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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

top 10 clean water solutionsWorldwide, 844 million people do not have access to clean water, meaning that one in nine people are living with water unsafe for human consumption. This is referred to as The Water Crisis.

The Water Crisis surpasses its effect on global health by affecting children, education, economics and women. Every 90 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. Children are often tasked with collecting water for their families, taking time away from education opportunities. School attendance increases with increased access to clean water.

Globally, there is a $260 billion deficit each year due to lack of basic water and sanitation. With the provision of clean water, time and effort previously spent collecting water can refocus on other opportunities. Universal access to basic water and sanitation could result in a $32 billion reduction in healthcare costs.

Women are disproportionately affected by The Water Crisis, as they spend an estimated six hours collecting water every day; this time could be spent on education, family life and work.

The water crisis and its detrimental effects can be resolved with the provision of basic water and sanitation; this resolution can be reached with the top 10 clean water solutions.

Top 10 Clean Water Solutions:

  1. Educate: Educate the population to change consumption and lifestyle habits.
  2. Innovate and Conserve: Water sources, such as aquifers and rainwater, are prone to evaporation and unpredictability. The invention of new water conservation techniques will counteract this issue.
  3. Recycle: Recycling wastewater decreases water imports and encourages self-sufficiency in developing countries.
  4. Agriculture and Irrigation: Approximately 70 percent of the world’s fresh water is used for agriculture. Improving agriculture and irrigation practices can appropriately distribute clean water for human consumption.
  5. Water Catchment and Harvesting: Areas without clean water rely on water catchment systems. Efforts to establish water harvesting systems provide independent control of resources.
  6. Infrastructure: Poorly managed infrastructure devastates the economy by wasting resources, increasing costs, diminishing quality of life and facilitating the spread of water-related diseases. Improved infrastructure conserves resources and enhances quality of life.
  7. Water Credit: The Water Credit Initiative utilizes microfinancing to provide affordable loans to those who require additional help in establishing clean water solutions.
  8. Water Equity: Water Equity relies on social impact investing to increase funds for water and sanitization loans.
  9. New Ventures: New Ventures funds research and development of new approaches to The Water Crisis.
  10. Global Engagement: Global Engagement is the foundation for lasting change on local and international levels

Although these are the top 10 clean water solutions, they are not the only solutions to The Water Crisis. Clean water access improves health, education and work opportunities for families across the world.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

water quality in SomaliaFor a country whose entire eastern border is an ocean, water quality in Somalia is a longstanding worry for the nation’s citizens. According to UNICEF Somalia’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) studies, of the nearly 15 million people living in Somalia, only 45 percent of them have access to clean water. Only one in four people have access to adequate sanitation facilities within a reasonable distance of their homes.

WASH has linked the lack of clean water and sanitation facilities to the rising disease rates in Somalia, most notably, the widespread prevalence of widespread waterborne diseases such as diarrhea that account for more than 20 percent of deaths of children under five. Additionally, the lack of clean water is heavily correlated to malnourishment, which over 300,000 children in Somalia are currently suffering from.

While having clean drinking water is imperative to survival, the disposal of wastewater (water used for cooking, bathing, sewage and other uses) is nearly as important to providing a safe and clean environment for Somalians to live in. Considering that the infrastructure to dispose of wastewater is severely lacking in Somalia, and the fact that most Somalians rely on rivers and rainwater for water (natural sources which are highly prone to contamination by wastewater), it is little surprise that so many Somalians lack adequate drinking water.

Estimates indicate that it would cost $1.5 billion to provide clean water to all Somalians that would not be dependent on weather patterns, droughts or possible contamination by wastewater. While by no means a small sum, it is also not an outrageous one, and one that is being decreased by efforts to improve Somalian irrigation techniques, harvesting and storing cleaner rainwater, as well as other methods to help Somalia use less water more efficiently.

These efforts, however, are only made tougher due to the twofold threat of the terrorist organization al-Shabaab, which controls much of rural Somalia, where the lack of clean water is felt most severely, and the harsh drought and famine that is currently sweeping the country. While food and water supplies are already running low, al-Shabaab puts up blockades and refuses to let aid workers assist the starving and thirsty people. In March, the Somali prime minister reported that over a hundred people had died as a result of the drought, and that number has likely only continued to worsen as concerns over the water quality in Somalia continue to linger.

Organizations such as UNICEF have stepped up to combat the water shortages by providing medical services and other necessities. Most pressingly, UNICEF was providing over 400,000 people with daily water as of early 2017. Members of the group hope and plan to increase that number fourfold and provide water vouches to well over a million people.

USAID has already committed more than $300 million towards humanitarian assistance in Somalia for 2017. Much of that money is devoted to assisting the UNICEF WASH programs and activities already underway; however, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has involved itself in an attempt to address the emergency caused by the drought through other initiatives. This assistance is key to helping those affected survive the droughts and allow time for more sustainable solutions to be put in place to improve the water quality in Somalia.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

A large number of the issues regarding sanitation and water quality in Cote d’Ivoire can be attributed to the domestic conflict that ended in 2007. The conflict damaged crucial water supply infrastructure, especially in the north, and post-conflict reconstruction has overshadowed the maintenance and repair of these systems. Over eight million people in Cote d’Ivoire lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, which increases the risk of water-related diseases. Over four million people lack access to safe drinking water. These numbers increase in rural areas, where 46 percent of the rural population lacks access to clean water and 87 percent lacks access to sufficient sanitation.

Here are five facts about water quality in Cote d’Ivoire:

  1. The crisis of water quality in Cote d’Ivoire is characterized by two key problems. First, many communities, especially rural ones, face difficulties not only accessing safe drinking water, but also accessing enough of it. Second, there are many difficulties in accessing sewage infrastructure and proper bathrooms, especially in urban areas. The issue is multi-faceted, and impacts both urban and rural communities in different ways.
  2. The above issues increase the risk of transmission of water-borne diseases, such as cholera. Guinea worm was also common, though it was eradicated in 2007. Unsafe drinking water increases child mortality rates. Currently, many children die from diarrhea and similar diseases.
  3. Urbanization is one of the main causes of the current water crisis. After the civil war, the capital city of Yamoussoukro experienced a massive influx of internally displaced people. The city doesn’t have enough wells or adequate sewage and sanitation facilities to support this increase in the population, exacerbating existing issues in the city.
  4. The water crisis also has an impact on education. According to USAID, “as a result of having to collect water to drink and shower before going to school, all the children in the neighborhood were constantly tired and sick, and their academic performance suffered.” This particularly disadvantages girls, who mainly carry the burden of fetching water for their families. Even when they are able to attend school, they often don’t have access to separate sanitation facilities.
  5. Many organizations are addressing the crisis of low water quality in Cote d’Ivoire. Charity Water has funded 190 separate projects in the country and has invested $1,146,687 dollars as of November 2017. UNICEF Water and Sanitation takes a multi-pronged approach, supplying clean drinking water straight to communities, schools and hospitals, promoting sanitation and hygiene and surveying the epidemiological impacts of the low water quality to prevent water-related diseases. The Urban Water Supply Project aims to improve water quality and access to water (especially in overcrowded urban areas) and to strengthen the financial management and financial planning capacity of the National Water Agency in its urban water supply sector.

With continued support from organizations like these, water quality in Cote d’Ivoire is sure to improve in the coming years, thus improving the quality of life for the nation’s citizens.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

water quality in south koreaOver the past several decades, water quality in South Korea has remained poor due to poorly-operated water management services and sewage systems. It was not until the 1970s that the Korean government made headway in improving its water services, with help from the World Bank and other nations.

Perceptions Today

According to The Korea Herald, in 2013, the Environmental Ministry conducted a survey of 12,000 South Koreans, and only 10 percent responded that they drank tap water, whether boiled or not. Meanwhile, 55 percent said they only drank tap water after boiling it.

This is despite experts’ opinions that Korean tap water is some of the best in the world. A 2003 United Nations report ranked water quality in South Korea as the eighth highest in the world, ahead of that in the United States (twelfth highest). Incidentally, in 2013, 82 percent of Americans surveyed indicated that they drank tap water.

Why the Disconnect?

Koreans, at least as of 2013, seem to be living in the past on this issue. According to The Korea Herald, 30 percent of those surveyed cited concerns about old water tanks and pipes for their wariness toward tap water, and 28 percent were worried about reservoir sanitation.

Indeed, those were once major issues. The World Bank reports that, in Korea, in “the late 1980s, accelerated urbanization took its toll, and surface and underground water bodies became polluted.”

Then, in the 1990s, the chemical phenol was leaked into the water supply, which caused severe illness to those who drank it. Meanwhile, several reported cases of ‘red water’ increased awareness of aging, rusting underground pipes.

But today, the same concerns are nonissues. Korea’s water and wastewater service are very nearly universal. The Korean government continually monitors tap water quality against a minimum of 59 criteria, including pH levels. Old public pipes have been replaced with new, rust-proof ones, and city governments have offered subsidies for people who want to replace pipes in their private residences.

The water is clean, say the experts. Pain can leave muscle memory, but in time even that fades. If Koreans continue to come together to demand only the highest standards from those they charge with regulating their water systems, they should have nothing to worry about when it comes to drinking tap water.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in North KoreaLocated on the Korean peninsula, North Korea has been discreetly building up a nuclear arsenal while projecting its power to ensure that it is a force not to be reckoned with on the international stage. Despite such shows of power, it is known to be one of the largest food recipients in the world. More recently, it faces immense challenges as a result of ballistic missile tests that have been met with hard sanctions. Economically unbalanced and a grave threat to the international community, the hope of cooperation seems nonexistent. Kim Jong-un still has yet to respond to the country’s severe poverty situation, with about half of North Koreans living in poverty.

The Problem
Water quality in North Korea has been affected by a severe drought, forcing relief aid to step in and counter some of these issues. One observer had the opportunity to monitor the water quality in North Korea and witness the scarcity of access to clean water due to environmental degradation that has gravely affected the nation. Too often, the North Korean people are neglected and rarely humanized by news outlets, who tend to focus on the ominous threat that the country’s government presents.

This individual, who remained anonymous, observed the work of an international charity organization known as World Vision, an advocacy organization that works on development and humanitarian aid. During this visit to North Korea, the observer witnessed the lives of people in rural and urban areas, noting the environmental degradation that had taken place due to the effects of climate change, deforestation, soil erosion and water resource depletion.

In January, it was reported that “more than 50,000 hectares of farmland in North Korea’s granary zones have been damaged by drought.” According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a severe drought had plagued agricultural areas due to a 30-80 percent drop in precipitation in January. OCHA further cited that due to this drought, the effects were a deterioration in water quality in North Korea, causing a concern of waterborne diseases spreading among the population.

Initiatives
On a more positive note, according to a report by World Vision, there has been an increase in installations of wells, along with high-quality solar pumps, in order to pump water to water tanks on nearby hills. This action has led to substantial improvements in access to clean water for communities. Some of the most vulnerable who were lacking this inalienable right that a lot of us take for granted now have indoor plumbing, offering them clean sanitation. As the observer explained: “1,435 children will have easy access to clean water for the first time in their lives.”

Final Thoughts
With its relentless assault on freedom of expression and stifling of any political dissidents who may challenge the status quo, North Korea’s government remains a staunch opponent to any form of democracy. The average North Korean citizen only worries about their daily lives, which includes how to break out of poverty. North Koreans may be among the most difficult group of people in the world to help due to the restrictions imposed by their government, but taking simple steps to improve sanitation and water quality in North Korea can make a major improvement in their lives.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in Saudi ArabiaIn our world, water is one of the main sources of sustenance for life. As our body requires great amounts of it, it is imperative that we take care of how clean and beneficial it continues to be. As a community, we must work together to meet the high standards of water quality.

Water quality is indicated by various characteristics which include physical, chemical, biological and aesthetic. The main goal is to make sure that the external factors that could corrupt the water are controlled. In this way, citizens are able to obtain clean drinking water for their survival.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is a desert country that extends across most of the Arabian Peninsula with extensive coastlines on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Due to its high levels of heat and humidity, water is a major concern.

The surrounding environment consists of sand, which makes it a challenge to grow crops as well as provide adequate water quality in Saudi Arabia. Most water is received from the sea, however, the high salt content means is it not drinkable. Being one of the largest and fastest expanding expat countries, Saudi Arabia faces a problem of providing enough drinking water for its citizens.

According to a research study on drinking water quality in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Abdulrasoul Al-Omran and his colleagues found that the KSA strongly relies “on groundwater and/or seawater desalination for domestic purposes.” Desalinated water has gone through various chemical processes in order to add specific minerals into the original saline water that will cause it to diminish and thus become safe to drink.

There are 27 stations operated by the Saline Water Conservation Corporation, producing more than three million cubic meters of potable drinking water. 

The water quality index (WQI) has been proven to be a simple and effective tool to assess the quality of water, as well as a method of reassuring citizens. The distinct and astounding feature is that by using several water quality variables, a single value is expressed to tell just how clean this water is in relation to others.

The concluding factor of this study stated that using the WQI method helps the design-makers with monitoring and assessment of the quality of drinking water. By being able to determine the water quality in Saudi Arabia, the country and its citizens will be more fully prepared in finding solutions to best distribute their water.

As an ever-evolving country, Saudi Arabia is striving to keep up with its growth by providing efficient ways to distribute the water. One of the solutions that KSA has found is intermittent water supply with reduced system pressures. Although it isn’t the most efficient, it does grant more water to the people that truly need it. It aims to provide 24-hour service but less water is distributed to the residential areas.

This is a challenging issue to remedy as many residents who live in Aramco, the expat compound, have tried to alleviate the intense salt that exists in the water quality of Saudi Arabia by incorporating a portion of sweet water. However, since the country is in an economic crisis, these residents have had to pay SAR 2,000 fee for this luxury, the equivalent of $533.33. 

Until better technology is developed to address desalination, the only solution that would be beneficial would be an increase in water imports from other countries.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in ArmeniaArmenia is a landlocked country west of Turkey and is one of the world’s earliest Christian civilizations, with churches dating back to the fourth century. Armenia has been controlled by various nations and empires over the centuries despite periods of independence. It most recently gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and joined the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015.

There were large investments in water projects during the Soviet era, but because of poor workmanship and irregular maintenance, the water quality in Armenia suffered. Additionally, a lack of funding after the Soviet-era necessitated major repairs, and upgrades were almost entirely halted. Decades of neglect of the water and wastewater systems caused water to leak and be wasted. Citizens had limited access to water, and the water they had access to was often unhealthy.

Despite this, between 2003 and 2013 significant legislation and institutional reforms were introduced to improve water quality in Armenia. Two projects financed by the World Bank have improved the water quality in Armenia as well as access to it. Thanks to these projects, 332,000 households have gained access to running water 21 hours a day.

The World Bank reported that the Armenian government has partnered with the private sector, and today the country’s water is well regulated and more efficient as a result. Water quality in Armenia began to improve after a private company was placed in charge of the utility company.

In the city of Yerevan, most of the pumping stations are new and efficient, using 40 percent less energy, which saves on electrical costs. Rebuilt wells have reduced operating costs and losses. Nine water sources have had new chlorination stations built or the old ones fixed. Improvements like these have helped resolve issues with the water quality in Armenia, which has bettered the lives of many residents.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in AlbaniaAlbania is located in southern Europe, north of Greece. Albanians call themselves shqiptarë, which means “sons of eagles“. Albania gained independence in 1912 and was ruled as a monarchy between World War I and World War II. After WWII, it was a communist state, but new democratic parties developed after communist regimes failed.

25 years later, Albania gained candidate status in the EU after many attempts, but still faces challenges such as finding an economic niche and establishing rule of law. Despite this, water quality in Albania is one thing that has improved over the years.

A 2003 report from the World Bank stated that there was plenty of water available, but the water quality in Albania was compromised because of the poor conditions of its water infrastructure. The country lacked sufficient treatment facilities, the chemical suppliers were unreliable and the maintenance was unsatisfactory. The decaying supply and treatment facilities posed a major health threat and were believed to be a major contributing factor to infant mortality.

In 2015, the European Environment Agency reported that there have been significant measures taken to improve the water quality in Albania. Authorities have made efforts to reduce pollution, and between 2012 and 2015 the quality of bathing waters in Albania has improved significantly.

The Tirana Times reported in May that 86 percent of the bathing waters in Albania met the standards of the EU. In 2016 and 2017, Albanian authorities that reported 92 bathing waters were considered excellent or satisfactory, compared to 78 in 2015, which has helped attract more tourism.

Albania has many challenges to overcome, but the improvement of water quality in Albania is a step in the right direction. The increased tourism as a result of the improved water quality may also help stimulate the economy, which can help it more quickly overcome other obstacles.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

water quality in Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire used to be an exception in West Africa, a model for other countries of economic success. Since civil war erupted in the country more than a decade ago, that model has deteriorated and largely rendered a mere dream. Now, the country is in dire straits, especially in regards to the quality and conditions of its water supply. Water quality in Côte d’Ivoire is an issue for a staggering 31 percent of rural areas.

Furthermore, the quality of water that is available leaves much to be desired. The civil war has tremendously damaged the water supply infrastructures, and this coupled with the fact that water is exposed to unsanitary conditions often results in water-borne disease. This is not confined to rural areas either; it affects urban areas as well.

Slightly less than half of Côte d’Ivoire’s population (about eight million people) do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. In rural areas in particular, roughly four million people drink water not safe for consumption. As a result, many die from diseases related to unsafe and unclean drinking water, including children.

This crisis has a domino effect on other aspects of Ivorian society. The lack of access to proper and clean water sources means that a lot of energy and resources must be devoted to obtaining it. This results in many Ivorian girls being forced to forego their education in order to seek and provide water for their families.

This is true even in the capital, Abidjan, where a large influx of people into the capital has strained its inadequate urban infrastructure. The large swathes of people that have moved to Abidjan did so largely because of the civil war and the threat of violence.

In other cities, such as the northern town Dabakala, the wells that previously contained water have completely dried up. This has resulted in residents seeking unsafe and unclean water sources. When water is obtained from such sources, such as creeks, life-threatening diseases such as guinea worm and cholera easily affect those in need of water.

However, there have been campaigns to combat this problem. Efforts made by the Global Nature Fund, for example, have met the needs of Ivorians by repairing water pumps. Within a couple of years, the residents of 44 villages, or around 24,000 Ivorians, were able to access fresh groundwater.

The water quality in Côte d’Ivoire and a lack of it is causing severe crises. These calamities were a result of the outbreak of civil war that has successfully dashed the stability, safety and prosperity of the nation. While some improvement efforts have been made, this crisis will only continue unless serious changes are enacted on an international scale that provide a long-term solution to the water needs of Côte d’Ivoire.

Hasan Javed

Photo: Flickr