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

Water Quality in HaitiThe water quality in Haiti is in desperate need of improvement. The World Bank hopes to increase access to clean water because “[it] not only saves lives, but [it] also [helps] reduce poverty and improve the livelihood opportunities of these communities,”  reports Mary Barton-Dock of the World Bank Special Envoy.

The lack of proper sanitation and unsafe water quality in Haiti fosters the spread of disease. For example, a cholera epidemic ensued after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and 8,700 lives have been lost since. Although diagnosed cases of cholera have decreased, heavy rains in the early months of 2015 brought a surge of new cases.

Stand pipes or water points with hand pumps are the main systems used for water transportation in Haiti. Due to lack of funding, many of these water systems are no longer in service. Thankfully, the World Bank found a way to improve the situation by funding a program located in the southern region of Haiti. This global organization built professional operators whose main purpose is to maintain many of the water supply systems.

Over 60,000 people have benefited from these system improvements. The program also helped train community health workers and medical personnel, as well as strengthening the country by making it more self-sustaining.

The Board of Directors of the World Bank also authorized a $50 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA). “The Sustainable Rural and Small Towns Water and Sanitation project aims to save lives by preventing cholera and waterborne diseases in high prevalence zones, and strengthen the capacity of local agencies to deliver water and sanitation services in rural areas and small towns.” This grant will help nearly 300,000 people gain access to potable water and proper sanitation.

This project will also be linked to a ten-year, government-supported Cholera Elimination Plan. This long-term plan will save thousands of Haitian kids from waterborne, disease-related deaths. Benito Dumay, the Director General of the National Water and Sanitation Directorate, understands how essential healthy water quality is for Haiti, and is determined for the project to succeed.

Water is a catalyst for life, and now thousands of Haitians will be able to access this life-saving liquid for the first time. The World Bank reached out to the U.N., the U.N.’s development partners and the Haitian Government to collectively discuss the financing gap and what they learned about fighting cholera.

The Borgen Project has also done a great deal of work at the political level when it comes to advocating for clean water and sanitation. This nonprofit helped build support for the Water for the World Act. The organization also met with hundreds of Congressional offices, equating to 410 meetings, to discuss activism regarding water-quality programs.

Between 2009 and 2014, The Borgen Project helped mobilize thousands of Americans to email and call their congressional leaders in support of the Water for the World legislation. The bill was passed in December 2014, and millions of people gained first-time access to potable water and appropriate sanitation.

As numerous organizations fight the battle for water quality in Haiti and around the world, their tremendous progress makes the future of water quality that much clearer.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Rulindo ChallengeThe Rulindo Challenge is an initiative developed in 2010 by the partnership of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Water For People and the Rwandan government. The Challenge acts as a permanent solution to provide full water access to the northern, rural Rwandan province of Rulindo by 2018.

Approximately 285,000 people reside in the Rulindo District. The terrain of the area is mostly hills and valleys, so springs and groundwater make up the main sources of water in Rulindo.

According to a report by Water For People, prior to the Rulindo Challenge the area lacked proper standards in terms of the water quality in Rwanda. Only 29% of the population had access to safe drinking water and just six percent of water systems were likely to provide sustainable water service.

Goals of the Rulindo Challenge

Rulindo’s 2016 goals include increasing the levels of water access by 11% through sustainable water infrastructure, such as installing eight piped water systems in five areas and water tanks in 13 schools. A new health care facility was also constructed as a result of the goals.

The Rulindo Challenge also seeks to increase the newly established water infrastructure’s sustainability to 100% at the end of 2016, building the technical and financial capacity needed for two private operators and the district water board members and staff. To implement these goals, the progressive partnership has developed a systematic approach in order to meet district-wide demands for clean water and sanitation. The joint partners set out to achieve sustainability challenges to meet current local capacity and strength, leveraging locally available resources and striving to serve as a model for replication.

What Has it Already Accomplished?

According to a report by Water For People, “community water service has increased 20 percentage points to 49 percent in the district as a result of these activities.” The water and sanitation at schools and clinics also increased drastically to 67% in the Rulindo District.

Currently, nearly 118,000 community water beneficiaries, 114 connections at 68 public institution water systems and over 51,500 public water beneficiaries have been created since the beginning of the Rulindo Challenge to improve water quality in Rwanda.

The initiative resulted in improved access to water supply for 60,000 people. In addition, the quality of the water mechanisms is expected to last well into the future. Sustainability measures in 2012 recorded just six percent prior to the Rulindo Challenge.

The increase in sustainability to 89% resulted in an 83-point percentage overall improvement. Due to the increased sustainability in the district, the implementation of the strategies and approaches shows that communities and public institutions will have safe, reliable access to drinking water for many years to come.

When the Rulindo Challenge concludes in 2018, the partners will implement a thorough exit strategy to ensure that the maintenance and protection of the water resources remain intact. In addition, the partners will implement a plan for climate change resilience to promote sustainability and access to adequate water sources for generations to come.

Haylee Gardner

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in china

From a poverty alleviation perspective, the rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the last several decades is an unprecedented success story. In 1984, the rate of extreme poverty in China was 84 percent, but by 2010 that number had fallen to 12 percent. At the same time, the rapid industrialization that has driven this growth has produced its own negative effects. Some of these effects are visible on an everyday basis, while others, like the poor water quality in China, are less obvious.

Under the Fog

Air quality is the face of China’s struggle with pollution. Images of China’s capital, Beijing, choked by smog have resonated with environmental movements around the world. While water quality in China may not have made as many headlines, it has come under severe strain as well. According to new statistics by the Chinese media, underground water pollution has become a full-on crisis, with 80 percent of the water samples taken from a wide range of wells across northern and central China being unsafe.

Across the North China Plain, which has been hit hard by deforestation and desertification over the last several decades, groundwater is a key water source for both rural and urban areas. Northern China is also the site of the vast majority of China’s coal reserves, a major problem as coal mining is highly damaging to groundwater, unless mitigating measures are taken.

However, cheap supplies of coal are so central to China’s model of economic growth that, thus far, these measures have not been taken, leading to a steady deterioration of water quality in China. According to official statistics, every metric ton of coal mined leads to 1 cubic meter to 2.5 cubic meters of groundwater being destroyed. That number is sobering, considering that in 2015, 3.65 billion metric tons of coal were mined in China.

Hope for Improvement

That same year, The State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the nation’s highest administrative body, issued the “Water Ten Plan.” This ambitious plan laid out a series of steps to improve water quality in China. It includes both broad goals and specific measures for improving groundwater quality. The plan calls for the percentage of groundwater of “very bad” quality to fall to 15 percent by 2020, a target that should be achievable, given that as of 2014, 16.1 percent of groundwater fell into this category.

The Chinese government’s response targets industries that are seen as being major contributors to groundwater pollution, in particular, the coal mining industry. The plan calls for the effective handling of water used during the coal mining process.

It also addresses groundwater depletion, stemming from industrial use of water by declaring a moratorium on further extraction of groundwater from threatened areas. The textile, paper and dyeing industries, significant sources of harmful run-off, are another major target of the plan’s strict controls.

Equal Access to Clean Water

One key aspect of water quality in China is the rural-urban divide that permeates so much of Chinese society. Cities in China benefit from access to deeper underground reservoirs, while those living in rural areas extract shallower water that is more likely to be polluted. Thus, just as industrialization led to the gap in incomes between rural and urban markets, it has also meant that access to safe water supplies has become more bifurcated. Alleviating this divide is vital in the years ahead.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Pixabay

Water quality in Afghanistan pollution

Water is a basic necessity for all life–it must be safe and clean for use. For the people of Afghanistan, water that is safe and clean is especially hard to come by. Fortunately, poor water quality in Afghanistan is a problem that both a global organization and its Afghan partners are working to resolve.

After more than a decade of armed conflict and neglect, Afghanistan has a problem with getting sanitary water to its people. The country of 32.5 million people gets its water from rivers and underground supply, which is reliant on rainfall and snow.

In recent years, climate change has caused a reduction in precipitation, resulting in a drop in water levels of six meters.

Other major obstacles stand in the way of improving the water quality in Afghanistan. Not only is there less water, but the water that is available is contaminated. In most major cities, underground water supplies have been compromised, due to the lack of canalization, proper waste management and proper waste disposal.

In big cities, hospitals commonly bury their waste underground or leave it above ground. Medical waste can contain poisons and infectious inhabitants, seeping into the underground water supply over time.

However, change is underway to improve this dire situation.

The Improvement of Water Quality in Afghanistan

Domestically, the Afghan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation has been working for the last 30 years constructing 40,000 clean water posts, with access for one million people. But, the Afghanis cannot do it alone. Much work is still to be done to meet all water needs in Afghanistan.

External help is underway from GIZ, a German company that specializes in developing solutions to global problems. With the backing of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is making great strides.

In collaboration with the Afghan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation, GIZ has developed and is implementing a massive plan to decentralize and overhaul the Afghani water infrastructure. They will work with and train Afghani workers to complete the project and independently maintain it, also creating a sanitation and management program for water in Afghanistan.

Between 2011 and 2013, GIZ trained around 2,000 employees from the institutions involved. As a result, they are now able to better perform the work necessary improve water quality in Afghanistan.

Now that the workforce has been trained, substantial progress is being seen.

From 2007 to 2013, the number of households with a newly connected water supply in Kunduz, a major city in northeastern Afghanistan, rose from 370 to 7,700. This represents about 75 percent of Kunduz’s population. Kunduz is only one example of a trend spreading around the country.

Currently, newly constructed water infrastructure is not only becoming self-sufficient, but also now has the ability to self-fund more growth. In 2012, the Afghani government introduced a water tariff, which significantly increased the income of the water infrastructure. In some cities, Afghanis are willing and able to pay for their new access to clean water.

Since then, in the major cities of Kabul, Harat and Kunduz, the proportion of water that is paid for has risen greatly. As a result, the cities of Herat, Kunduz and Mazar-e Sharif have built and are operating six new wastewater plants. Big change is taking place for the better.

Not long ago, the majority of Afghanis were desperate for clean water. Today, with the help and intervention of Germany, the major components that led to the water problem in Afghanistan are on the way to being improved. The work being done is changing lives, communities and cities across Afghanistan.

Steven Jenkins

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in South Sudan

Water quality in South Sudan and clean water access has been a problem for a long time. However, Japan is trying to help with the Project for Improvement of Water Supply System in Juba.

Since 2012, Japan has been contributing money to the Republic of South Sudan—$310 million—in order to promote the development of a clean water supply.

Valentino Achak Deng’s Story

Valentino Achak Deng, subject of  the 2007 novel “What Is the What,” describes his childhood in the Republic of South Sudan. His story evokes empathy and increases awareness of the country’s living conditions.

Here is an example:

I […] immerse my jerry can in the milky brown water. I fill the container, but am not satisfied with the amount of sediment inside.

Previously, Deng used to run to the river without a thought in order to fetch water for a woman he liked. The passage went on to describe Deng filtering the water through his shirt into a bowl. This process was normal for Deng—there was no question that the water he drank would come from the river.

The Water Situation Today

The water situation in Sudan has not changed since Deng’s childhood. South Sudan’s 2010 Household Health Survey (SHS) found that only about 5.6 percent of households in have access to improved water sources and sanitation.

In Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan, 13 percent of its residents can access municipal water. This water comes through either a small piped network, boreholes or a single public water filling station on the riverbank. Without clean water access, many of the Sudanese people end up fetching water from rivers, ponds and open wells.

Fetching water is the norm in the Republic of South Sudan—a behavior that must be broken. Otherwise, the population of the Republic of South Sudan will continue to catch water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. In addition, women and children will continue to lose time for employment and education opportunities.

Individuals used this contaminated water for drinking, food preparation and hygiene. As a result, the SHS found that poor water quality in South Sudan contributed to about 88 percent of deaths from diarrhea.

Japanese Assistance

Fixing this problem will require considerable funds. To address the cost increase, the Japanese government allocated an additional $40 million toward the project. With this, they intend on keeping the original project scale.

Through this project, Japan aims to provide easily accessible clean water to 60 percent of Juba’s population. An estimated 390,000 Juba residents will have clean water access by the end of September 2017.

Japan also encourages the women and children of Juba to spend more time on their personal and professional development rather than collecting water for their families.

However, because fetching water from rivers has been the norm in Sudanese behavior, community engagement is vital in this process. This improvement in water quality in South Sudan is vital, and it will vastly improve the lives of Sudanese citizens.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in IndiaIndia may be reaching a crisis-level situation in regards to water quality and access. While India’s population continues to grow, access to water continues to dwindle. The country’s future may be greatly affected by the limited water for households and agriculture.

Over 20 percent of the country’s diseases can be traced back to the poor water quality in India. To make matters worse, less than 35 percent of the entire population of India has access to traditional sanitation, further exacerbating the spread of diseases in the country.

Most cities in India produce almost 40,000 million liters of sewage per day, the majority of which is dumped into rivers which feeds into groundwater that becomes used for agriculture or citizens’ homes. In fact, less than 20 percent of the sewage in India is properly treated.

There are almost 76 million people in India who are forced to spend 20 percent of their income on water, and often are forced to use the contaminated water instead, according to Water Aid. Although the groundwater in India is of poor quality, many rural residents have no choice but to use it for daily needs. However, the overall water availability in India is soon running dry.

The water crisis in India can partially be attributed to government corruption and lack of planning, as well as increased corporate privatization, which drives up the cost of clean water. If India is unable to control the water crisis, scarcity is predicted to significantly worsen by the year 2050 and become the main cause of political conflict.

Though many environmentalists are opposed, building dams in India could improve the issue with water quality and scarcity in India. Dams would collect water during the rainy season and provide during the dry season, but building storage dams would potentially submerge forests, disturb habitats, and displace tribal communities.

In order to improve water quality in India, the country needs to place more sewage treatment plants in more cities and towns. Overall, there are only 160 towns with sewage treatment plants out of the 8,000 towns total. As long as factories continue to dump untreated sewage into rivers that run into groundwater, the water quality in India has little chance of improvement.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Global Moms Challenge