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wells in AfricaIn 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

sustainable agriculture in YemenYemen is in a state of crisis. As of March 2017, about 60 percent of Yemen’s total population has been estimated to be food-insecure. Malnutrition has increased by 57 percent since 2015. Areas of conflict have left about 13.4 million, half the population, in potential danger, internally displaced or in need of humanitarian assistance.

Since Yemen is a predominantly rural country, with 68 percent of its population living in rural areas, irrigated agriculture is the main source of income, employment and economic activity. Thus, when a rapid drop in groundwater resources occurs, sustainable agriculture in Yemen suffers greatly.

Water scarcity in Yemen has put a huge constraint on food production. Almost 90 percent of water use is for agriculture. A large proportion of scarcity is due to inefficient irrigation techniques and the expansion of qat cultivation, which alone counts as 30 percent of the water use. Qat cultivation is six times more profitable than most food crops and relatively easy to cultivate. It has expanded at the expense of food crops, contributing to the dependence on food imports.

However, due to its profitability, year-round cultivation and high domestic demand, the water supply is dwindling. According to New Agriculturists, “water is being extracted from the Sana’a basin four times quicker than it is being replenished and, with a population growth rate of seven percent, Sana’a could become the first capital city to run out of water.” Without support to create sustainable agriculture in Yemen, this water shortage could devastate the region.

In response to this growing water scarcity, the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) has been funding water harvesting projects in Sa’adah province in the village of Al-Qatab. Hand-pumps and precipitation tanks have been provided to this mountain-top community with a reliable source of water.

Additional aid has come from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) which has been working with farmers to help them conserve their soil and water resources through terrace rehabilitation, wadi bank protection and improving irrigation systems. With activities like milk processing and beekeeping, IFAD seeks to enable farmers to diversify their agricultural production and improve processing overall.

In addition, the Groundwater and Soil Conservation Project has been working to improve irrigation water use efficiency, which will increase farmer returns to water and create conditions that will allow farmers to reduce pumping from aquifers.  

There has been some success, as many of the farmers assisted by this project have received substantial benefits. These benefits help to reduce costs and improve yields. In addition, this project’s investments have saved 80 million cubic meters of groundwater per year and have significantly improved the lives of farmers and their families. These changes will drastically improve sustainable agriculture in Yemen and help save the nation’s water resources.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

The Drinkable Book
In the age of tablets and e-books, there is one book everyone should have a hard copy of.

It doesn’t matter where you live or who you are, millions of people die each year from drinking contaminated water. That’s why the humanitarian organization WaterIsLife has partnered up with the advertising agency DDB to develop The Drinkable Book.

The Drinkable Book looks normal on the outside and is just a few inches thick with about 20 printed pages, but on the inside the book contains the gift of fresh water.

The book not only contains step-by-step instructions on how to purify drinking water, including simple things like washing hands and not leaving trash near a water source, but its pages are also filters to help purify water around the world.

“One of WaterisLife’s biggest challenges (beyond providing clean water) is teaching proper sanitation/hygiene, so this was a perfect opportunity to not only introduce the new filters, but also to do it in a way that meaningfully addresses both problems,” said Brian Gartside, the senior designer of The Drinkable Book in an interview with Slate.

Each page of The Drinkable Book is coated in bacteria-killing silver nanoparticles and can be torn out and used as a water filter. The pages kill the bacteria that cause cholera, E.coli and typhoid, among other diseases and can last up to a month each time they are used.

“A lot of water issues aren’t just because people don’t have the right technology, but also because they aren’t informed why they need to treat water to begin with,” says Theresa Dankovich, the chemist who developed the filter paper.

To use the book, you rip one of the pages in half and slide it into the filter box — which doubles as a cover for the book — and pour contaminated water through. After a few minutes, the bacteria in the water is reduced by 99.9%  and is comparable U.S. tap water.

“Our main goal is to reduce the spread of diarrheal diseases, which result from drinking water that’s been contaminated with things like E. coli and cholera and typhoid,” Dankovich says in the interview. “And we think we can help prevent some of these illnesses from even happening.”

Trying to prevent diseases caused by contaminated water truly aids in the fight against global poverty. Helping those people without access to a clean water source fight contaminants and battle disease means the people who would have previously been ill have a chance to live.

This chance could mean they have the opportunity to work, to open a new business, to expand to new markets or even visit other countries, and have more resources to make life better for themselves and the place they grew up in.

WaterIsLife printed an initial run of 100 copies in English and Swahili to be sent to Kenya and distributed among the impoverished people there, but the brand also plans to distribute The Drinkable Book around the world.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: HuffPost, NPR, Slate, TheGistOfWater
Photo: Design Boom

Pack H2O
Though 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, over 780 million people are without access to clean water around the world. That is over 2.5 times the United States population. Of that statistic, Water.org reports: “More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.” A vast majority of those deaths occur in developing countries.

Water scarcity affects more areas than some may realize and exists on every continent. The idea of water scarcity can be a scary thought, but it is more than that. Water is a harsh reality for millions of people around the world.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) reported water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century alone. Though there is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people, it is unevenly distributed, polluted and sustainably mismanaged.

Water scarcity manifests itself in physical and economic ways and can be caused by obstacles we have no control over, such as climate change.

Fighting the water crisis at hand can seem like a daunting task, especially when one considers how vast water scarcity spans. However, there are many determined organizations set to take on this seemingly uphill battle and make a change that so many countries desperately need.

An innovative solution by the name Pack H2O was born following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti where David Fischer, CEO of Greif, Inc. witnessed women struggling to carry the clean water available to their home in old dirty containers and jerrycans.

Pack H2O is a backpack designed to lighten the burden of those carrying water from their access points to their home. The innovative design includes a removable liner that is sanitized simply with exposure to sunlight, a puncture-resistant outer shell and a spout to dispense the collected water.

This collapsible backpack is also seven times lighter and seven times smaller than the average jerrycan making one trip to the access point for clean water much more efficient and productive.

Not only does Pack H20 provide an easier way to transport water, but with its invention came micro-business opportunities for developing communities around the world by providing positions from assembly and decorations to liner sales and distribution.

Since its introduction to the world, Pack H2O has received several honors for the strides made in fighting the water crisis including Popular Science magazine’s 2012 Best of What’s New Award in the Green category, Global Green USA’s Industrial Design Award, and the 2013 Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Honorable Mention for Excellence in Public Interest Design.

When one thinks of a backpack, water scarcity or the water crisis are the last things to come to mind if they even come up at all. Pack H20 has changed the way one may think of things by taking something as familiar as a backpack and altering it and the lives of those that use it.

The Pack H20 team’s goal is a simple one: to deliver a water backpack to every person who needs one.

– Janelle Mills

Sources: Pack H20, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Greif, Water.org, UN
Photo: Secure

colorado-river_fresh_water_global_poverty_demand_environment_opt
The water problem is an increasingly serious one.  The accessibility of fresh water is a pressing issue that must be addressed immediately. According to environmental scholars Jay Withgott and Scott Brennan, “Roughly 97.5% of the Earth’s water resides in the oceans and is too salty to drink or use to water crops.” This means that only 2.5% of water is designated as “fresh” and safe to consume. However, most of this fresh water is frozen and therefore inaccessible to humans. Because there is so little fresh water available and almost seven billion humans living on the planet who need that water, this precious resource must be carefully preserved.

Supply and Demand

Biologists and environmental scholars present a number of solutions to the impending fresh water shortage. Desalinization is a prominent but expensive method in which salt is extracted from salt water creating fresh water through the process of condensation. This type of solution would increase fresh water supply.

The foil to a solution that increases supply is a  solution that reduces demand. Although these kinds of solutions are more difficult to implement, they would be the most effective because they confront the root of the problem: excess demand. These solutions include genetic engineering of crops, irrigation methods that minimize wasted water, and the personal consumption of less meat. Fortunately, the United States has already begun the implementation of these conservation practices, but there is always room for improvement.

– Josh Forgét

Source: The Guardian Essential Environment
Photo: Peak Water