percent of Ethiopians reported no problems with availability. Although rural areas of Ethiopia are more likely to drink from springs or wells, these sources are more consistent than their urban counterparts. Almost 75 percent of people living in the cities of Addis Ababa and Tigray have access to piped water, but half of urban respondents reported that water had been unavailable for a full day or more in the past two weeks. Access to piped water definitely has its advantages, but in Ethiopia, is it also the least reliable.

Accessibility of Water Resources in Ethiopia

The advantage of living in an urban area is that water is likely to be available on the premises, while rural areas deal with the burden of time-consuming collection. Nationally, 55 percent of people spend 1 to 30 minutes fetching water, and 26 percent spend more than 30 minutes.

This burden is not divided equally in the average household. Three-quarters of water bearers are female, most likely the daughter of the household head. Nationally, about 35 percent of those fetching water are children between the ages of 7 and 14. This may be a contributor to the fact that less than half of Ethiopian children attend primary school.

Safety of Water Resources in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, water may be contaminated through fecal matter or industrial chemicals. Rural areas are more likely to rely on surface water or dug wells, which have the highest rates of E. coli in the country. There is also a higher risk that the water will become infected after it has been brought into the home. The practice of open defecation, still used by 27 million Ethiopians, contributes to these high numbers.  The fact that humans and livestock rely on the same water sources also adds to the risk. The UNICEF report found that only 14 percent of tested water had no detectable E. coli.

Larger sources of water, such as rivers, are more likely to be contaminated with industrial waste. Ethiopia is largely reliant on agriculture, with industry focused around textiles and food industries. As the country continues to industrialize, pollution is expected to increase. Foreign investment in the Ethiopian economy has shown a positive influence on this issue, as these investors prefer nonpolluting activities.

In 2006, only 24 percent of the population had access to drinking water. In 2015, that number was 57 percent. The Ethiopian government and international charities have worked hard to bring about such rapid change. With continued interest, Ethiopia will see the day of 100 percent access to clean and available water.

– Jackie Mead
Photo: Flickr

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
In many developing countries, gender inequality in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH for short) creates additional risks and hardships for women and girls, in addition to all equalities that women must endure. As of 2015, 2.1 billion people globally did not have access to safe water services and 4.5 billion did not have access to a safely managed sanitation service. In order to improve access to these services and the livelihoods of women in developing countries, it is essential that policy-makers view WASH as a gendered issue and involve women in decision-making.

Water Collection

In the absence of basic water services, individuals must travel to a water source to collect water for their household. This burden disproportionately falls on women, with women and girls responsible for water collection in eight out of 10 households without water on the premises. More than 73 percent of water collection is done by women, and 6.9 percent is done by girls under the age of 15. While water collection can be important to the social lives of women, as it offers an opportunity to communicate with women from different households, it poses a risk to women’s safety and takes away time that could be spent on other activities.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it takes approximately 33 minutes to travel to and from a water source in rural areas, and 25 minutes in urban areas. Many people have to make this trip more than once per day. During this trip, women may be vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual assault while traveling on their own. For girls, water collection takes away from time that could be spent on obtaining an education. For women, this is the time that could be spent on childcare, housework or income-generating activities.

Sanitation and Hygiene Issues

Many people do not have access to latrines in developing countries and therefore practice open defecation. In Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, nine out of 10 individuals openly defecate in fields, forests, bushes and bodies of water. Women and girls may require additional privacy when defecating, and therefore in some cultures can only do so at night. This increases the risk of violence, and suppressing their bodily functions during the day can lead to urinary tract infections and chronic constipation.

Menstruating can also be extremely difficult in these settings, with many women lacking access to basic products and services. Many schools lack private bathroom facilities for girls, causing many girls to leave school once they reach puberty. If they do stay, they often stay home while they are menstruating, decreasing their chances for educational success. Adult women are also impacted, and may not be able to work at certain locations if they do not have gender-segregated bathroom facilities.

Additionally, without water, sanitation and hygiene become increasingly difficult. Even if women and girls do have access to private toilets, if they do not have clean water to wash their hands, this poses a serious health risk for them and for others. In general, women are more likely to be exposed to dirty water, as they do a majority of household work, including taking care of young children. Contact with wastewater increases the risk of disease for many women.

Issues to Consider

Those trying to solve the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene must take into account a few different factors. First, in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or conflict, water may become additionally scarce, increasing hardships for women and girls. They may have to walk farther to collect water, making them more likely to experience violence.

On the other hand, cultural or social constraints may confine women to the home during more dangerous times, further decreasing their access to water and sanitation facilities. Second, household gender dynamics and societal gender roles need to be considered. If gender roles are radically altered, particularly if women are given more power than they initially possessed, this could increase gender-based violence because men feel as though they are losing control.

Moving Forward

Involving women in efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial in solving these issues and is already underway in many communities. Women are influential in raising awareness about water and sanitation issues, and improving water and sanitation can greatly empower them.

A study by the International Water and Sanitation Center conducted in 15 countries found that water and sanitation projects that included women were more effective and sustainable. For example, in Zimbabwe, female community members were involved in committees on WASH, and this highlighted community health concerns and provided insights for the construction and maintenance of water sources. Similarly, a project in Uganda worked with women to help them build rainwater harvesting jars, decreasing the amount of time needed for water collection.

Projects like these are being conducted in developing countries around the world, and the general lesson remains the same- involve women in decision-making at every level and remain conscious of the role played by specific cultural contexts in these issues. Efforts that effectively work with communities have the potential to vastly decrease the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls, reducing gender inequalities and improving livelihoods of everyone.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Organizations Focused on the Water Crisis
Most of us can get a glass of water with the turn of a faucet. We even have the choice of which type of water we want to drink. But in many areas of the world clean water is completely inaccessible. Currently, 844 million people do not have access to clean water. Their lives revolve around trying to find or afford it and this cycle sends them into poverty for generations. Women and children face the greatest hardships from the global water crisis. They spend an estimated 200 million hours carrying water for their families.

These conditions are amplified by the fact that only 2.5 percent of water is drinkable and less than 1 percent is easily accessed through lakes and streams. The lack of safe drinking water contributes to 80 percent of disease in impoverished countries. The following organizations are focused on working so that the water crisis stops affecting those who need help the most.

Organizations Fighting Against Water Crises

  1. WaterCan is a Canadian charity working to increase clean water access, sanitation and hygiene education in impoverished areas. It was established in 1987 in order to break the cycle of poverty and sickness that affects areas without clean water access. The charity does not have a specific method of implementation but instead creates a unique solution for each area. It receives funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and individual donations.
  2. Drop In the Bucket is a grassroots organization formed in 2006. A small group of friends decided to fundraise to build a well in sub-Saharan Africa, and 12 years later, they have raised enough money for more than 350 wells. Drop In the Bucket not only installs wells in impoverished villages, but it also implements finance plans to maintain the wells it builds.
  3. WaterisLife. This organization has pledged to give safe drinking water to one billion people by New Year’s Eve of 2020. It focuses on educating the people it helps on the importance of clean water, sanitation and basic hygiene. It has also partnered with Innovative H2O to implement the SunSpring clean water system, a water treatment system that is completely self-sustainable, self-cleaning and can filter over 5,000 gallons of water every day for more than ten years.
  4. Blood: Water was formed in 2004 by the band Jars of Clay and activist Jena Lee. Its mission is to address the water crisis in Eastern Africa by focusing on individuals who were affected by HIV/AIDS. It works through the grapevine of communities to spread knowledge and awareness about hygiene and sanitation procedures, as well as all of the nearby locations with clean water. By increasing their awareness and education Blood: Water hopes to improve the longevity of people suffering from the autoimmune disorder and reduce the stress of access to drinkable water.
  5. This Shirt Helps. This organization was founded in 2011 on the idea that what matters most is what you do to help others. For every shirt sold buyer provides one month of education, one year of clean water, one animal saved or three trees planted for an area in need.
  6. Four men work to make the world a better place with Thirst Relief International. This organization is saving the planet from the water crisis by tailoring to the needs of impoverished areas with limited access to clean water. The methods they use to increase access to clean water are well drilling, well repairment, using BioSand filters and implementing the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program.
  7. The Blue Planet Network works to end the global safe drinking water crisis. Instead of directly implementing a program to build wells or educational resources, it functions as a networking service. The Blue Planet Network connects those in need with various partner organizations that go into areas of need and create direct clean water solutions.
  8. WaterAid is education based. The organization works with local partners to deliver clean water and decent toilets, promote good hygiene and campaign to change normal for everyone. Its goal for 2019 is to bring water into 29 schools in Colombia and Nicaragua.
  9. Run for Water also focuses on small regions that need clean water the most. This organization organizes runs in cities across the United States to raise funds for the sanitation systems in schools for a specific area. Access to clean drinking water will allow communities to function effectively and improve their overall health. The improved health of the children will allow them to gain a more comprehensive education, extend their quality of life, and contribute to the economy effectively one day.
  10. It requires one liter of water and one liter of oil to produce a single plastic bottle. The Dopper Foundation believes this is a waste of water and a threat to the Earth. The Dopper water bottle is reusable and has a warranty that allows broken and damaged parts to be sent back into the company and recycled. Five percent of every Dopper purchase goes to the Dopper Foundation that works to create safe access to drinking water in impoverished countries. In this way, Dopper bottles help the Earth and those in need.

Water is necessary for human life. These 10 organizations presented above go above and beyond to help ensure that this necessity is met without risk to the health of developing countries. From merchandise that donates money toward improved drinking water access to organizations that focus on specific cities and schools, each charity makes a huge impact on the lives of many people. Reducing world poverty is a step-by-step process and access to safe water and adequate sanitation facilities are only the beginning.

– Emily Triolet

Photo: Flickr

Water Security in Gaza
The Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory, located on the Mediterranean Sea, that borders with Egypt and Israel. However, it is separated from the West Bank, with Israel severely limiting movement of Gazans wishing to transit between the two territories. Additionally, since Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization, got elected to power in 2007, the help from the Western nations to Gaza has been limited.

This has hampered Gaza’s infrastructure, including a resource vital for all life on Earth, water. Pollution and groundwater depletion are the major concerns, with some sources estimating that 95 percent of groundwater sources are contaminated in the area. Water security in Gaza depends mainly on improving infrastructures, such as sewage treatment and groundwater withdrawal practices.

A Brief History of Gaza

Following the partition of Israel into Jewish and Palestinian territories in 1948, Egypt occupied Gaza. The territory remained under the Egypt control until Israel seized it in the Six Day War of 1967. Israel withdrew in 2005 and only two years later, the Palestinian Authority was ousted in elections in favor of Hamas, considered to be a terrorist organization by most of the world. Israel’s response was a complete blockade of Gaza, limiting the abilities of goods and services to enter the territory.

With the blockade came severe restriction of movement for Gazans, at both the Israeli and Egyptian borders. Beginning with the second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, Israel drastically reduced the number of Palestinian crossings at the Erez border, the only land crossing for the movement of the people, generally limited to humanitarian aid and medical treatment. Statistics outline the decline in crossings. Before the outbreak of the intifada in 2000, an average of 780,000 Palestinians entered Israel through Erez monthly. That number is now around 12,000. Such restrictive border controls have implications for water security in Gaza as well.

Water Security in Gaza

Water accessibility and quality in Gaza are quite poor. Compounding to the problem of poor facilities, Gaza’s location in a water-stressed, drought-prone region affects water security in Gaza. Israel handles droughts through innovate methods such as drip irrigation and desalination plants. The Israeli government can afford to finance these projects because they are a highly prosperous nation. However, these methods are a luxury in Gaza.

Gaza’s main source of drinking water for decades, an underground aquifer, is depleted, with rapid population growth outpacing supply. Consequentially, seawater from the Mediterranean is seeping in, making the aquifer largely unusable. Gaza imports desalinated water from Israel, but the tense situation on the border has resulted in an increase of just five million more cubic meters of water in 20 years, a meager amount for a population of over two million people.

International Response

The international community has a strategic interest in water security in Gaza. The present, squalid conditions in Gaza create an environment ripe for extremism and resentment towards its more affluent neighbor. Recently, Israel has approved a shipment of building materials to enter Gaza in order to construct a large desalination plant. A notable nonprofit organization called Interpal is providing Gazans with immediate solutions, such as water filtration systems. However, effective water quality reform will require infrastructure reform, as well as coordination with Israel to ensure lasting water supply in the region.

Water security in Gaza affects at least two million people living in the region but should concern the international community as well. Desperate conditions create desperate civilians, and given the history of conflict in the region, solving this problem is paramount. A water-secure Gaza improves Israel’s long term security and improves the security of the Middle East, which has positive implications for everyone.

– Joseph Banish
Photo: Flickr

Matt Damon and WASH
Matt Damon is an academy award winning actor, screenwriter, producer and humanitarian. Inspired by his trips to Mexico and Guatemala as a youth, Matt has been devoted to ending the struggle for basic human needs. He learned about the immense challenges of accessing and retrieving clean water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa and this inspired him to create the H20 Africa Foundation.

The Foundation of WASH Program

Later on, he teamed up with Gary White to merge into one foundation and launched the WASH program with the official website water.org. The WASH is an abbreviation from Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Matt Damon works with the WASH program by doing active organization work. He visits multiple countries to strategize on how to improve water condition and meets with high-level organizations like the World Economic Forum and the World Bank. This hands-on activity has positioned him as one of the world’s experts on water and sanitation issues.

Matt Damon knows water is a basic human need. In many areas around the world, women and children walk miles on a daily basis to the nearest source of clean water for cooking, drinking and bathing. Having to go so far for water every day takes people away from education and their families and Matt believes this robs people of their potential. As Matt says it himself: “Access to clean water is access to education, access to work, access-above all- to the kind of future we want for our own families, and all the member of the human family.”

The Effects of Water Crisis

The water crisis around the globe has been an ongoing battle for many countries. More people die from unsafe water than from any form of violence, due to the waterborne diseases. These diseases kill more children than malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS combined. Over 100 million families are in a constant cycle of disease and lack of opportunities to improve lifestyle. One in three families lacks access to a clean toilet, increasing the chance of disease. With the journey to get decent water being so long, 443 million school days are wasted, just because families do not have clean water. Time spent gathering water also affects the economy as well as nearly $24 billion is lost annually. Even with these setbacks, every dollar donated to improve clean water and sanitation increases economic activity by eight dollars.

The Work of WASH Program

For more than 25 years, Matt Damon has been working closely with the WASH program to bring clean, accessible water to people in poverty around the world. With the WASH program, safe water has the power to turn problems into potential. The potential for health, education and economic prosperity lie in the power of clean water and sanitation. Gary and co-founder Matt are out there making this happen. So far, they have brought clean water and sanitation stations to over 16 million people. Charity alone is not a permanent or not even long-term solution. Through government and economic outreach, they can raise money with percentages from products sold and government funding. Another way the organization is tackling the ongoing water crisis is with its own type of credit called water credit. Water credits are small loans families can apply for in order to have proper sanitation systems built. The payback on these loans has been high, with a 97 to 99 percent payback rate.

Wash Program Super Bowl Ad

In an attempt to reach out to the masses of people, Matt Damon took the WASH program and put it in a Super Bowl ad. The ad states that, although the water is available at the turn of the knob, for roughly two billion people around the world, water is difficult to access. This includes 750 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 63 million people in India that lack access to clean water. For example, conflict in Yemen has completely cut off the supply for clean water. At least half a million of those people are infected by waterborne diarrheal diseases. To take action, Matt urges governments and businesses to invest in clean water and toilets. The commercial promotes the sale for Stella glasses. This company has dedicated a portion of 300,000 sales that will go towards water projects correlated with the WASH program. Getting clean water to people globally will require donations, but most importantly companies that will invest in this program.

With millions of people affected by the water crisis, there is no one size fits all solution. Matt Damon and the WASH program are using their influence and are utilizing all their resources to bring people water, a basic survival need, straight to their homes.

– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr