Water Scarcity
Multiple factors can cause water scarcity including “collapsed infrastructure, distribution systems, contamination, conflict, poor management of water resources, climate change and human interference” according to UNICEF. Water scarcity is common even in well-developed countries. Water scarcity limits access to clean water used for basic hygiene, cooking and cleaning.

The lack of water resources affects hospitals, homes, restaurants, schools and sewage systems. Additionally, water scarcity takes a toll on the economy because of its high value. However, it affects women and children more than anything. Women and children are the sole providers of water and often walk miles to retrieve it. Therefore, children are spending countless hours outside of school, exposing them to unsafe places and exploitation.

UN-Water Summary Progress Report July 2021

The U.N.-Water Summary Progress Report category of drinking water in 2020 stated that 26% of the global population or 2 billion people, did not have access to clean drinking water services. The sanitation category reported that 3.6 billion people or 46% of the global population lacked sanitation services with 494 million people openly defecating in 2020. Furthermore, 2.3 billion people lacked access to a handwashing system with soap and water in 2020. One final note from the hygiene category detailed that 44% of global wastewater did not receive adequate treatment in 2020.

The 2021 U.N.-Water Summary report also mentioned that there is inadequate research on the safety of our groundwater coming from lakes, rivers, streams, etc. Global water-use efficiency has only improved by 10% since 2015. The water stress category outlined that 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed areas in 2020. In the 2020 integrated-water management category, U.N.-Water detailed how 107 countries are not on track to have achieved sustainable water sources by 2030. From 2015 to 2019, there was only a 9% increase in international cooperation with 14 out of 109 countries participating in water and sanitation decision-making.

UNICEF Water Scarcity Key Facts

  • At least one month every year, 4 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population, experience severe water scarcity.
  • In countries where water supply is deficient, 2 billion people may experience water shortages.
  • As soon as 2025, half of the global population could potentially reside in areas experiencing water scarcity.
  • In 2030, a proposed 7 million people could face displacement from water scarcity.

UNICEF Water Scarcity Response

While there are many reasons for water shortages, UNICEF is working to provide new technology that reaches countries where people are experiencing water scarcity in seven ways. As a first glance, UNICEF is working to identify new water resources through remote sensing, geographical surveys and field investigations. Also, UNICEF is striving to produce efficient water sources that “reduce water leakage and contamination promoting wastewater reuse for agriculture to protect groundwater.”

Furthermore, UNICEF is planning for future water scarcity needs. For instance, UNICEF is expanding technologies to support water sources that can withstand our changing climate. With this in mind, UNICEF is educating schools and communities on water scarcity. On a larger scale, UNICEF is preparing for “national water needs” for domestic, health and sanitation use. Lastly, UNICEF is “supporting the WASH sector” through creating online programs, technical guidance and manuals to improve standards for accessing water.

Organizations Helping People Reach Clean Water

Due to social and cultural inequality, women and children bear the brunt of water-borne illnesses. Hence, the reason organizations similar to The Water Project and exist. The Water Project has been providing access to clean water to remote villages located in sub-Saharan Africa since 2006. As of May 2022, The Water Project has reached 714,350 people with a 96% water flow status.

For the past 30 years, the founders of, Gary White and Matt Damon, have been offering financial solutions to the global water scarcity issue. It all began in 1990 when Gary White started helping Latin communities impacted by water scarcity. Later in 2003, their WaterCredit Initiative launched which enables to financially assist places affected by water scarcity. In 2009, Matt Damon joined the team as a co-founder. So far, reported having improved 45 million lives across 17 countries with access to clean water.

Looking Ahead

Thanks to the organizations and the dedication of U.N.-Water and UNICEF, water scarcity is becoming less of an issue. Hopefully, this issue will reduce, so that women and children may experience safety, good health and education without having to walk miles for water.

Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

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

Sanitation in Kazakhstan
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is critical for health and quality of life. As the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence in 1991, much of Kazakhstan’s population still faces the aftermath of the Soviet rule. Poor living conditions and limited access to water in rural populations worsened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. With structural elements of the state completely dismantled, the country faced shortages of basic goods and services, especially water. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kazakhstan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kazakhstan

  1. Over half of the global population (4.2 billion people) lack safe sanitation. 2 out of 5 people in the world (3 billion people) lack basic hand washing facilities. In many parts of the world like Kazakhstan that have experienced recent economic, social or political turmoil, the ability to obtain safe and accessible water is a serious issue.
  2. Less than 30% of the Kazakhstan population has access to safe water and sanitation. About 50% of the population uses drinking water that does not meet the international standards of salinity, hardness and bacteriological standards.
  3. Before 1990, the rural water supply network in Kazakhstan included 54 major pipelines, bringing water to 3 million people in rural and urban areas. Additionally, 16.2 million livestock in 97.5 million hectares of irrigated land were supplied with water. Currently, the quality of nearly all Kazakhstan’s water bodies are unsatisfactory. Nearly 16 % of water tests taken from different water bodies showed sub-standard water quality across the country.
  4. Water scarcity and poor water quality are more prevalent in rural areas, where declining water supply networks and high pollution levels are common. In 2001, 17.3% of the rural Kazakhstan population had access to cold water on tap from the piped system, and 2.8% had access to hot water on tap. Many rural communities are still suffering from dilapidated Soviet-era plumbing projects, but even the functioning plumbing still carries water heavy with bacteria.
  5. According to the UNDP, the distribution of surface and groundwater in Kazakhstan is uneven. Central Kazakhstan has access to only 3% of the country’s water. While the Kazakhstani urban population is covered 90% by piped water, only 28% of the rural people have access to piped water. Around 20% of the rural population in Kazakhstan has the same level of piped water coverage as Sub-Saharan Africa.
  6. No significant changes in patterns of access to piped water have been noted in recent studies from 2001 to 2010. Access to piped water in Kazakhstan’s rural areas remains approximately 29%. These conditions may be surprising, given the massive governmental drinking water program launched from 2002 to 2010, aiming to increase rural access to piped water systems.
  7. Sanitation in rural areas also remains inadequate. In terms of bathroom facilities, 92.2% of the rural population has toilets outside the home, 7.5% inside the home and 0.3% do not have access to toilets at all. Previous UNDP studies show that only 2.8% of rural houses are connected to the sewage system.
  8. Water access affects a majority of those living in rural areas. Only 36% of the rural population has access to a centralized water supply. 57.3% use groundwater through wells and boreholes. Furthermore, 2.6% of the population use water from surface sources and 4% drink delivered water.
  9. Even in houses with connections to water supplies, 53% of people make sure to boil the water. The number climbs to 56% in areas where people have an intermittent supply or suffer from gastroenteritis. Such poor water quality can largely be explained by wastewater dumping, irregularities in wastewater disinfecting and the poor condition of sewerage equipment.
  10. One region where a lack of access to clean drinking water presents serious health problems is Kyrgyzstan. There, each official records 30,000 acute intestinal infections with 24% related to parasites. Up to 86% of typhoid cases occur in villages that lack safe drinking water.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require nations to ensure sufficient sanitation and access to safe water. To improve sanitation in Kazakhstan, rural areas will need much stronger attention, as past efforts neglected and overlooked these areas, to comply with UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

From 2010 to 2013, the UNDP provided $1.5 billion to the Kazakhstan government for water management. The money was meant for the Kazakhstan government to invest in water management, pollution reduction and efficient use of water resources. Additionally, the European Union has also been sharing its experience and policies with Kazakhstan.

Moving forward, it is critical that national drinking water programs are based on surveys of existing water and sanitation services. In order to be successful, these programs must take into special consideration the needs of rural villages.

Danielle Straus
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

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, 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,, UN
Photo: Secure

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