WaterStepIn a world where two billion people lack clean water, WaterStep delivers solutions. WaterStep is a nonprofit organization based in Louisville, KY. The organization brought clean water to 6.7 million people in 2022 and 2023. Funds for these clean water projects came, in part, from an unexpected source—pre-owned, donated shoes. The team collects tractor-trailer loads of shoes and sells them to an exporter, garnering an estimated $1 per pair of shoes. The organization focuses on safe water solutions to empower communities to improve their health, become educated and build livelihoods. WaterStep celebrates many successful clean water projects and is gaining momentum for projects to come.

WaterStep’s Growth

Mark Hogg, WaterStep’s Founder and CEO, explained in an interview with The Borgen Project that he started the organization in 1995 to use water as a “tool for health.” Hogg traveled to West Africa in 1983 to work on a dam and according to him, the trip was “life-changing,” providing valuable insights about the consequences of waterborne illness. 

WaterStep has worked in 70 countries and its impact has doubled in the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the growth by spreading awareness about hygiene issues and increasing demand for clean water. Growth also occurred when WaterStep began shipping equipment rather than hand-delivering it to project locations. UPS delivered 630 pieces of equipment to East Africa for WaterStep in 2021 without any cost. 

WaterStep team members, Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO, Zacharie Tossou, International Program and Development Director and Kellie Moore, Director of Strategic Initiatives, attended the invitation-only U.N. 2023 Water Conference, an experience that affirmed their strategy. 

WaterStep Technologies

WaterStep provides several clean water technologies to communities in need. Lyssa Castor, WaterStep’s Director of Marketing and Development, explained the types of technology to The Borgen Project. WaterBalls are plastic balls with attached handles that, when filled with water and pushed, make water transport significantly easier and more efficient. Without WaterBalls, women and children commonly carry five-gallon containers of water on their heads for long distances. “The heavyweight compresses the spine and causes significant health problems,” Castor said. 

WaterStep also offers BleachMakers that create bleach for cleaning and sanitation. Many communities use BleachMakers to bottle and sell bleach, thereby generating income. Additionally, the nonprofit organization offers an M-100 Chlorine Generator, which is designed to purify water using a car battery and salt. Another innovation is the WaterStep Water on Wheels (WOW) Cart, a moveable water treatment system designed to clean water during natural disasters and emergencies. 

The WaterStep team chooses technologies that address the specific needs and challenges of each community. After committing to help a community, WaterStep engages community members to contribute to the project. The community has “skin in the game,” Castor explained, which allows them to work together with WaterStep to bring about long-term, sustainable solutions. 

Successful Clean Water Projects

WaterStep has executed numerous clean water projects, providing people affected by poverty and disasters access to clean water. Here are just three:

  1. The Seneiya Special and Junior School, which educates nearly 200 special needs children in Samburu County, Kenya, faced challenges in accessing clean water and disinfectant. This resulted in negative effects on students’ health and attendance. Students in wheelchairs were unable to access toilets and the school lacked funding for enough diapers, causing ongoing sanitation difficulties.

    In 2023, WaterStep provided a BleachMaker, allowing the school to make bleach and improve sanitation and hygiene. The school has seen significant improvements in attendance and reduced disease. Additionally, students with mobility challenges can more fully participate in the community

  2. Students at Mayfield Christian School, located on top of a mountain on Mfangano Island, faced challenges due to a lack of access to clean water. This island is located in Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is highly contaminated and was the school’s singular water source. Consequently, children were unable to attend school until they reached about 8 years old, as they needed to be capable of carrying their daily water supply up the mountain to the school. The school’s director reached out to WaterStep via Facebook for help and in 2022, WaterStep sent five 2,000-gallon water tanks to collect rainwater and an M-100 Chlorine Generator to clean the water.

    A local plumber helped connect the rain catchment system and WaterStep team members trained representatives from the community on how to use the equipment. After installation, the school’s director reported increased attendance and healthier students. Students no longer transport water on their heads every day and younger children can attend school.

  3. Numerous prisons in Kenya lack safe water, causing devastating sickness. With 100% donor funding, WaterStep has successfully delivered clean water to 70 prisons in Kenya since 2021. Among the facilities is a children’s prison, housing individuals aged 7 to 17. Hogg said that clean water “transforms the place.”

    He has heard from a person on the ground in Kenya that the prisons are now the best-smelling and safest places in the communities. Additionally, the positive impact extends beyond the prison walls, as people now transport water from the prison to nearby sites, further amplifying the benefits of the initiative.

Contributors to WaterStep

There are many ways people contribute to WaterStep’s clean water projects. WaterStep accepts monetary donations at WaterStep.org. People donate shoes at drop-off sites around Louisville, KY and through shoe drives in nearby states. Through “Give Back Boxes,” people donate shoes via mail. A Give Back Box is any large cardboard box filled with shoes and mailed to WaterStep for a flat rate of $20. 

In addition to donations, dedicated volunteers work at WaterStep collecting and sorting shoes and manufacturing equipment like the M100 Chlorine Generators, BleachMakers and WOW carts. These efforts help WaterStep continue to improve more lives around the world with clean water.

– Kelly Carroll
Photo: Flickr

Stanford's New PowderWith more than 2 billion people lacking access to safe drinking water, the challenge of water scarcity looms large. According to UNICEF, nearly half of the global population could face water scarcity by 2025. To address this impending crisis, researchers at Stanford University are pioneering a novel approach: a powder that swiftly purifies contaminated water. Unlike conventional methods, this innovative solution utilizes sunlight to eliminate bacteria within a minute. The introduction of innovative solutions like Stanford’s powder presents a pathway toward achieving widespread and enduring access to clean drinking water.

The Study

On May 18, 2023, Stanford University published results from their study about a powder that disinfects contaminated drinking water. The technology is unique because it reacts with the sun’s UV rays and “high-energy visible light.” It then creates chemicals that attack bacteria’s cell membranes to kill them. Scientists found that the powder is so effective it can disinfect drinking water in just 60 seconds.

Stanford’s new powder is made from metallic “nano-sized flakes of copper, iron oxide, aluminum oxide and molybdenum sulfide” that are cost-effective and readily available. The product is sustainable because the metals are easy to make and reuse. A magnet collects the metallic “nanoflakes” from clean water, then places them in new contaminated water. The water is safe to drink immediately after decontamination due to the chemical byproducts breaking down into water and oxygen. In the study, one dose of recycled powder disinfected 30 water samples. Since water treatments are scarce, reusing the product allows people to have longer access to clean water.

This is great progress because current treatments add chemicals that leave behind toxic byproducts and utilize ultraviolet light, which requires electricity. And these constraints make it difficult to implement water treatments on a large scale. 

Water Scarcity

In areas where water is scarce, there are few opportunities to find a source of safe drinking water. Consuming contaminated water exposes people to preventable diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid and cholera. Diarrhea causes an estimated 446,000 deaths per year among children younger than 5 years old, or 9% of all deaths for children in that age range. Adequate access to clean water allows for better hygiene and sanitation practices.

The scientists used E. coli in their study, which is a widespread contaminant that causes fecal-oral diseases. With 1.7 billion children younger than 5 years old suffering from diarrhea, this technology could provide relief from preventable waterborne illnesses. 

Looking Toward the Future

Stanford University’s groundbreaking powder has the potential to revolutionize clean drinking water access for the approximately 2 billion individuals worldwide who lack it. Furthermore, the wide distribution of this powder could enable those already using water treatments to embrace improved hygiene and sanitation practices. Notably, gaining access to a consistent and safe water source significantly enhances individuals’ health and overall quality of life.

Tong Wu, the co-lead author of the project, expressed, “We believe that our novel technology will facilitate revolutionary changes in water disinfection and inspire more innovations.” This recyclable and nontoxic powder represents a pioneering development. The powder’s scalability and distribution potential render it a viable and practical solution for individuals facing restricted access to safe water sources.

– Diana Grant
Photo: Flickr

Worldwide Water CrisisCurrently, there is a worldwide water crisis, as 771 million people face a total lack of access to safe water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three people worldwide does not have access to safe drinking water. The global water crisis has far-reaching consequences for communities across the globe, such as contaminated water-borne diseases, health issues like dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as economic difficulties. Families may have to spend a significant amount of their income on buying bottled water or traveling lost distances to collect water, which can make it challenging for them to fulfill other basic needs, including food, shelter and education.

Affecting Women and Girls

In addition, water scarcity disproportionately affects women and girls because they often experience the burden of collecting water. Spending hours of their days walking to obtain water for their families often limits their opportunities for education, work and social activities. Unsafe sanitation also poses a threat to women and girls, as they face a higher risk of abuse and assault when having to use outdoor toilets or sharing facilities with men and boys.

In 2009, actor Matt Damon and engineer Gary White founded Water.org, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide access to safe water and sanitation to people in developing countries. Water.org combats the global water crisis across 11 countries through affordable market-based solutions.

Global Water Crisis in Numbers

The following five statistics put into perspective the pervasiveness and danger of the water crisis.

  1. Approximately 2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water, and 3.4 billion do not have proper sanitation facilities, according to Water for People.
  2. According to reports, one in six health care facilities does not have handwashing stations or toilets, which puts millions of people seeking help for health issues at an even greater risk.
  3. Water for People reports that “3.4 million deaths occur each year from water-related diseases.”
  4. On average, women living in rural Africa walk 3.7 miles every day to collect water and carry 40 pounds of it back to their families.
  5. By 2025, half of the global population could live in regions confronted with water scarcity. Furthermore, by 2040, over a quarter of the world’s children will “live in areas of extremely high water stress.”

Water.org combats the global water crisis with urgency and innovation in an effort to reduce the grand scale of water scarcity worldwide.

Water.org’s Mission and Formula

Working in 11 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, Water.org combats the global water crisis through market-based solutions to empower communities and make access to safe water and sanitation sustainable. The organization offers two loan programs—WaterCredit and WaterEquity—that have distinct goals and serve different groups of borrowers.

WaterCredit provides small loans to families in developing countries, who lack access to traditional credit and cannot afford to pay upfront for water and sanitation solutions, such as wells, pumps, and toilets. Families repay these loans over time, with the expectation that the borrower will eventually become financially stable enough (now that they can devote their time to other efforts besides collecting water) to repay the loan in full.

The WaterEquity program is an impact investing project that provides funding for water and sanitation enterprises to scale solutions to reach more people. Investors offer small loans for water and sanitation that are repaid over time, potentially receiving a financial return.

WaterEquity helps to attract private capital to the water and sanitation sector, promoting innovation and expanding access to safe water and sanitation. According to Water.org, “The investor can potentially receive a financial return, or re-invest to further their social impact.” This initiative provides sustainable solutions to the global water crisis and offers an “attractive risk-return profile to investors.”

Impact and Achievements

As of 2023, Water.org has provided access to safe water and sanitation to over 55 million people in 11 countries, according to its website. Water.org’s primary initiative, WaterCredit, has helped to mobilize over $4.4 billion in capital for water and sanitation projects. Water.org has enabled communities around the globe to take control of their own solutions and break the cycle of poverty caused by a lack of access to safe water and sanitation.

India’s water crisis is particularly severe. Nearly 600 million people face high to extreme water stress, and “nearly 200,000 people in India die each year due to inadequate access to safe water.” In addition, by 2030, the water demand in India could be “twice the available supply.”

On the bright side, Water.org’s efforts against the global water crisis include 31 local partners in India. Water.org has helped more than 21 million people gain access to safe water and sanitation.

The organization combats the global water crisis through innovative solutions that generate long-lasting and life-changing effects for families worldwide. Overall, the continued efforts of organizations like Water.org present hope for a future where safe water and sanitation are accessible to all.

– Skye Connors
Photo: Flickr

Freshwater CrisisThe freshwater crisis is one that calls for attention, as water is an essential resource to all living organisms and ecosystems because it provides support to biological functions through the transportation of nutrients, regulation of body temperature and optimal digestion. It sustains life through biodiversity, productivity and adaptability to environmental changes to foster ecological processes.

According to the United States Bureau of Reclamation, approximately 3% of the Earth contains fresh water while the other 97% is saltwater. However, over 68% of the freshwater is in glaciers and polar ice caps, with another 30% in the soil, thereby rendering extraction difficult and expensive. The limited accessibility hampers fulfilling the expanding demand for freshwater resources and exacerbates the current worldwide freshwater crisis.

Earth’s Freshwater Poverty

Water scarcity intensifies as demand for freshwater rises as a result of population development, urbanization and industrialization, all of which diminish the availability of freshwater resources. Other causes that contribute to freshwater depletion include and over-extraction of groundwater.

Freshwater resources are not fairly distributed throughout the world, resulting in discrepancies in access and availability. Some areas, notably dry and semi-arid ones, suffer from chronic water scarcity, whereas others have copious freshwater supplies. This disparity could exacerbate socioeconomic inequities and lead to conflicts over the accessibility of water.

Consequences of Limited Access to Freshwater

Limited access to freshwater impacts human health. Waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid flourish in contaminated and poor water sources. A lack of sufficient hygiene and sanitation facilities, particularly in developing countries, further exacerbates these health problems.

According to the World Bank, 70% of freshwater finds its use in agriculture, and this represents the largest consumption of freshwater globally. Water scarcity could have a negative impact on crop production, food security and livestock, affecting overall agricultural efficiency and productivity. The limited access to water for irrigation could force farmers to rely on unsustainable practices, such as inefficient water distribution, limiting crop yields from diversifying and exacerbating the cycle of water scarcity and food insecurity.

The freshwater crisis affects many sectors in the water-intensive sectors, leading to economic consequences. Marginalized communities, particularly women and children, face the brunt of water scarcity because of the need to frequently transport water across great distances. This has a limiting effect on educational and economic empowerment. Moreover, limited access to water contributes to poverty and socio-economic inequalities due to the lack of job opportunities and overall economic productivity.

Overcoming Challenges

An Engineering study reveals an innovative way of capturing water from naturally occurring sources, notably fog and dew. Researchers at NYU Abu Dhabi found a novel water-collecting technique using the spontaneous condensation of water vapor onto the surface of an organic crystal undergoing sublimation.

The researchers discovered that as the crystal’s surface sublimated, microscopic channels with varied widths formed, allowing condensed water to travel over the crystal’s surface. This process was responsible for the autonomous flow of dust and metallic nanoparticles along the channels. The researchers discovered a new approach to promote water flow over solid surfaces by exploiting the phenomenon of water condensation and the changing dimensions of the channels.

Efforts to achieve autonomous water flow have traditionally put an emphasis on surface chemical modifications or built microchannels. However, this work takes a completely new approach which was inspired by the natural flow of water over solid surfaces. The authors emphasize the significance of this phenomenon because natural creatures have evolved to efficiently move water for various life-supporting activities, even defying gravity in the case of plants.

This study has far-reaching ramifications, however, the research is still ongoing. These discoveries have the potential to inspire the development of novel methods that maximize the effectiveness of collecting water from atmospheric humidity, providing a new option for solving the global freshwater crisis.

Looking Ahead

The freshwater crisis remains an issue that requires proactive measures in order to secure a future of sustainable water supply. And while the discovery of humidity-capturing crystals presents a promising solution, reports suggest that further research is necessary to optimize the development of the project.

– Cherine Jang
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Nepal
Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world with more than one-quarter of the population living below the poverty line. Poor water quality in Nepal has also prevailed for the past 30 years. For example, residents of the Kathmandu Valley encounter significant challenges concerning water quality as they rely on tube wells, dug wells and stone spouts for their drinking water. A recent survey conducted within the valley revealed that approximately 51% of all water sources had a pH level lower than 6.5. The supply of water remains inadequate, unreliable and of substandard quality, even within Nepal’s capital city. The compromised quality of drinking water presents numerous health risks, particularly in conjunction with the impact of climate change, which contributes to the prevalence of water- and vector-borne diseases, thus affecting human well-being.

How Water Quality in Nepal Impacted Poverty

Those who are poor in the rural areas of Nepal have little to no access to water. Some even have to depend on streams of water from nearby mountains, and they have to travel long distances to retrieve the water.

Despite this access to mountain water, it is not always a safe bet. For example, domestic waste and untreated sewage discharge from nearby neighborhoods and villages pollute the surface water from the Kathmandu Valley. Due to the increasing population of Kathmandu, it produces 150 tons of waste per day and dumps about 75 tons of this waste into rivers. This is a problem because households induce more than 80% of this wastewater.

The high levels of poverty in Nepal have heavily impacted the farmers in which many farmers are unable to invest in better farming techniques. Farmers also lack access to formal finance and food security.

How Water Quality in Nepal Impacted Nepalese Livelihood

The lack of access to clean and healthy water directly impacts the health and sanitation conditions of many Nepalese people. For example, Ranjana Adhikari, a Nepalese assistant in a community health post, discussed in 2016 how Nepal’s poor water quality specifically affects women. She reported that the women who have to go long distances to retrieve water for their families normally have poorer health than those who do not need to travel long distances.

Additionally, in 2016, doctors reported that there were water-borne diseases that stemmed from contaminated waters and poor hygiene. Unfortunately, the number of cases of Nepalese people suffering from diarrhea, typhoid and fever due to Kathmandu’s poor water quality increased between 25% and 30% that same year.

Ongoing Efforts

In November of 2022, the Global Center on Adaptation reported that the Community Development and Advocacy Forum Nepal implemented measures to recover lands, preserve waters and manage river systems. Some of these measures include “taking an ecosystem approach,” where it made improvements to prevent soil erosion, improve access to water and turn dry riverbanks into green areas with various fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, the Ministry of Water Supply instituted the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) WASH program. This program aims to help create better access to safe water, improve health care facilities and sanitation, raise hygiene awareness and much more.

Also, in July 2022, the government of Nepal and the World Bank collaborated with $80 million to promote water resources management and to implement the Water Sector Governance and Infrastructure Support Project.

According to Mr. Faris Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the Water Sector Governance and Infrastructure Support Project aims to improve the delivery of water and sanitation services while also discussing the significant gaps in Nepal’s water and sanitation infrastructure and economic progress.

Looking Ahead

Nepal is taking action to tackle its water quality challenges head-on. Collaborative projects between the government, organizations like the Global Center on Adaptation and UNICEF and the World Bank are already making a difference. Measures to recover lands, preserve waters and manage river systems are being implemented, while initiatives are underway to improve access to safe water, enhance sanitation facilities and raise hygiene awareness. These efforts are transforming the lives of Nepalese communities, safeguarding their health and contributing to sustainable development.

– Merlis Burgos-Ramos
Photo: Flickr

water quality in the Democratic Republic of the CongoAs the second largest country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to around 95 million people as of 2021. Characterized by political instability and conflict, the land is rich in natural resources, but its people are amongst the poorest in the world. As most Congolese people make less than $2 a day, having access to safe bottled water is considered an “impossible luxury.” This highlights the need for efforts that aim to improve water quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Water Quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. Only 52% of the DRC has access to basic water and even less (29%) have access to sanitation. Despite being home to over 50% of Africa’s water reserves, 33 million people across the country’s most rural areas still can’t access safe water. Moreover, 43% of under-5-year-old children in the DRC are facing chronic malnutrition.
  2. Reasons for low water quality in the DRC include conflict, displaced citizens, poor management, economic instability and governance constraints. For example, when displaced people arrive in host communities where there is already extremely restricted access to drinking water, it leaves further strains on the available resources. Also, the issue of bacterial contamination is a direct consequence of open defecation. Other causes include substandard sanitation systems and polluted surface water. In the DRC, there is no national monitoring of water systems and a restricted understanding of the issues caused by poor water quality. Economic progress has stagnated, inhibiting the government’s ability to invest in infrastructure maintenance. A hostile political environment has similarly prevented social accountability and the development of water and sanitation services, according to Global Waters.
  3. Poor water quality in the DRC has facilitated the spread of waterborne diseases. The lack of access to sanitary facilities and safe water makes it generally impossible to prevent most waterborne diseases. Conflicts also encourage population movements, thereby further worsening the disease problem. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) study found that since the war, most Congolese have not died because of violence but because of waterborne diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition, according to The Water Project.
  4. Climate Change has had an impact on the water quality in the DRC. As one of “the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change,” according to USAID, the DRC doesn’t have adequate equipment to deal with the consequences. For example, weather patterns are variable, and when the rainfall becomes more intense, the region becomes more susceptible to extreme floods, landslides and other disasters that affect the availability and quality of surface water. At the other end of the scale, extreme drought and longer dry seasons could become more common as climate change worsens. This could exacerbate poverty and create food insecurity as well as political instability, USAID reports.
  5. The DRC is particularly rich in natural resources and has vast agricultural land as well as “immense biodiversity.” Home to the second largest rainforest after the Amazon, the DRC is heavily dependent on its agriculture. But in 2020, the country lost 1.3 million hectares of forests, harmfully impacting the environment and reducing biodiversity across the region. Unfortunately, this threatened the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on agriculture.
  6. In 1998, the DRC joined “Africa’s First World War, in a conflict between seven African nations,” according to The Water Project. The reasons for this war included struggles over minerals, water and food. Not only was it a determining factor at the beginning of the war, but following the conflict, access to water became increasingly restricted. This was a consequence of the collapse of the DRC’s infrastructure during the fighting.

Ongoing Efforts

UNICEF, USAID and Join for Water are among the organizations doing great work to alleviate the consequences of water quality in the DRC. UNICEF is improving access to safe drinking water supplies as well as adequate sanitation facilities in schools and communities. It also created the national program, “Healthy School and Village” in the DRC which aims to stop the spread of waterborne diseases through safe water and hygiene education, according to its website.

According to its website, Join for Water is active across three provinces in the DRC: Ituri, Tshopo and Kwilu. Its focus is on rebuilding and maintaining drinking water infrastructure by working with local organizations to advocate for resource and river protection. It also works to protect agroforestry with farmers and ensure students receive environmental education in school.

USAID, alongside the U.S. government, has provided millions of liters of safe drinking water to the Congolese people, helping over 1 million people gain access to safe water and sanitation facilities, according to Global Waters.

Looking Ahead

Efforts to improve water quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are making a difference in the lives of millions of people. Organizations like UNICEF, Join for Water and USAID are working tirelessly to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in schools and communities. These initiatives not only combat waterborne diseases but also empower communities and promote environmental education. With ongoing support and collaboration, the DRC is moving closer to ensuring a brighter future where safe water becomes a reality for all its people.

– Bethan Marsden
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality In China
Water quality in China poses challenges as water is generally unsafe for residents to drink. However, a clean and safer future lies ahead with the promise of reduced pollution, increased filtration and clean drinking water.

Current State of China’s Water

As of July 2021, 70% of China’s rivers and lakes were not safe for human utilization. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic restricted movement and led to lockdowns during 2020, water quality in China has seen significant improvements. For example, PH levels increased from mid-March to early May 2020.

Economic Impact of Water Systems

Unsafe water systems negatively impact the fishing and marine business inside of China. Pollution can decrease PH levels and make water toxic for fish and other sea life, which is essential for a strong marine business. Fifty-three coastal cities in China provided data from the years 1994 to 2018, describing the damage that pollution caused in agriculture and industrial businesses in China.

“As the main source of high-quality proteins in China, the yield of seawater cultured products reached 20.65 million tons in 2019, accounting for about 31.8% of the total aquatic products. Meanwhile, the proportion of seawater fishing products has decreased to about 18.7%,” according to the study.

Water is essential to the survival of an entire country. Low PH, pollution and other dangerous contaminants can damage ecosystems. This causes a ripple effect that impacts the livelihood of citizens, wildlife and the overall economic structure of a country. Fishermen need a safe work environment to catch and sell fish. The marine economy plays an important role in the nation’s growth and clean drinking water is necessary for the health of a nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.”

Plans to Improve China’s Water Quality

In December 2021, the World Bank approved a $400 million loan for decontamination and removal of pollutants in China’s Yangtze River Basin. This, along with $6 billion of China’s own resources will go toward water treatment for the 19 provinces in China and almost 600 million people who receive water from this basin.

The Yangtze River Protection and Ecological Restoration Program aims to improve water quality in China. This will support agriculture, livestock and waste management for townships. Approved in 2022, the latest update shows the beginning of a groundbreaking project.

Public participation in the management of water is beneficial. The University of California wrote an article showing a decrease of 19% in pollutant levels in quarterly reports that became possible with the help of Chinese citizens. Citizens collected data twice a month.

The Future of China’s Water

Water quality in China may not be at its best right now, but the positive feedback shows early signs of improvement inside the country. Baiyangdian, North China’s largest freshwater lake, received an upgrade to Class III in 2021, meaning that its surface water is of good quality. This is the lake’s best condition since the initial monitoring in 1988, with the classes ranging from a scale of between one and five.

Water has a significant place in the economy of China. Clean water is essential to promoting a steady marine market, economy and livelihood for all citizens in China.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Px Here

Poverty in Punjab
In August 2021, the World Bank announced that it would be working with the Indian government on a new $105 million program, entitled the Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project (PMSIP), to improve “urban services” in Punjab’s two largest cities, Amritsar and Ludhiana. As urbanization accelerates in these areas, issues such as access to water and proper infrastructure are becoming more significant to poverty in Punjab. This program aims to address those increasing problems in a way that reduces poverty and improves the livelihoods of the citizens of these cities.

Poverty in Punjab

The state of Punjab in India as a whole has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, with just about 8% of the population living below the poverty line.  However, economic growth in the last 15 years has slowed down, increasing by just 1% per year — well below the national average. It is also important to note that Punjab is the only state in India that has a higher urban poverty rate than rural poverty rate, highlighting the importance of focusing efforts on urban areas in Punjab. In Ludhiana, one of the cities targeted with the new program, the urban poverty rate is about twice the rural poverty rate. This is partially due to a lack of focus on manufacturing industries and the extremely high levels of “spatial inequality”– a high concentration of poverty in a few areas.

The Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project

The main focus of the Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project is the water supply and sanitation systems in Ludhiana and Amritsar. One of the main problems that increasing urbanization causes is the overuse of groundwater, which puts access to clean drinking water for the people of the city at risk. The two cities use bore wells to access groundwater but pumping the water out directly often causes wastage. Various substances also contaminate the water: arsenic in Amritsar’s groundwater and nitrates and other metals in Ludhiana’s groundwater.

This program aims to improve the water situation by building new water systems, treatment plants, transportation systems and more facilities to better supply water that is clean and accessible to everyone in the cities. It will specifically address water contamination by creating a central plant that will collect water from the surface, such as from canals, so people do not have to use the bore wells containing contaminated water. The World Bank predicts that all these adjustments will help more than 3 million people by 2025 by improving their health, sanitation and daily lives.

Addressing Several Problems Simultaneously

These improvements all lead to a lower risk of falling below the poverty line due to reduced disease spread and less money spent on clean water. The program will also help with the economy as industries and businesses will have a reliable source of water for production. Since growth in Punjab has slowed down in the last 15 years, boosting growth will help create new jobs, increase salaries and reduce poverty in Punjab.

The program will not just address water issues in Punjab but will also put forward solutions for other urban problems. Another main focus is infrastructure; waste and sewage management and public transportation are just a few of the specific problems that the program’s reforms are addressing. The problems of cities are often very different from those of the rural or suburban parts of the same region. This new program, which the World Bank led, aims to address urban-specific problems and both reduce poverty and improve the standards of living of the people of Ludhiana and Amritsar.

– Ritika Manathara
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Water ScarcityIn Latin America, the health and well-being of rural communities are threatened by water scarcity and poor sanitation. In recent decades, the number of people facing water scarcity has declined. Unfortunately, with 36 million people currently lacking access to clean water in Latin America, water scarcity is an issue that is just too prevalent. EOS International aims to address Latin American water scarcity by providing simple and affordable solutions to increase access to clean water.

Causes of Latin American Water Scarcity

While many factors contribute to the water crisis, the outsized role of climate change cannot be ignored. Recent increases in extreme weather events including flooding, hurricanes and droughts threaten the water supply of many Latin American countries. For example, in Peru, flooding left water treatment plants full of rocks and debris, clogging the water supply. Consequently, authorities made the decision to restrict water usage in the Peruvian cities of Lima and Arequipa.

On the other end of the spectrum, drought threatens Bolivia’s water supply, which is significantly rainfall-reliant. Extreme weather conditions, however, are not the only factors threatening clean water access for Latin Americans. Misguided governmental decision-making exacerbates the problem. Most consequentially, increases in deforestation, mining and the creation of mega dams have exacerbated the occurrence of extreme weather patterns. In turn, these developments often harm the water supply in many Latin American countries. Of particular concern in Peru, international mining companies polluted waterways and “hijacked” the water supply, harming the livelihoods of farmers in the region.

In other countries, the biggest threat to the water supply is agribusinesses with undue control over water allocation. This synergy of extreme weather conditions, extractive industries, agribusinesses and governmental inaction still threatens rural families in Latin America who lack access to clean water.

Health and Water Scarcity

Water scarcity poses a direct danger to human health. The most harrowing outcome is waterborne illnesses, primarily diarrheal diseases, which are too often fatal. Waterborne illness is responsible for one in nine child deaths around the world. The pollution in the water itself is an environmental hazard. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that in children younger than 5 in the Americas, close to 100,000 die from such pollution annually.

Water Scarcity Hinders Poverty Reduction

Not only does water scarcity threaten the health of rural communities in Latin America but it is also a major obstacle to poverty prevention. Without clean water, it is nearly impossible to stay healthy enough to manage a job, go to school, construct a home or undertake other essential endeavors necessary to pull oneself out of poverty.

When women have to travel long distances to collect water, they waste hours of time and energy that can otherwise go toward more productive endeavors such as education and paid employment. Areas lacking clean water are also more vulnerable to food insecurity as it is more difficult to grow sufficient crops to feed the populous. Food security, education and employment are all key to poverty reduction, however, a lack of access to water presents a barrier to these outcomes.

Efforts to Alleviate Water Scarcity

Organizational efforts play a role in driving the decrease in overall water scarcity. EOS International is one such organization. EOS stands for “Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability.” The organization’s work aims to empower rural families in Central America by facilitating access to clean drinking water through technological advances and education.

As part of this goal, EOS volunteers help rural communities to safeguard clean water. The volunteers regularly test water quality and then treat unsafe and contaminated water, usually with chlorine tablets. The volunteers then monitor the water system over time, providing chlorine tablets to communities when required. Not only does EOS provide base-level support but it also manufactures and installs simple technologies that provide long-term support for the water supply. Since its establishment in 2008, EOS has installed more than 2,000 simple, affordable and “locally serviceable technologies” in Central America.

The organization also supports economic growth and income generation in communities. EOS International has “provided clean water services including training, education and support for 1,169 communities,” positively impacting more than 500,000 people. Furthermore, the organization’s “50 chlorine distribution centers have created income-generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”

Looking to the Future

EOS International has made a measurable impact on the health of rural Latin Americans. The organization has installed technologies that provided lasting clean water access to more than half a million people in Honduras and Nicaragua alone.

EOS International’s successes in combating Latin American water scarcity are not possible without the support of donors and volunteers. The implementation of technologies is done in large part by people willing to give their time to support rural families. Nonprofits make a measurable impact in the lives of countless families facing water insecurity. However, their work is not possible without generous contributions of time and monetary support. EOS International’s efforts are an example of the vital work being done by nonprofits to combat global poverty.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

World Hope International
World Hope International (WHI) is a Christian charity organization working to alleviate poverty by protecting communities. The organization began in 1996 in Virginia and has the core values of opportunity, hope and dignity. By 2019, WHI’s projects spanned 21 countries, awarded 1,835 child sponsorships and provided safe drinking water to 11,841 people.

World Hope International began focusing on COVID-19 related projects in February 2020 through the rehabilitation of wells in Liberia and the Enable the Children program in Sierra Leone. The Enable the Children (ETC) program gives therapy to children with disabilities and provides food for their families. On October 16, 2020, The Borgen Project spoke with Heather Hill, the Director of Communications and Marketing at WHI, about child sponsorships and aspects of the organization’s COVID-19 response.

Child Sponsorship Program

WHI funds an education-based child sponsorship program where people donate $35 a month to help the education of one child in need. During COVID-19, Hill noticed that the child sponsorship levels decreased. He told The Borgen Project that “We launched this campaign and we really talked about sponsorships.” As a result, the last months of 2020 picked up 200 new sponsorships. On top of this campaign, Hill explained how WHI’s partner, Wesleyan Church, launched “the initiative to try and get 1,000 children sponsored in the next few months with us.”

WHI’s COVID-19 Response in Haiti

World Hope International supports the La Gonave Wesleyan Hospital in Haiti. With the help of the Wesleyan church and private donors, the hospital received nearly $4 million worth of basic medical supplies in 2019. Founded over 50 years ago, the hospital still helps approximately 120,000 people in or near La Gonave. WHI’s current project asks for donations equating to $30,000 to transport approximately $2 million worth of medical materials to the location.

Another WHI project in La Gonave is the LB-20,000 water container that underwent installation in February 2019. This container produces approximately 20,000 gallons of clean water every day through solar-powered water farming techniques. The program was a collaboration between WHI, the GivePower Foundation and the West Indies Self Help (WISH) Organization to create clean water for the island. This collaboration continues to provide a clean water source for the entire island.

Other WHI Projects

WHI also helped create a new platform called the Get Support helpline. This platform allows communities to submit requests for various forms of relief during the quarantine period. It launched in late March 2020 and helps organizations connect with communities to better provide them with COVID-19 relief. This program allows people from quarantined communities to request relief packages, such as food or childcare. Volunteer organizations then respond to these requests.

One of WHI’s most important COVID-19 related projects focuses directly on rehabilitating the wells in Liberia. Pandemic restrictions placed numerous cross-country border and curfew challenges on drilling wells in the country. But, the team overcame these challenges by rehabilitating 15 wells instead of drilling new wells. After completing this goal marker by June 2020, WHI promptly set another 15-well marker to provide clean water for Liberians. These citizens would otherwise have to walk tens or hundreds of miles to find clean water.

Despite the COVID-19 disaster, World Hope International has not forgotten about its other ongoing projects. For example, the Strengthening Families and Communities program considers new ways to give Albanian children a place to pursue their interest in education while complying with pandemic restrictions.

True to its Goals

World Hope International is incorporating a variety of global projects to help communities survive the impact of COVID-19. Across the world, WHI’s projects have supported hospitals, rehabilitated wells and prepared a COVID-19 response. WHI’s projects have stayed true to their goals from the past to the present.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr