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Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water poverty in NigeriaWater poverty in Nigeria is still a pressing issue today. Only 30% of northern Nigeria’s population can access safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. The subsequent use of unclean water leads to the spreading of waterborne diseases such as cholera, guinea worm and hepatitis. The lack of water has impaired the livelihoods of farmers and led to a lower enrollment rate at schools, especially with girls. However, the situation is not without aid.

The History of Water Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1995, Nigerians have benefitted from WaterAid, a charity organization that has established a multitude of water and sanitation projects. The organization works through partnerships with local government authorities, civil society groups and state agencies to implement its programs. The projects have led to progress in development plans and data collection efforts that have increased clean water supply and access to safe toilets.

WaterAid has worked to improve water poverty in Nigeria by implementing its services in over 100 of Nigeria’s poorest communities, which include:

  • Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, where safe tap water is only acquired by 7% of the population.
  • Bauchi State where fewer than 50% of its people can access safe water and sanitation.

  • Benue State where most streams are contaminated.

  • Ekiti State where the main source of domestic water is pre-packaged water sachets and water vendors during the dry season.

  • Jigawa State where waterborne diseases are common.

  • Plateau State where most households rely on an unsafe water supply from government sources.

WaterAid, along with government support, has provided over three million Nigerians with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Data4WASH Programme

The Abuja-based nonprofit Media for Community Change and US-based NGO BLI Global have a similar goal of eliminating water poverty in Nigeria. On August 27, 2020, they formed a partnership to launch The Data4WASH Programme. The program consists of an interactive online platform that accumulates data and maps GPS coordinates. It then creates a map that water-impoverished communities can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Through the map, empirical and widespread evidence can prove the need for adequate investment in the design and installation of clean water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, the program empowers civil society by involving them in the national initiative to improve water poverty in Nigeria. The map encourages people to identify and report water-deficient and poorly sanitized areas in their communities. For instance, final year students from The Department of Statistics at the University of Ibadan will participate in the data collection process.

COVID-19

The Data4WASH Programme has been especially valuable after COVID-19 disrupted Nigeria’s progress in alleviating water poverty. According to WaterAid, 60 million Nigerians lack access to a clean water supply and services, and 150 million people lack basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

By enhancing data collecting processes, Nigeria can fortify its most vulnerable communities and health care systems to withstand the present detriments of COVID-19. Further, it can institutionally protect against potential health threats in the future. These measures established by The Data4WASH Programme’s interactive map system would also satisfy The U.N.’s Global Goal 6 — “clean water and sanitation access for all, including safe and affordable drinking water.”

Locally crafted, community-driven initiatives like The Data4WASH Programme and intergovernmental organizations are vital to ending global poverty. One sets guidelines and the other provides outlets that encourage entrepreneurship. The two must work together to end water poverty in Nigeria and all around the world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Sunlight-Powered Desalination ProcessAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to clean sources of drinking water. This figure is often quite surprising to many because it is difficult to comprehend how water can be so scarce when it is seemingly so bountiful. However, in truth, only 3% of Earth’s water is freshwater. Additionally, with current trends of rising temperatures and increasing worldwide consumption of freshwater, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water scarcities. For this reason, researchers in Australia have developed a sunlight-powered desalination process to quickly convert tainted water into a safe, drinkable form.

The Process of Sunlight-Powered Desalination

In August 2020, a team of Chinese and Australian researchers based at Monash University in Australia announced via the science journal, Nature Sustainability, that they had developed a new sunlight-powered desalination process. The method uses their self-developed metal-organic framework (MOF), an extremely porous metal, called PSP-MIL-53. Once exposed to sufficient sunlight, this MOF is “activated” and absorbs particles like salt and bacteria from brackish water to create water that can be consumed by humans.

This sunlight-powered desalination process, according to the scientists participating in the study, produces water cleaner than WHO standards. WHO sets the standard for drinking water at having less than 600 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved solids. Meanwhile, this new method was able to reduce the number of dissolved solids from 2,233ppm to 500ppm of dissolved solids.

Clean Water in 30 Minutes

Along with creating water cleaner than WHO standards, the new sunlight-powered desalination process can desalinate brackish water in less than 30 minutes. This approach is more efficient than other methods of desalination with it generating nearly 37 gallons of potable water per day from only one kilogram of PSP-MIL-53.

Benefits for the Impoverished

By using sunlight for activation energy, the newly developed method does not require heat or electricity to jumpstart the active desalination. While other technologies that use processes like reverse osmosis require sophisticated energy infrastructure and dangerous chemicals to operate, the Australian-developed procedure does not. This will allow poor, rural areas in developing nations, places where water is increasingly becoming most scarce, to use this sunlight-powered desalination process to obtain drinkable water without needing to create a robust power grid nearby. Lack of chemicals and reliance solely on sunlight also makes this type of desalination energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly, minimalizing damage to surrounding ecosystems.

Further Potential for Developing Countries

With the potential to quickly and efficiently provide millions with safe, drinkable water, Monash University researchers are continuing to perfect the technology. According to lead scientists on the project, the sunlight-powered desalination process can be cheaply distributed to areas in dire need overcoming the cost barrier of desalination plants that have previously prevented developing countries from purchasing desalination technology. Professor Huanting Wang, one of the lead scientists, also stated that the byproducts of the desalination process, those being the minerals and other materials extracted from the water, could function as a secondary benefit of the technique by providing an environmentally-friendly source of raw materials that could help boost the economies of poor regions.

The Future of PSP-MIL-53

Much is still to be done by researchers at Monash University before PSP-MIL-53 is ready for widespread distribution. Despite this, it is clear that this new discovery provides hope for impoverished communities who face threats of drought or unclean water. The cost and energy requirements have always been an entry barrier to gaining access to potentially life-saving desalination plants. These scientists are gunning to change the world by providing the poor with access to clean, drinkable water.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

GoliathonGoliathon is a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey, that uses obstacle courses to raise money for another organization, charity: water, which is based in New York. These two organizations jointly work to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Water: A Universal Human Right

In 2017, 2.2 billion people worldwide did not have access to clean water, which is roughly one in 10 people. The lack of access to clean water is due to the contamination of water as well as the location of water. With 144 million people sourcing their drinking water from untreated lakes, ponds and streams, disease is a massive concern. Unsafe and untreated water is responsible for the transmission of diseases like cholera and dysentery. Diarrhea alone claims almost 485,000 lives a year. The matter of location is equally vital. Efforts to create safe water sources mean little if they are not easily accessible for those in need. More than 200 million people must walk more than half an hour to reach a safe water source.

The U.N. recognizes access to water as a universal human right. In the effort to solve this crisis, the General Assembly argues that water must be safe, acceptable and affordable and has to be within 1,000 meters of the home. The value of water is a key reason why Goliathon has chosen to work with charity:water.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water is committed to providing clean drinking water to developing nations. The majority of its work has been centralized in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, with a few projects located in Central America. These projects include well construction, water purification systems and rainwater harvesting.

Founder and CEO, Scott Harrison, recognizes the opportunities offered by technological advancements. He sees the solution to the water crisis as a possibility. He believes “It’s just a matter of getting the right resources to the right people.”

Charity: water prides itself on transparency, promising that 100% of proceeds go toward hands-on development of the projects.

Goliathon

Goliathon was founded by a group of friends who value athleticism and altruism. Their mission statement is “It’s not a race. It’s a mission.” This mission statement reflects that the water crisis is not one problem to fix but a collective mission to undertake. Goliathon’s fundraising for charity: water has resulted in several completed water projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Malawi. Three more water projects have been funded and are currently under construction.

By signing up to take part in Goliathon obstacle courses, participants raise money for charity: water efforts. The courses are not a competition but a challenge that encourages everyone to be an advocate for global issues like water access.

The obstacle courses are open to all and vary in difficulty to appeal to both beginners and the more experienced. The Goliathon team has created several different obstacles for participants to overcome, each unique in design and requiring equally clever solutions. A particularly notable challenge in the course is the water carry challenge, which has participants cart jerrycans full of water as a way of connecting to those in developing nations who must do the same.

Impact of Goliathon and charity:water

Goliathon’s October 2017 event resulted in $50,000 raised for charity: water efforts in Ethiopia. Completed in September 2019, the project oversaw water spring protection and the creation of safe pipe systems. Over 1,600 people in Ethiopian communities were helped.

The most recent Goliathon event held in October 2019 had $34,000 raised for BioSand Filters in Cambodia. These BioSand Filters offer a simple and low-cost solution as a form of filtration. Their effectiveness is amplified by charity: water committing to educating the families that use them, ensuring a healthy cycle.

COVID-19 has prevented Goliathon from hosting any events in 2020. However, the Goliathon team is optimistic and is planning for a possible event in June 2021, with protocols in place if necessary.

– Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Water Access in PakistanJust a few months after assuming office in 2018, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a dire declaration to his nation, pronouncing the water crisis to be the most pressing problem facing Pakistan today. Soon after, one team of Pakistani-American college students decided to launch the Paani Project to address the issue. Since then, the group has made astounding strides toward improving water access in Pakistan.

The Water Crisis in Pakistan

The Paani Project is addressing one of the most acute water crises in the world today. With a population of 212 million, poor water management, climate change and intensive agriculture, access to clean water can be scarce. An estimated 40% of deaths in the country are linked to unclean water.

Pakistan also has a shocking disparity in water access between its urban and rural areas. With up to 70% of rural regions having no access to clean water, millions in Pakistan’s more remote areas face a severe risk to their health and livelihoods.

Origins of the Paani Project

In order to combat this critical issue, four University of Michigan students decided to launch the Paani Project. The mission began on a local scale. For three months, on their way to class and around campus, the students would sell doughnuts, slowly collecting enough funds to build their first well in a rural region of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Since funding their first well, the team has put hours of effort, collaboration and organization into the project, creating a fully functioning nonprofit that has seen widespread success.

The Paani Project Impact

With over 850 wells built across rural areas as of 2020 and more than $300,000 donated, the Paani group has made an undeniable impact in improving water access in Pakistan. Their work has spread from Sindh to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, serving rural needs across the country.

In addition to building wells, the project has also diversified its mission by leading a number of different humanitarian efforts around the country. In Azad Kashmir, Paani led a winter coat drive and in Karachi, the group operated a dental clinic to provide care for those that would not have access otherwise.

The organization has also provided relief from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing food to thousands of workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh who rely on daily wages to support their families.

Other Initiatives

Paani also believes that education is an important step in combatting poverty and increasing water access in Pakistan. With every well that has been built, Paani has held “hygiene education seminars” to teach community members about proper sanitation practices and how to maintain the well. The group has also helped develop education curriculums in Sindh, through which they hope to increase knowledge about the water crisis and proper hygiene practices.

Although Pakistan’s water crisis is one that continues to make headlines and threatens the lifestyles of millions of people across the country, work by organizations such as Paani has helped to turn the tide. With tens of thousands of people directly reaping the benefits of Paani’s wells, the group’s contributions are sure to be much more than just a drop in the bucket in the fight for universal water access in Pakistan.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Innovations
Since the 1990s, world leaders have made tremendous progress in their efforts to unite and lead the fight against world poverty. However, poverty remains a prominent issue worldwide. Only five countries have achieved the goal of allocating one percent or more of their federal budgets toward foreign aid. The United States is not among these countries, despite surpassing the next eight countries combined on military spending.

The Big Picture: Poverty Around the World

Statistics are useful indicators of how poverty affects certain regions, but to further understand global poverty, it is also important to explore the living conditions for individuals under the poverty line. Lack of clean water, sanitation and nutrition leads to harsh living conditions for poverty victims, rendering them vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. In some parts of the world, children march on their feet for hours a day to locate and bring back drinking water.

Funds allocated to underprivileged areas can massively improve conditions for people living in poverty. For example, funding can be used to improve education, which leads to higher levels of self-sufficiency and reliance. Beyond funding, aid can also come in the form of poverty innovations — technology or other creative inventions that bring resources to those in need. Here are five poverty innovations designed to help the world’s poor.

5 Impactful Poverty Innovations

  1. LifeStraw: Access to clean water is vital to alleviating poverty and improving living conditions. Not only is clean water important for drinking, but it can also be used for bathing, washing clothes and performing general sanitation. One in nine people worldwide — 785 million people — lack access to safe water. LifeStraw is a portable water filter that turns contaminated water into safe drinking water. It does not require any batteries, and it uses a hollow fiber membrane. 3.4 million children have received a year’s supply of drinking water through a program organized by the company.
  2. KickStart Irrigation Pumps: A majority (80%) of Africa’s poor are small-scale farmers. These farmers frequently go hungry during periods of drought. KickStart offers tools such as the MoneyMaker Max, an irrigation pump that sprays 16 gallons of water a minute and pulls from water up to 23 feet deep. KickStart has sold nearly 350,000 products so far.
  3. Plumpy’nut: This is a therapeutic food supplement that helps children with severe malnutrition. More specifically, it’s a calorically-dense and nutritious paste wrapped in a foil packet. The paste is made of peanuts, as the name suggests. It’s easily replicable and responsible for “significantly lowering mortality rates during famines in Africa.” Products like Plumpy’nut have the potential to save children’s lives in particularly poor parts of the world.
  4. Life Sack: Another tool aimed at solving the world’s water crisis, Life Sack is a shipping container that can be used to hold grains. Once the food is stored, Life Sack functions as a water purification kit that is powered by solar energy.
  5. The Hippo Roller: This invention addresses the problem of carrying water. The Hippo Water Roller eliminates the need to carry water, instead allowing individuals to push a barrel filled with water. By the end of 2015, 46,000 Hippo rollers were provided to communities across at least 20 countries.

The fight to end global poverty requires not only financial support from wealthy nations but also innovations that improve the living conditions of the world’s poor. While the innovations listed above improve water collection, irrigation and nutrition for poor individuals, increasingly creative inventions will be necessary to eradicate poverty across the globe.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Water Quality in Myanmar
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a nation with 32.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line, according to 2015 data.

Accessing water in Myanmar has always been difficult, despite the country’s natural resources. It once was recognized to have the fourth-richest supply of groundwater in the world, holding more than 19,000 square meters per capita. This is 16 times the available levels of Myanmar’s neighboring country, Bangladesh.

A typical summer season in the last few years would introduce water shortages in only central Myanmar, but now, deforestation – as a result of urbanization – and hot temperatures contribute to water shortages in other additional areas of the country, leaving hundreds of thousands in danger.

However, recent changes to the water system have significantly improved water quality in Myanmar:

Fixing the Irrigation Systems

Myanmar’s agriculture industry provides jobs for 60 percent of workers, so it is crucial that irrigation systems are functional. In the past, Myanmar struggled with irrigation upkeep and water distribution, so The Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project stepped in to improve irrigation infrastructure, reform water management and provide education to farmers. Since its implementation, farmers and the government have worked together to make sure water distribution is fair and regulated, and farmers have learned how to use land efficiently to increase crop growth. The agriculture industry has improved as a result: the gross domestic product for agriculture increased from 12,316,081.8 MMK mn to 13,964,771.2 MMK mn in just five years.

Purifying Wastewater has Increased Access to Water

Proctor & Gamble’s Children Safe Drinking Water program and World Vision teamed up to give Myanmar residents a tool to clean non-potable water: a powder mixture invented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The powder transforms 10 liters of contaminated water into clean, drinkable water in just half an hour, providing a day’s worth of resources for a five-member family. This means that poor families living in Myanmar can purify water from rivers and streams instead of spending a lot of money on bottled water. P&G has helped with improving Myanmar’s water since 2008, and the water purification tool has helped 200,000 people gain access to safer water.

Decreasing Illness

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is a common occurrence in Myanmar because of people’s tendency to collect water in their homes. Stored water attracts mosquitoes and creates a large breeding ground for the disease. Myanmar is labeled as a high burden dengue country, and citizens take preventative measures by learning how to protect their water against mosquitoes and to keep their spaces dry and clean. In 2015, there were 42,913 cases of dengue, but after a year of water education and awareness, the number dropped to 10,770.

Looking Ahead

Access to clean water has increased in the last 15 years, but there is still more to be done. In 2000, 47.31 percent of citizens in rural areas had access to potable water, and that number has increased to 59.85 percent as of 2015, but it is still low. The Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene plans for universal access to water by 2030, and improving water quality in Myanmar may be achieved with increased awareness and action.

Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

 

vietnamese water crisis
Vietnam, a southeastern Asian country whose coastline stretches 12 nautical miles, imminently struggles with providing clean water to those living there. The country has over 2360 rivers and about two-thirds of its population resides near one of Vietnam’s three water basins. Even so, most of this aquatic supply is unusable and undrinkable. The ongoing Vietnamese water crisis is so threatening that it is a focal point of national policy and international concern.

Background

Both government and industrial issues exacerbate the Vietnamese water crisis. Poor regulation coupled with irresponsible handling of waste has led Vietnam’s ponds, lakes, and canals to shortages and contamination.

In March of 2018, the Coalition for Clean Water and the Centre for Environment and Community Research released a report detailing how industry has altered the water quality in Vietnam. The report revealed that about 70 percent of waste released from industrial parks is directly released into the environment. These tainted waters carry dangerous chemicals and cause illnesses.

The World Bank’s estimations concerning the crisis show that it is no diminutive issue. The organization notes that rising threats against Vietnam’s water supply could reduce the nation’s GDP by six percent by the year 2035. Pollution presents itself as the biggest hazard to water basins, which drain into water outlets all over the country. In the most highly polluted areas, wastewater has poisoned the air to the point that it has become odorous and toxic.

Impacts of the Crisis

Those living in rural areas suffer the most from water sanitation issues. Only 39 percent of rural individuals have access to clean water. Furthermore, most of these individuals must use water wells that tap into underground aquifers to compensate for the lack of a clean water source at the surface.

The absence of clean water does not only deprive rural Vietnamese of their basic needs, but it also affects their ability to efficiently participate in the economy. Agricultural production is a precious monetary asset that takes up 80 percent of Vietnam’s water supply. The infrastructure needed to transport clean water to farms is unstable.

The Vietnamese water crisis has created national health issues, as well. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment estimates that up to 80 percent of diseases in Vietnam is directly caused by water pollution. Nearly six million citizens have contracted a waterborne illness, the most rampant being cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria.

Impacts on Children

Children are the main concern for the international community as dirty water affects the growth and development of a new generation.

UNICEF reports that more than 9.5 million Vietnamese still release excreta into their surroundings, further contaminating the water supply. Children lack the matured immune system needed to fight off the problems generated by this unhygienic practice, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and parasitic infection. Diarrhea is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five.

USAID Intervention in the Ha Lam Commune

USAID has routinely provided donations and grants to the Vietnamese government to solve humanitarian issues. A recent project launched on March 30, 2019, is aimed at assuaging the problems perpetrated by water pollution.

The project, called the Vietnam Local Works for Environmental Health, focuses on the Ha Lam commune in the Thanh Hoa province. Small scale water supply systems are currently being entrenched in the region to provide clean water to kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools. The new infrastructure is estimated to benefit over 20,000 individuals living in this northern province.

The Ha Lam commune, however, is not the only area where children are at risk. Education institutions in other parts of Vietnam are also in need of effective water supply systems, as more than 80 percent of schools around the nation lack fully operating water sanitation facilities.

Looking Ahead

Due to the awareness and concentration on the Vietnamese water crisis, it is possible that this problem will soon be overcome. By 2025, the Vietnamese government hopes to attain the clean water standards needed to revive an unhealthy public and a feeble economic production. Specifically, the government has launched a national plan directed at hindering the open defecation that so commonly contaminates the country’s water supply.

With six years to go until Vietnam’s standard is hopefully achieved, it is imperative that this issue remain persistent in the global mind. The government and participating groups must remain resilient through the growing population and industry in Vietnam that work to destabilize existing plans. Clean water is required if the human and environmental body is to exist comfortably.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

wells in Africa
In most developed nations across the globe, water is taken for granted. What is so vital for existence is easily dispensed from numerous faucets in each home.

However, in less developed nations, particularly across Africa, water is much more difficult to come by.  Across the continent, the number of people without access to quality water has increased by 66 million since 1990. Many are forced to spend hours per day collecting heavy water from far away sources. Others use contaminated water that is ridden with bacteria and unsafe for consumption. Still others go without.

Wells in small towns and villages provide an effective way to address issues surrounding proper sanitation and access to high quality drinking water.  Here are five reasons that water wells in Africa are the smart choice for progress and investment.

How Water Wells in Africa Can Solve Water Scarcity

  1. Only 16 percent of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to drinking water through a household faucet. This means that 84 percent must find access to water outside of their home.With the climate being so arid and a very small portion of the population living near the largest water sources, many have very limited access to water. The Congo River Basin holds over 30 percent of the water supply for the whole continent but less than 10 percent of the continent’s people.Coupled with the lack of education surrounding water quality, this creates a dangerous situation for consumption of contaminated water. Wells in Africa can provide a convenient and safe source of water for many of its inhabitants.
  2. Disease from water-borne illness is at a high. For example, in Africa, over two million children die from illnesses brought on due to poor water each year.A startling one in eight people drink water that could potentially kill a human being. Another one in three drink water that is deemed unclean, amassing to 330 million people consuming unsafe water. Kids across the continent miss more than 440 million school days due to water-related diseases.Beyond clean drinking water, the World Health Organization estimated that in 2004, only 59 percent of the world’s population had access to adequate sanitation systems. This lack of hygiene surrounding water usage takes up 50 percent of hospital beds across Africa on any given day, creating costs and using precious resources.
  3. The benefits from a well outweigh the cost. While the cost of wells in Africa varies by location, on average the positive impact that a well has on people’s lives outweighs the building cost.As well as helping to improve living conditions, wells also create positive economic responses. It is estimated that $1 invested in clean water and sanitation yields a $9 return. This is due to the economic stimulation that a well can bring about.This increased productivity stems from fewer sick days taken and more kids, particularly girls, staying in school. Additional money is saved from the lack of hospitalization. While the implementation cost of a well can be high, a single well in Africa can meet the basic daily needs of nearly 2,000 people and last for over 20 years.
  4. Wells can help foster gender equality. It is commonplace for young girls to drop out of school due to a lack of proper sanitation facilities and familial expectations to collect water.With water sources sometimes being several hours each way and jugs weighing up to 40 pounds when filled, water collection is a full-time job. If wells are introduced, girls may have increased opportunity to obtain an education, bolstering their standing within society and contributing to their own prospects and economic prospects at large.
  5. Rural areas continue to face huge barriers to quality water access. While quality water and adequate sanitation are ongoing battles for both rural and urban areas, more people are affected by the issue at the rural level. 84 percent of those who do not have access to a clean water source live in rural areas.Aid and funding do not match this demonstrated need, however, as aid for rural areas is declining and aid for urban areas has increased by 60 percent since 2000. Wells provide an excellent solution for rural areas as a single well can function as a water source for an entire village.

The water crisis in Africa is one that is affecting millions of lives daily. The construction of wells in Africa is a potential solution to an issue that must be dealt with in order to reach a more stable and equal global society.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

 https://www.dropbox.com/home/Gramatvediba/Izdevumi
Ethiopia is on the cusp of completing a development milestone. The United States’ $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be over 500 feet tall and generate more than three times the hydroelectric power created by the Hoover Dam. After its completion, it will be the largest dam in Africa and generate more power than any other dam on the African continent.

Wide-Reaching Benefits

The World Bank’s examinations of this project determined that millions of citizens will benefit from this Ethiopian development milestone. According to the World Bank, nearly 75 million individuals in Ethiopia — approximately 70 percent of the country’s population — lack access to reliable energy sources. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate an estimated 6450 MW of energy to civilians, improve infrastructure and ultimately lead to more modern job opportunities in the country.

Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity claims that the dam is not being built to control the flow of the Nile river politically; rather, it is being built to provide the country with energy development opportunities. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam serves as the flagship of many strides in Ethiopian economic development. Another notable recent achievement is the equitable public transit system in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa.

National Pride

Moreover, Ethiopians are taking great nationalist pride in the development milestone. The country emphasizes that it is paying for the dam itself, without any international help or investment. The country is funding the dam through intense taxation, selling of bonds and a lottery to incentivize citizen investment.

Accordingly, Ethiopia’s progress in The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has positive and negative effects for its downstream countries Sudan and Egypt, respectively.

Sudan

Sudan expresses a positive view of the dam as it will reduce the amount of flooding farmers endure during particularly high flows of the Nile; the construction project will also contribute to reliable flows of water during the drier seasons. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam construction will also allow for cheaper electricity to be sold into Sudan as the dam is being built close to the Sudanese border.

Egypt

Egypt on the other hand, is increasingly worried about the Ethiopian development milestone. Egypt is concerned that Ethiopia is placing controls on the Nile, which Egyptians have controlled for millennia. Egyptian officials also worry that Ethiopia now has a tap that could significantly reduce the flow of water into their country.

Egypt’s concerns are justified given that the country is subject to face water shortages as soon as 2025. Officials in Egypt explain that if water levels decrease in Egypt by just two percent, then the nation will lose 200,000 acres of viable farmland, which families depend on for subsistence crop growth.

Given that, the Geological Study of America explains that the Nile’s water levels could drop by 25 percent for up to 7 years as the dam’s reservoir in Ethiopia fills up. As a result, Egyptian officials worry that nearly 1 million of the 100 million people living in Egypt will suffer from changes in the Nile’s water flow.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

At this point, Ethiopia and Egypt are only in the early stages of negotiations as tension between the countries increases. Overall, Ethiopia is not going to stop development of the dam; as a result, diplomacy and collaboration are the only means of solving the contentious issues and preventing a water war between Northeastern and East Africa.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr