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As a primarily desert country, Libya is a place where clean water is one of the most valuable commodities, used for agricultural production and human consumption. Increased levels of pollution from oil drilling and the salt water contamination of natural aquifers, however, have strained the water quality in Libya and made an already scarce water supply increasingly difficult to attain.

Rising sea levels and increased oil drilling have particularly plagued Libya and exposed its already limited and crucial water supply to pollutants and contamination.

Most of Libya’s water exists in naturally formed aquifers located underneath the country’s vast deserts. The only geographic area to receive more than 100 millimeters of rainfall a year is the coastal region, which accounts for less than 5 percent of Libya’s land area. Because of this, water purity is an increasingly crucial issue.

Since the 1950s, the sea level in Libya has advanced approximately one to two kilometers inland due to global warming and rising ocean levels. The slow move inward has caused a dramatic increase in the salinity of groundwater found in natural aquifers, from 150 parts per million in 1950 to 1,000 parts per million in 1990, according to Rajab M El-Asswad, a professor at Al-Fateh University Tripoli. As a direct consequence, the amount of water available and the water quality in Libya is becoming increasingly stretched.

In addition to limiting the amount of water that can be accessed, the increased salinity of seawater has made the overall process of obtaining water in Libya more expensive due to the need for desalination.

As aquifer water salinity and the need for water increases, the Libyan government must expand its desalinization processes. Unfortunately, desalinization is expensive and may require the diverting of funds necessary to help a nation develop.

Coinciding with the water pollution seen from natural causes like rising sea levels, man-made activities like oil drilling also creates pollution. The increase in standard drilling procedures and techniques such as fracking have exposed the vast natural aquifers to contaminants and chemicals, another negative effect on the water quality in Libya.

As the population of Libya continues to grow and the supply of water slowly declines, increased foreign aid funding becomes more important. Funds could be used to help complete the Great Manmade River Project, which aims to install hydraulic equipment necessary to withdraw and transport water from beneath the desert to high population centers for consumption and agricultural purposes.

Clean water is essential for life and agricultural growth and is necessary for a healthy ecosystem. The issue of water pollution in Libya has devastating effects on the country’s people and ecosystems and is a cause deserving of increased foreign aid.

Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr


The Republic of Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean comprised of more than 1,000 tiny coral islands split into 26 geographical atolls. The country spans 90,000 square kilometers and is the flattest country on earth. As such, even the smallest rise in sea levels can have extensive effects on the country’s land mass, infrastructure, agriculture and water quality.

There are many reasons why there are troubles with water scarcity and poor water quality in the Maldives.

Changing climate conditions

The Maldives’ second greatest source of freshwater, after rainfall, comes from groundwater. The groundwater can be found under every island in what hydrologists call lenses. A lens refers to a curved layer of freshwater that floats on top of a denser layer of saltwater. However, as sea levels rise, groundwater becomes contaminated and salinized. Certain estimates state that if sea levels rise by one meter, it will reduce the capacity for groundwater by as much as 79 percent.Since the 1950s, the sea level in the Maldives has been rising by 0.03-0.06 inches every year and is expected to rise, at a mid-level scenario, 1.5 feet by 2100, losing 77 percent of the country’s land area. This will have a significant impact on water quality in the Maldives. Additionally, warmer temperatures continue to allow for high levels of evaporation, which reduces the amount of rainwater left to infiltrate through the ground into the aquifers.

Since the 1950s, the sea level in the Maldives has been rising by 0.03-0.06 inches every year and is expected to rise, at a mid-level scenario, 1.5 feet by 2100, losing 77 percent of the country’s land area. This will have a significant impact on water quality in the Maldives. Additionally, warmer temperatures continue to allow for high levels of evaporation, which reduces the amount of rainwater left to infiltrate through the ground into the aquifers.

Rising population and increase in water pollution

Groundwater that remains nonsalinized faces other obstacles, most notably, pollution from poor sewage systems. In the 1970s, rapid development in the capital city, Malé, caused an influx of immigrants from other islands to the capital. The quantity of water being extracted from aquifers increased tenfold, and groundwater pollution increased as well, due to more sewage in the system, causing poorer water quality in the Maldives.

Lack of government initiatives

The Maldivian government has been slow to assess the impacts of climate change and groundwater pollution and create policies around water resource management. However, many strides have been made and show positive potential future change.

The first important technique for managing quality water in the Maldives is rainwater harvesting. In 2013, in the Southern region of the Maldives, 69 percent of households had rainwater tanks, while only 36 percent of households in the South Central region had tanks. On the island of Muli, the capital of the South Central region, 80 percent of households had tanks. However, on the neighboring island of Ribudhoo, only 20 percent of households had tanks. Many islands do not have rainwater tanks whatsoever and have reported water shortages to the Maldive National Defense Forces and asked for emergency water supplies. Increasing the number of rainwater tanks could greatly improve access to clean water and overall water quality in the Maldives.

Saltwater desalination could help provide clean drinking water to not only the Maldivian islands, but to other island nations around the world. In February 2014, government officials met with from the Aquiva Foundation, Memsys, Aquaver, and STELCO, a local power company, to commission a desalination facility on the island of Gulhi. The goal was for the plant to produce up to 10 tons of quality water per day from seawater for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

Gulhi is a small island 600 meters by 300 meters with a population of 1,200 people. Seasonal rain does not provide adequately for year-round water needs, and the island has relied on imported water. Much of the population spent up to 50 percent of their income on safe water, and the rest of the population opted for cheaper, unsafe water which was causing diseases.

The new plant uses captured waste heat from energy generators and membrane distillation technology to power the desalination plants. The desalinated water is then mineralized using local coral sand. The water is distributed through taps at communal water kiosks and must be collected by citizens in reusable containers 1.5-20 liters. The water costs $0.05-$0.07 per liter, significantly lower than imported water.

In 2016, the Aquiva Foundation acknowledged the two-year anniversary of the desalination plant. Despite many bumps in the road, the plant has seen many great successes. It produces up to 10,000 liters of drinking water per day. It is energy efficient, reliable and consistent in producing high quality of water in the Maldives. The success of this plant provides hope to other island nations similar to the Maldives.

The best method to improve water quality in the Maldives is education. Thanks to ample understanding of climate change and NGOs educating citizens on the concerns of sea levels rising, there is potential for improvement. Creating sustainable irrigation to cut down on rainwater evaporation, increasing the number of rainwater tanks and building up infrastructure will all be vital in ensuring that the Maldives continues to have access to quality water.

Phoebe Cohen

Photo: Flickr


Located in southern Africa and bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Namibia is known for its sweeping deserts and mineral exports. However, the country’s dry climate makes it susceptible to drought, which means there are scarce freshwater resources. Here are five things you should know about water quality in Namibia.

Five Things Facts About Water Quality in Namibia

  1. Water quality in Namibia has greatly improved since the 1990s. Total improved water increased from 70 percent in 1990 to 91 percent in 2015. Great improvements were seen in rural areas, where roughly 53 percent of the population resides. The proportion of the rural population with improved drinking water increased from 58 percent in 1990 to 85 percent in 2015.
  2. Despite improvements, water quality in Namibia is still lacking in rural areas. This is partly due to the difficulty of upkeep and system installation in communities with limited resources. “The disturbing truth is that installed rural water supply infrastructure is far harder to keep operational than hoped for, and often fails before its planned design lifetime due to poor maintenance,” the Rural Water Supply Network wrote in a report.
  3. Rural communities are coming up with their own ways to clean and filter water. Among these is the use of filtration cloths. Water is poured over a piece of fabric that catches contaminants. Tests reveal that certain kinds of cloth, such as cotton, can even remove some microorganisms as well. While these methods are not as effective as a modern filtration system, they offer a temporary solution for vulnerable communities.
  4. The government has taken steps to improve water quality in Namibia by creating policies focused on regulating wastewater reuse and water saving. The Water and Sanitation Policy, or WASP, which was enacted in 1993, is an example of such policy. Since WASP was established, the water supply in rural areas has increased enough to meet the domestic and livestock requirements of the majority of the farming population. This improvement has had a great impact because 72 percent of Namibia’s water is used for agriculture.
  5. Technology has played a significant role in increasing access to and improving water quality in Namibia. The capital city, Windhoek, pioneered direct potable reuse systems, or DPR. DPR is the process of treating wastewater and then returning it to the water supply without using an environmental buffer, such as a reservoir, first. Namibia’s DPR system has been operating since 1968 and has been so efficient that some U.S. agencies are studying its success.

Despite countless environmental and geographic challenges, the Namibian people have used innovation and technology to make great progress in improving water quality and availability in Namibia.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Chile
Water quality in Chile includes many facets and issues that must be resolved. One recent event that has drawn attention to this issue is a drought during the weekend of Feb. 25, affecting five million people. This water quality emergency is due to runoff and debris in the Maipo River, the main water supply for Chile’s capital Santiago. Runoff is created by drought and wildfires, making it difficult for the land to retain water. When land is unable to retain water, mudslides are created and debris flows.

Chile measures the levels of precipitation, surface water, groundwater and water needed to remove the pollution in order to access its water footprint. These standards were created by the Water Footprint Network and the Chile Foundation.

Not only does poor water quality affect citizens in Chile, it affects entire industries. Copper is a major export from Chile, and mines must use expensive desalination technology in order to have suitable water. In addition, poor water quality affects agriculture. There are projects in place to improve both the removal of contaminants and water quality.

Former military ruler General Pinochet made water a private commodity in Chile in 1980, a move meant to encourage investment in infrastructure used to distribute water. In reality, privatizing water has created high tariffs and removed the incentive to distribute water in low-income areas. Citizens have to pay for water and to have their water quality improved. The Chilean government has a plan to invest $5 billion into irrigation projects by 2022 and encourage private sector investment into these projects.

Water quality in Chile is a multifaceted problem to solve, but there is impressive research and progress being made to resolve it.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Water supplies
Algeria, a country on the northern edge of Africa, has an arid and semi-arid climate with less than 300 cubic meters of water available per capita each year. This amount is well below the U.N.’s water poverty threshold, making Algeria a severely water-scarce country. Water supplies are few and far between, and the continuous water overexploitation worsens the country’s water situation — naturally available water resources are degrading drastically and quickly.

Algiers hopes to employ high-cost technological solutions to support the growing population and maximize limited water supplies, but procuring funding will be a challenge.

A water quality monitoring system has already been established in Algeria to monitor its surface water. The system is comprised of 100 stations that cover major watercourses and dams. The country’s groundwater is also tested every three months.

Despite this, most of the water resources in Algeria remain polluted due to a lack of working wastewater treatment plants, as well as untreated industrial waste which is illegally discharged into natural water bodies. This misuse of water and water treatment creates even more sanitation and health issues for the Algerian people.

Anticipated climate changes, with rising temperatures and less rain, will also impact the scarcity of water in Algeria. These factors, along with a growing population which is using more water than ever before, has put an even greater strain on the country’s water resources.

Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, has developed a water management strategy that focuses on maximizing the country’s limited water supplies through redistribution, increased water storage capacity and enhanced desalination capacity.

This plan will require mobilization of resources, restoration of existing infrastructure, institutional reforms and a large amount of funding. Investments from both the government and private institutions, as well as additional planning, will be necessary to keep Algeria’s already limited water supplies from declining even more.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

Preventing A Haitian Food Crisis
Last year, Haiti experienced “the perfect storm for a genuine food crisis.” From April to August, a severe drought had hit, preventing a good harvest and causing up to 60% losses in overall food production. Increasing global food prices made it difficult for those still recovering from the 2010 earthquake to buy basic food supplies.

And then Hurricane Isaac hit in August followed by Hurricane Sandy in October and extreme flooding in the north in November. In 2011, around 800,000 or 8% of the Haitian population were suffering from chronic malnutrition. Now, that number has nearly doubled at 1.52 million and we are on the verge of an emerging Haitian food crisis.

The people of Haiti have been thrown into a difficult situation, having to work with high living costs and surviving on one meal a day. Key to speeding up this recovery and preventing a Haitian food crisis is ensuring that farmers are able to sell their produce.

As of yet, government and private businesses are slow in their response to assist the agricultural sector. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Haitian government have appealed for $74 million to help the country’s agricultural sector. As of December, less than 5% of that amount had been received.

One solution would be to have a seed bank allowing for farmers to sell their seeds while making them available to others that would need them. Another idea would be to properly utilize water as a resource by constructing dams for irrigation and electricity. Investment in seed banks and water management are just a few ideas that could help prevent an oncoming Haitian food crisis. Medium and long-term solutions making use of resources already at hand are what is necessary for a sustainable Haiti.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian