Water Quality in Canada

Providing healthy, safe drinking water to citizens is very important to the Canadian government. The Canadian government developed an organization called the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee, who was instructed to develop the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. These guidelines establish limits on substances that are allowed in drinking water and to what degree they are allowed, maintaining a high water quality in Canada.

The most important guideline is the Microbiological Quality guideline. The microbiological organisms that affect water quality include viruses, protozoa and bacteria. This guideline is the most important since these organisms can cause harm to those that drink it, both in the short and long-term.

Canada has had an increasing problem with algal blooms. Algal blooms are toxic, and these blooms are becoming more frequent and growing in spatial intensity.

The next set of guidelines to maintain the water quality in Canada is the Chemical and Radiological Quality guideline. The chemicals and other materials that provide the greatest risk in this category are fertilizers, silt, agricultural run-off and other minerals. These guidelines regulate the trace amounts in drinking water, as levels higher than those outlined in the guideline can cause health issues over a period of years.

The last category of guidelines is the Aesthetic Quality. These guidelines address things that consumers are most quick to notice; taste, odor and color. Most problems with these qualities come from water treatment plants or the distribution systems to the consumer’s house, such as piping.

In order to effectively regulate these guidelines, Canada has established 173 monitoring stations. The City of Ottawa itself performs over 125,000 water quality tests a year, checking for over 300 chemical contaminants.

These guidelines have proven to be very effective as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gave a grade of “A” to the water quality in Canada.

When compared to 16 other peer countries, as considered by the OECD, Canada ranked 4th behind Sweden, Austria and Norway. In comparison, the United States was ranked 13th with a grade of “C”.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in TanzaniaWater quality in Tanzania has been a struggle for the last several decades, despite government aims to address the issue head-on.

In 1971, the Tanzanian government established a Rural Water Supply Program in response to a desperate need for water in the poorest areas of the country. However, it was largely unsuccessful. The program was followed by the implementation of the National Water Policy in 1991, which also proved to be ineffective.

By 2003, the World Bank intervened in Tanzania’s national water crisis, threatening to take away funding and aid if the country did not privatize its water sources. Unfortunately, this only worsened the country’s water crisis. Since then, the water quality in Tanzania remains poor despite the government claiming that access to adequate water is a basic human right.

Currently, 23 million people in Tanzania do not have access to clean water. Due to limited access locally, women and children typically spend several hours a day collecting water. Often, women face violence in their attempt to travel long distances to find water.

Several other issues are faced by the local population in relation to water. The low quality of water means that citizens continue to be plagued with waterborne illnesses.  Only 15 percent of the population has access to toilets, contributing to health complications and diseases as well.

In spite of this, some policy implementations by the World Bank have proven to be somewhat successful in the last decade. The Water Sector Development Program has connected customers in urban areas to water supplies, built 539 new water points and provided 2.7 million urban residents with clean and safe drinking water by June 2014. Despite this, the most disenfranchised places in the country continue to struggle.

Organizations such as Water Aid are trying to combat the low water quality in Tanzania. Means of doing so include the use of moderately priced technologies that can have sustainable and long-term benefits.

For example, pumps often solve the issue of emptying latrines in slums. Similarly, mapping technology has the ability to record the location and condition of water areas throughout the country.

Water Aid continues to seek improvements to water quality in Tanzania. Currently, the organization is inviting drilling contractors to submit bids for a geophysical survey and drilling works for a Community Supply Scheme in Arusha, Tanzania.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in NamibiaNamibia is a large, sparsely populated country on the south-west coast of Africa. It has enjoyed relative stability since gaining independence in 1990 after a struggle with the South African government. Unfortunately, the water quality in Namibia has been an issue for some time, with many avoiding the usage of tap water for drinking purposes and opting for bottled water instead.

In some cities, tap water is contaminated; in others, it may be safe to drink. In cities such as Keetmanshoop and Tsumeb, it is said that all water is considered contaminated and that it is recommended to bring all tap water to a rolling boil if you wish to drink, brush your teeth or make ice cubes with it. Otherwise, it is recommended to buy capped bottled water from reputable sellers.

In cities like Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Windhoek, the water is considered as ‘may be safe to drink’ because the water is chlorinated. This means that locals can drink water from the tap without issue. Despite this, many still choose to avoid the water due to instances of some small strains of local E. coli being present in the water. This bacteria can cause diarrhea to new visitors.

As a result of water contamination, retail chains in Namibia, such as Pick ‘n Pay, Spar and Fruit and Veg, to make significant profits selling bottled water to consumers hesitant to drink the tap water.

However, in some shops, like the Pick n’ Play in Windhoek, tap water is labeled as ‘mineral water’ and sold to the consumers unknowingly. There are very little safety measures in place to protect the consumers from being misled by the retail shops that sell bottled water in Namibia.

While explaining the water quality in Namibia and how tap water is treated in cities, Maximilian Herzog of Omaruru Beverages, a leading bottled water company in the local market, said, “nobody controls water quality at the point of use – the tap at home.” This means that from the treatment point, water can flow kilometers through unclean and old pipelines. Water remains one of the most difficult products to bottle and transport through pipelines due to accidental contamination issues. Furthermore, high chlorine levels and unbalanced mineral contents in tap water lead to unpleasant tastes.

Herzog maintains that it is important that the consumer is clearly informed with appropriate labeling and packaging on what they intend to buy, whether it be mineral water or purified water.

In order for this issue to be addressed, it is imperative for the National Standards Institute (NSI) to create regulations for bottled water sales. This will ensure that consumers are no longer misled or in danger of drinking contaminated tap water. Until then, be aware of the water quality in Namibia.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in MaldivesThe Maldives—a nation composed of over 1,000 islands and known as a tropical paradise—has a dirty little secret: the world’s largest trash island.

A few miles from the capital city, Malé, an artificial island has been built in order to solve Malé’s trash problem. However, with over 10,000 waste-producing tourists visiting the Maldives each week, the trash island has grown into a pile covering over 124 acres. While tourism has sparked a healthy economy and turned the Maldives into the richest country in South Asia, the industry is consequentially producing an environmental burden with the unsustainable creation of waste. The trash island “grows” nearly one square meter each day. The island—named Thilafushi—is concerning environmental campaigners at an alarming rate.

The waste is brought to the island on ships and taken ashore, then sifted through by hand. While some trash is incinerated, the majority of waste is buried in landfills. As a result, environmentalists are “seeing batteries, asbestos, lead, and other potentially hazardous waste mixed in with the municipal solid wastes being put into the water.” Malé environmentalist, Ali Rilwan, notes, “these wastes are a source of heavy toxic metals and it is an increasingly serious ecological and health problem in the Maldives.”

Some of the reasons Thilafushi is such a big problem are very simple. Firstly, the islands of the Maldives are small, which means so are the freshwater sources. By housing large amounts of waste, water contamination is bound to occur and according to Rilwan, it is occurring. Secondly, because of the small landmass and the large tourism industry, waste is going to be produced and it has to go somewhere. At this point, India is being paid to take some of the waste.

Fortunately, water quality in the Maldives is more of an anticipated problem than it is a present one. According to the U.N. Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water, access to drinking water is high. While water degradation due to salinity and pollution make the access challenging, the U.N. reports over 90 percent of the Maldives do have access.

In response to the call for improved quality, the nation has set forth a number of specific goals, including keeping rural water supplies functioning long-term, improving continuity of urban water supplies and rehabilitating broken public facilities. The Maldives has embraced financing a WASH program, which recognizes drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

The government is active in making the right to drinking water a reality across the islands. After taking notes from the problems of small freshwater resources and the pollution that is seemingly unavoidable as a result of tourism, the government has joined with Aquaver and Stelco—a power company—to address the problem with a new idea: desalination plants.

To better ensure good water quality in the Maldives, the partnership is seeking to build a desalination plant on every island, in order to provide a safe and reliable drinking source that also has an energy-producing capacity which capitalizes on the heat exchanges that occur during the desalination process. The plan includes distribution kiosks with reusable containers. Overall, this would reduce waste and increase access to high-quality water, which directly aids the Maldives in solving two pending problems.

With the government’s careful monitoring and proactive initiative with local businesses, the future for water in the Maldives is looking good. In the recent past, water quality in the Maldives has been a quiet topic, as it brings hidden secrets—such as Thilafushi—into the conversation. However, by revealing what is damaging the water quality and addressing the issues with innovative solutions that grow business, increase safe water access and remove one less piece of trash from the nation’s waste, the future looks nearly as crystal clear as its famous beach waters.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Suny Clean WaterWater is one of the most basic human necessities, yet millions of people lack access to clean drinking water. Fortunately, researchers are coming up with new solutions every day to help create purified drinking water in impoverished countries to help resolve this issue.

Throughout the years there have been many methods implemented to purify water such as heating, distillation and boiling. Researchers at the State University of New York have created a fast and cheap solar still that could potentially provide drinking water to those who currently don’t have access.

The solar still is first set on top of any body of water. After a few minutes, the water that goes inside the still heats up, begins to evaporate and becomes trapped in the clear topping. Once the trapped evaporated water cools down, it is then collected in a vessel free of impurities.

The method itself is not that innovative. Solar stills have been around for thousands of years. What makes the Suny Clean Water solar still different is how efficiently and cheaply it purifies water.

A large number of solar stills use solar nanomaterials on the bottom to collect heat and energy from the sun. Unfortunately, these nanomaterials can end up making the solar still cost up to $200 per square meter. At that price, it cannot be sold in impoverished countries. Not only that, these expensive solar stills do not efficiently use solar energy and can only lead to one liter of water a day. These issues prevent the stills from effectively purifying drinking water in impoverished countries.

Suny Clean Water has found a solution to both of these problems. The biggest issue is the cost of creation. Given that the nanomaterials drive up the price, the researchers looked for a way to bring it down. The solution they found was a black fiber-rich paper, similar to what is used to print money. It functions similarly to the nanomaterials, absorbing sunlight to assist in evaporating the water.

This black material is much cheaper than the nanoparticle. It would only cost about $2 per square meter, which is 1/100th of the price of the nanoparticles per square meter. That low cost could lead to each unit of this solar filter costing only $5 once it is completely put together using the black fiber paper.

Not only is this solar still model cheaper to produce, it is also energy efficient. The Suny Clean Water solar still has 88 percent thermal efficiency to evaporate the water. According to Qiaoqiang Gan, the lead author of the study, that is nearly three times as efficient as natural evaporation. Due to how efficiently water is evaporated, this new solar still can end up providing up to one liter of water an hour.

This new solar still took all the issues that previous stills faced and conquered them. It is cheap and provides water relatively quickly. Currently, it is not commercially available but Suny Clean Water hopes that will soon change. Once it becomes available, creating purified drinking water in impoverished countries will become affordable and easy.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Pixabay

The Netherlands lies by the coast of the Atlantic Ocean with a temperate marine climate. It is rainy for most of the four seasons. There are hundreds of locations for groundwater extraction all over the Netherlands. Thanks to natural filtering and isolation from external sources of pollution, the groundwater has a low degree of contamination. Hence, it does not require complicated procedures for purification.

As reported by the Dutch public health agency RIVM, due to human factors, the quality of tap water in some areas of the Netherlands does not meet the expected standards. It is also indicated by its survey that about 60 percent of drinking water in the Netherlands is sourced from the ground, and the rest is provided by surface water. Because of the contamination resulted from pesticides, industrial emissions and improper waste disposal, more than half of the groundwater used is below the international standard of water quality.

Regarding surface water quality in the Netherlands, the quality was also poor due to the pollution from drugs, cosmetics, pesticides and other chemical residues. Some factories of wastewater treatment were unable to purify these harmful substances. RIVM has called for the establishment of a better environmental monitoring system on the sources of drinking water.

The drinking water quality in the Netherlands depends on the variations in regional management. The test standard is more strict than bottled water in the market.  The related Dutch laws such as Drinking Water Law and Water Pipeline Management Measures aim to ensure water quality. Organizations in the chain of water production, including companies and collective supply units, all must regularly check the water quality in the Netherlands and inspect the results. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands also publishes annual reports on the quality of drinking water each year.

The latest Dutch water law was enacted in 2009. It aims to stress the impact of climate change and sea-level rise on flood control security, release the pressure of population demands from increased water consumption and accelerate integrated management of water resources.

Water quality in the Netherlands across drinking water from rivers, lakes and the ground has improved greatly over the past decade, to great praise. The successful practice of water management by law and regulations from the Dutch government has been recognized as “the miracle of drinking water” by media in Europe. Nevertheless, further efforts are still needed to maintain the water quality in the Netherlands, in addition to the promotion of water management practices from a single country to the world.

– Xin Gao

                                                       

Water in PakistanIn Pakistan, water contamination is a serious issue, one so substantial that in August of 2017, up to 60 million people were found to be at risk of having arsenic in their water supplies. Further, the level of arsenic allowed in Pakistan’s water sources is five times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) guidelines for arsenic concentration in drinking water, with Pakistan allowing 50 micrograms per liter and the WHO allowing only 10.

This specific issue of arsenic contamination points to a broader theme of water contamination on the whole. Water supply lines are often located directly adjacent to uncovered sewage lines, causing water contamination to be so prevalent that 40 percent of all ailments in Pakistan are the result of water-borne illnesses. Further, access to clean water in Pakistan is not recognized as a national right but is seen as a responsibility which local governments are meant to take on. This means that such access fluctuates depending on the area, although infrastructural support for a clean water system is, on the whole, dismal.

The scarcity of clean water in Pakistan has allowed extremist groups to use water as a focal point of their recruitment process. Lakshar-e-Taiba, an extremist group that perpetrated the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 172 people were killed, has accused India of committing “water terrorism,” citing such as motivation for terrorist actions in India. By exploiting the issue of water, an issue which every Pakistani citizen is forced to deal with in order to survive, extremist organizations are able to reach larger swathes of the “common man” and augment grassroots support. Thus, the issue of water in Pakistan goes beyond simple health problems and infiltrates international security issues as well.

The wide berth of the problem has initiated an increase in the bottled water industry, but the reality is that such is still financially inaccessible to the majority of low-income individuals, forcing low-income communities to rely on easily contaminated groundwater. In order to address this, an organization called Pharmagen has entered the scene. Pharmagen ensures its water is affordable for low-income customers, requiring only two rupees per liter. It operates through a chain of open water shops that extracts groundwater and purifies it to meet WHO standards before distributing it to the impoverished communities it serves. Currently, the organization provides more than 100,000 liters of potable water per day in Lahore alone and seeks to expand to include 32 additional open water shops while also adding one bottled water facility.

Yet, it is important to note that 21.6 million people in Pakistan still have no access to clean water, and this is a hotbed for extremist activities. The work of organizations such as Pharmagen is both admirable and necessary, but it is also necessary that the international community step up as a whole; the issue of water in Pakistan ultimately goes beyond Pakistan-specific problems, due to its relationship with international extremist organizations. In a world teeming with terrorist activities, it would appear that mitigating grassroots extremist movements by improving access to clean water should have a greater presence on the world stage.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Google

Water Quality in the Central African Republic

Approximately 663 million people live without access to clean water. Many nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are dedicated to improving water quality and building wells in poverty-stricken areas. However, the ad hoc building of wells does not solve the problem of water poverty and sanitation. Wells can and do break down and someone must fix them, but at this point, most water charities have left the community a long time ago. The key to ending water poverty, which will in turn bring more people out of extreme poverty, is water sustainability. This is where Water for Good – an organization working in the Central African Republic (CAR) – comes in.

A Plan for Water Sustainability

Founded in 2004, Water for Good works to bring water sustainability and improve water quality in the CAR. It is now the largest water provider in the country. Water for Good has drilled over 650 new water wells in the CAR and each well provides enough water for 500 people. The organization also maintains over 1000 water wells across the country and has rehabilitated more than 900 old and forgotten wells. While wells can last over a decade with routine maintenance, they will eventually need a major overhaul.

Water for Good plans to bring clean, safe water to every person in the CAR  by 2030. This is in step with the U.N.’s timeline for achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals. The nation has a population of only 4.7 million people; however, with a large geographic size and a history of internal conflict, improving water quality in the CAR is a difficult task. Water for Good plans to partner with the U.N. and other charitable organizations to achieve this goal.

Local Companies

Doctor Richard Klopp – CEO of Water for Good – tells The Borgen Project that an important step toward water sustainability is transitioning the duties of maintenance and upkeep to private companies within the CAR. Water for Good currently has four maintenance crews that each take care of about 260 wells. The goal is to hand off all of those responsibilities to private, locally-owned companies. In fact, it has already started to happen.

Water for Good created a locally-owned company, Marcellin African Drilling (MAD), and then handed off all the operations to the owner, Marcellin Namsene. While MAD still partners with Water for Good on projects, it is a private, locally-owned business that can continue to upkeep the wells when Water for Good’s work is finished.

A Strategic Focus

Water for Good was originally founded by a former missionary named Jim Hocking, when a good friend sold him a well-drilling business if he agreed to run it as a nonprofit. Hocking had no experience with water wells or drilling, but was familiar with the issue of water quality in the CAR, having grown up in the country. Originally, the organization was named Integrated Community Development International and had several other aims besides water. It was also involved with HIV/AIDS work, orphan care and providing religious services. Eventually those other issues were jettisoned in order to focus on water sustainability. The organization now provides drilling, maintenance and runs a radio station which focuses on community development, sanitation and hygiene. While the CAR is a very low-infastructure country, most people have access to a radio.

“We realized what the country needs from an American NGO is water infrastructure built and sustained, ” says Klopp, “and so that’s all we do now.”

It is a strategic focus for a unique organization. Hopefully, the success of Water for Good inspires other organizations to realize what can be accomplished with long-term planning and a focus on sustainability.

Brock Hall
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Pakistan
Recent research published in the journal Science Advances has serious implications for up to 60 million Pakistanis—groundwater in the Indus Valley has been found to contain arsenic that likely exceeds a level safe for human consumption. The poor water quality in Pakistan puts many at risk of arsenic poisoning.

The published research comes from the World Health Organization (WHO), which took 1,200 groundwater samples throughout the Indus Plain. Scientists then used this data to create a “hazard map” to determine how many people would be affected by this contamination.

What they found was that 50 million—maybe even 60 million—people would be affected by contaminated groundwater, a number far greater than previously calculated. This estimate was given considering that 60 to 70 percent of the population in Pakistan relies on groundwater.

While the WHO has established that 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter of water is an acceptable concentration, the Pakistani government has always permitted a higher concentration of 50 micrograms per liter.

Although arsenic is naturally present in the ground, researchers suggest that human activities may have exacerbated the amount present in the groundwater in the Indus Plain. Lubna Bukhari, the head of Pakistan’s Council for Research in Water Resources, notes that, due to a lack of regulation, humans have exploited the groundwater, leading to an increase in arsenic.

There are no immediate effects of arsenic poisoning; however, the long-term health effects are severe. Long-term exposure to arsenic-laced water can cause skin lesions, damage to organs and even heart disease and cancer.

A statement by the WHO pressed the need to test “all drinking water wells in the Indus Plain.” With roughly a quarter of the population at risk for arsenic poisoning, the need to address water quality in Pakistan is urgent. Researchers also suggested health intervention programs for those impacted by the contamination.

For those that rely on groundwater for drinking, cooking and farming, the discovery of the contamination could severely impact their livelihoods. The Pakistani government must work to ensure that those impacted by the contamination—no small figure—are offered consumption-worthy alternatives to arsenic-tainted water.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Grenada
Grenada is a developing island nation that resides in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. The country is made up of six smaller islands in addition to the main island of Grenada. The country depends heavily on the agricultural sector to maintain its economy. It is well known for its nutmeg and mace crops, which are sold all throughout the world. However, limited access to drinking water has made the water quality in Grenada see a decline in recent years.

The Issue of Water Access In Grenada

Growing periods of dry spells and overuse of water in Grenada has led to dropping groundwater levels. This has allowed the salt water surrounding Grenada to permeate the water layers on the island. The effect of this has been the reduction of the water quality in Grenada. Consequently, this pollution from seawater has made much of the water in the nation unusable for agriculture.

In addition to the continued pollution of the nation’s water supply, rising sea levels have resulted in an erosion of the coasts. Worse yet, hurricanes passing through the region disrupt the agricultural sector and destroy critical infrastructure that the country needs to survive.

Because Grenada depends on tourism and agriculture to maintain its economy, polluted water supply has continued to create negative economic consequences.

Possible Solutions

In conjunction with Germany’s Federal Development Agency (GiZ) and the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the water quality in Grenada has begun to improve. These organizations have partnered up with the government of Grenada to teach locals how to deepen wells and construct more sophisticated irrigation systems to ensure they will have water for the future. All of this work happens alongside education of the locals about preserving water in the water-intensive industry of tourism.

Looking Towards The Future

Although pollution continues to impact many around the world, water quality in Grenada should improve in coming years. With the help of the GiZ and IKI, the government of Grenada has a clear path to address the issue of declining levels of water in their nation. As long as they continue the plan they have created, Grenada is sure to get past this matter they are addressing.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr