A Million Wells for Bangalore: Restoring Water to the Indian CityAbout 12 million people currently live in the fast-growing Indian city of Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru. The Bengaluru Development Authority estimates that that number may reach 20.3 million by 2031. Bangalore’s increase in population exacerbates an already severe water shortage. Fortunately, the non-profit Biome Environmental Trust has started a new initiative to combat this issue: A Million Wells for Bangalore.

A Million Wells for Bangalore aims to employ Mannu Vaddars, traditional well diggers, to dig a million wells around the city. The initiative empowers Mannu Vaddars who have struggled to find work while ensuring that Bangalore residents will have an adequate water supply.

Water Usage in Bangalore

For thousands of years, Bangalore’s residents depended on open wells as an important source of water. Rain refills the open wells that are tapped into underground aquifers and runoff from nearby lakes. But during the 1880s and 1890s, improved plumbing brought water to the city through pipes. Around the same time, a cholera outbreak contaminated many of the city’s wells, and they fell out of use.

The city’s abundant yearly rainfall used to naturally fill aquifers and wells, providing residents with necessary water. However, pavement now stops rainfall from filtering into the ground. As a result, rainwater runs off of buildings and into the surrounding areas. Today, the city relies on water piped from miles away. The nearest water source is the Cauvery River, which is 63 miles to the south.

Additionally, many of Bangalore’s residents receive water from bore wells, which extend over 200 feet into the ground. However, bore wells refill with water very slowly, so overuse of a well renders it useless for years. As the city’s population grows, more and more bore wells have dried up, leaving residents dependent on piped water and insufficient water tanks.

Mannu Vaddars

Mannu Vaddars have dug Bangalore’s open wells throughout history, using traditions that are passed down through generations. They dig easily rechargeable open wells, ensuring that the groundwater in Bangalore remains stable. Today, around 750 Mannu Vaddar families live in and around Bangalore. Together, they have the capacity to dig up to 1,000 wells per day.

In order to dig a well, seven or eight Mannu Vaddars work together for three days. They use a string to measure a circle with a radius of around three feet. Typically, one member of a team will dig while the rest pull out dirt from the deepening well. Mannu Vaddars dig until the well has reached a depth where water trickles in. Aside from the use of cement to form the walls of the well rather than stone, the practice has not changed much over centuries.

A Million Wells for Bangalore

The initiative A Million Wells for Bangalore is working to solve the city’s water shortage by turning to the traditional skills of these Mannu Vaddars. By hiring the Mannu Vaddars to dig shallow “recharge wells,” the initiative provides residents with wells that are quickly refilled by rain and groundwater. The head of the initiative, Vishwanath Srikantaiah, estimated that if Mannu Vaddars increased the city’s open wells to a million, 50-60% of rainwater could be returned to the wells and to the ground. The result would be both environmentally and financially positive. Floods and run-off would decrease, and water would be cheaper.

The initiative was launched in 2018, and it helped the city’s Mannu Vaddars find more work in their field. As demand for recharge wells grows, so does the demand for Mannu Vaddars’ skills. Bangalore currently has 100,000 open wells, so reaching one million wells will take considerable effort and time. But if Mannu Vaddars can help dig 900,000 more wells, Bangalore could become self-sustaining in terms of water. Residents would enjoy a greater quality of life.

Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

Cloud Seeding
The World Wildlife Fund predicts that in 7 years, two-thirds of the world’s population will face a water shortage. This hypothesis is due to a number of reasons such as higher birth rates and longer lives as a result of improved healthcare, pollution as a result of oil, chemicals, trash disposal and fecal waste, poor management of resources and conflict.

Human Trajectory

Such an outcome is further exasperated by changes in climate, particularly in the form of an increase in the number of droughts and the melting of glacial mountains. If this continues, humanity will face a number of issues. For starters, health will decline and disease susceptibility will increase as more individuals lose access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation.

If these changes occur, then the financial security as individuals will also be affected as people become unable to function properly for work and school. Overall, the efforts of poverty reduction will be for naught if climate change continues to deplete water resources. In order to help combat these effects of climate change, scientists have been working towards enhancing a process called cloud seeding.

Cloud Seeding

Cloud seeding is the process of adding chemicals — like dry ice, silver iodide, etc. — to clouds to increase rainfall. Typically, these chemicals are shot or released into the sky by machines or small jets. Since its discovery in the 1940s, this system has been used to generate snow, and to try to stop hurricanes, or extend monsoon seasons. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that the hypothesis for the methodology was confirmed to be true and, thanks to this significant finding, scientists determined a range of potential effects/uses of cloud seeding.

Of these proposals, the potential effect cloud seeding can have on agriculture and the food security problem is one of the most notable. Cloud seeding is believed to support healthy growing seasons as it has the potential to combat droughts by boosting the amount of precipitation in a given area by 5 to 15 percent.

If cloud seeding is implemented, there will be increased harvesting and more food available from a wide variety of crops for the ever-growing human population. The process also has the potential to improve biomes, allow for more fertility and create more farming land and land that could be used to build better homes. Such effects can then indirectly create jobs and contribute to financial security for people living in poverty-stricken countries.

Realistic Expectations

Due to the potential benefits, many developing countries are starting to fund their own cloud seeding program, but without considering the potential drawbacks. Some of the downsides of this technology include the safety of continued exposure to silver iodide and other chemicals, which some studies have reported can cause skin discoloration and be carcinogenic.

Another setback is the economic and technological availability. There are countries like Dubai and China where they have the economic sufficiency but lack the technology and basic geographical set up to manage the precipitation. The amount and length of precipitation is also difficult to control, as can be seen in 2009 Beijing and the 2017 flooding  in Dubai.

The bottom-line is: cloud seeding is uncharted waters. There are variables that need to be taken into consideration before introducing nationwide cloud seeding programs in developing countries, especially in the case of long-term use. However, once addressed, cloud seeding has the potential to bring the seemingly achievable dream of eradicating global poverty a step closer to reality.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Water Shortage In Antigua & Barbuda

Caribbean countries have suffered in recent years from a prolonged drought, forcing them to implement new methods to control the use of water in their nations. One country in the Caribbean that has suffered from this prolonged drought is Antigua & Barbuda (A&B).

Despite the current situation, the future is starting to look up for the citizens of this country, as new programs have been started to address the issue of the continued water shortage in A&B.

The Plan:
One program the A&B government has implemented in the past few years has been the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA). The goal of APUA is to act as a water rationing program to ensure that all citizens receive adequate amounts of water until the drought begins to go away.

However, as the drought continues, authorities involved with the APUA have struggled to find a solution to the water shortage in A&B. One authority stated in an interview that “as Antigua and Barbuda enter further into a drought, the APUA has seen a depletion of the surface water resources that it relies heavily on.”

The rate of water consumption in A&B has continued to put pressure on the APUA and their ability to provide adequate amounts of water for its citizens. A statement by the APUA reported that authorities told the public that they only had enough water left in their largest containment unit to get the country through the month of February, if they did not see an increase in rainfall.

The APUA has since tried to deal with the issue of the continued water shortage by only providing water at certain times during the day. Although APUA can provide its citizens with enough water to sustain themselves by using this strategy, this work cannot continue for much longer.

The Takeaway:
The issue of a water shortage in A&B is a matter that appears to have no clear solution. The drought continues to be problematic, and the APUA’s task of providing adequate water to all its citizens has not been so simple. The best thing one can do at this moment in time for the people of A&B would be to donate money to organizations or volunteer time to NGOs – which are working alongside APUA to address the issue of the water shortage.

Although the circumstances for those in A&B have been grim, there is hope for the future of these people. Continued effort from the APUA and NGOs should provide increasing relief to the citizens suffering from the effects of the drought.

Nick Beauchamp
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in TaiwanThe water quality in Taiwan is slightly below standard, and the region is plagued by water shortages. Here are some key pieces of information for understanding the state of the water quality in Taiwan.

According to an article in the Taipei Times, conserving water is a major challenge in Taiwan, especially with annual droughts, floods and limited rainfall. Data from the president’s office and the Water Resources Agency revealed that Taiwan residents typically use about 250 liters of water each day. Water companies and suppliers filter water from reservoirs to provide consumers with clean drinking water.

In order to provide the residents of Taiwan with clean drinking water, without implementing water rationing, the government could encourage rainwater collection and rainwater recycling systems, according to the article. Water rationing is a concern because it could lead to major economic losses in the country.

Water in Taiwan often contains significant levels of silt and needs to be filtered. In general, it is recommended that water in Taiwan be boiled before consumption. Many residents have water filters for their kitchen faucets or have invested in a water filtration system to improve the water quality in their homes. These appliances can improve both the taste and the health of the water.

According to the water board in Taipei, the water in Taipei is treated to be safe to drink. For tap water, the Taipei water department specifies that in respect to odor, water should be less than one threshold odor number (TON). A data collection in 2015 revealed that the water quality in Taiwan was at three TON.

Additionally, samples of water from Taiwan revealed higher than standard levels of turbidity and color. While the water quality in Taiwan needs to see improvements, the main threat to water in the region is a general shortage of it.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Solving the Water Shortage in Israel and Palestine
Less than a decade ago, a serious water shortage in Israel threatened the quality of life and future survival of the Israeli people. Water quality and abundance in Israel have improved in recent years with the help of desalination techniques that turn Mediterranean seawater and wastewater into usable water.

Israel is an arid, Mediterranean country with a history of extreme water shortages. The seven-year drought that began in 2005 depleted Israel’s natural water sources and compromised the quality of the water. The Israeli government established the Water Authority in 2007 to focus the efforts on solving the water shortage in Israel.

One of the government’s methods for fixing the water shortage in Israel was its implementation of desalination plants that produce more than 130 billion gallons of water per year. Some experts say that desalination is becoming a cheap and energy-efficient way to treat water.

Desalination processes make more than 50 percent of water for various sectors of Israel, including homes, agriculture and industry. Water is now more expensive for farmers, but it is at least readily available.

Israel also reuses and recycles wastewater for agricultural purposes by treating 86 percent of domestic wastewater. The nation now leads as the world’s top water recycler.

Despite plentiful water supplies for Israel, the nation shares its mountain aquifer with the West Bank. Israel claims that it gives Palestinians more than what peace accords require it to give, but Palestinians are not satisfied with the amount or cost of the water.

The technology that solved the water shortage in Israel has not helped the Palestinians who rely on Israel’s water sources. The agreements that provided Palestinians with 20 percent of the water from the mountain aquifer have become outdated as the Palestinian population has almost doubled.

According to The Economist, Palestinians get an average of 73 liters of water a day. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 100 liters of water per day. To make matters worse, the coastal aquifer that Palestinians in Gaza rely on is polluted and could soon become permanently damaged.

Israelis have water thanks to revolutionary water treating techniques. Complex political and social struggles prevent Palestinians from gaining access to the same water. Now that Israel has solved its own water shortage, its actions will largely decide if Palestinians get the water that they need to survive.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

Water shortages in Pakistan

Pakistan faces an impending water shortage, due to the combination of declining rainfall and groundwater with a growing population. The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) ominously estimates that the supply of water in Pakistan could be critically low by 2025.

WaterAid reports that 16 million people do not have access to clean water. As a result, people are drinking from unsafe and unreliable sources. Urbanization means more concrete and less water seeping back into aquifers. Fortunately, many strategies are being mobilized to treat water shortages in Pakistan before conditions become critical.

Access to Sanitation

Many people in Pakistan do not have access to safe water. WaterAid was incredibly concerned by the high numbers of people without access to proper sanitation. Methods over the past decade emphasize political pressure, education and community projects that all focus on sanitation. WaterAid supplied 229,982 people with safe water in the last year.

Additionally, the Pakistan Water Forum built washrooms in schools to ensure that kids have access to clean drinking and washing services.

Rainwater Accumulation

Poor storage solutions fail to capture 70% of Pakistan’s rain. WaterAid and the Pakistan Water Partnership are helping communities build containers for rainwater collection.

Irrigation Systems

The Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Program Project (PIAPIPP) is building better irrigation systems to move water in Pakistan. New systems like drip, bubbler and sprinklers are far more efficient than canal irrigation. PIAPIPP provides support, supervision and education in the areas receiving these systems.


The Pakistan Water Forum is distributing teaching materials created by Project Wet to 10 governmental schools. The project provides free lessons on the water cycle and the importance of conservation and sanitation. After floods, Pakistan Water Forum and the Salvation Army hold community meetings to ensure that residents are aware that floodwater is contaminated.

Water ATMs

The Punjab province is implementing water ATMs that provide water when a card is scanned. This invention, which was created by Punjab Saaf Pani Company (Clean Water Co.) and Poverty Alleviation Lab (IPAL), will provide quality water while tracking the quantity used.

Solar-powered machines will be attached to the filtration plants and provide a maximum of 30 liters a day per family. This new distribution technique is a refreshing change, as only 13% in rural and 42% in urban Punjab province have access to clean water.

The drought is problematic, but its potential dangers are being actively addressed. The broad range of strategies to conserve and distribute water demonstrates how the threat of water shortages in Pakistan can be lessened by preventative action.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

By 2050, it is estimated that the world’s demand for water will have increased by 55 percent. Many countries are expected to face water crises worse than any in recorded history. The hunt is on for solutions that will make clean water accessible to everyone, especially those in areas with few resources. One such solution is the groundwater desalination system. Invented by Jain Irrigation Systems and a team from MIT, the system’s potential is promising and recently received the USAID Desal Prize.

In many countries, the challenge lies not in the quantity of water but in its quality. Groundwater is water that has been trapped underground for years. It is fairly easy to access through traditional wells and pumps, but it is usually not pure. The biggest challenge is brackish groundwater, or water that has just enough salt in it to make it unsuitable for irrigation and drinking. Since about 70 percent of all water use occurs in food production, finding a way to make groundwater pure enough for irrigation purposes would be a major coup in the field of water management.

The system designed by Jain and MIT uses solar panels to generate electricity that can be used by the system immediately or stored in batteries for overnight operation. The desalination component uses a process called electrodialysis. To pull the salt from the water, two electrodes with opposing charges are aligned opposite each other; the water is run between them. The salt dissolved in the water has a very slight charge, which means the salt particles will be pulled to one electrode or the other. The water is then passed through a series of membranes that filter out larger particles. This method of desalination would not work for extremely saline water, like seawater, but it does a good job on groundwater. Once the groundwater is free of salt, the system treats it with UV light. This kills the bacteria in the water and makes it potable.

Desalination is one of the most energy intensive methods of water reclamation around, but this system is essentially self-sufficient. In field trials, it was found to recover about 90 percent of the water input, almost double the amount that current reverse-osmosis desalination systems typically recover. It has the potential to supply water to between 2,000 and 5,000 people, which is the size of a typical rural Indian village. In trials, it has proven durable and capable of 24-hour operation, something which cannot be said for many prototypes.

With these successes to its name, it is no wonder that researchers are eager to install prototypes for field evaluations in India as early as next year.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: IFL Science, Securing Water for Food 1, Securing Water for Food 2, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.
Photo: Inhabitat

“We are facing the worst drought Venezuela has had in almost 100 years,” said Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan President in 2010. The drought problems have not improved, and as the country faces issues from an incredibly dry season, officials on May 6 have implemented water rationing in the capital Caracas and nearby regions. This will leave some six million people without water three days a week.

Venezuela’s dry season has, moreover, extended longer than normal, adding to the drought the country has been facing. There are three water reservoirs surrounding the capital city, and one of them has already reached record lows, falling below minimum capacity. The rationing plan is set to last for four months, lasting until August or September.

Critics are blaming the current president Nicolás Maduro and the socialist government for the severity of the problem though, rather than the weather.

“Instead of waiting for storage ponds to dry, the government should have implemented a less burdensome, water-saving plan months ago,” said Carlos Ocariz, mayor of the capital’s Sucre district. He went on to say that no new reservoirs had been built during the last 15 years, possibly leading to the severity of the problem today.

Other reservoirs, though, still contain enough water for the moment. The Camatagua reservoir can continue providing water for 820 more days, according to the country’s environment minister, Miguel Rodríguez. But even when fully operating, the water supply in the capital is below international standards, only providing enough water for household use and not enough to meet commercial and industrial needs.

The drought has caused other problems for Venezuela. Hydropower provides up to two-thirds of the produced electricity, and with the lack of rainfall, power shortages are a constant worry for citizens in rural areas. According to critics, management and underinvestment are also to blame for the shortages.

Neighboring country Colombia is also suffering from the drought, prompting the country to reduce gas exports to Venezuela. This is to ensure that Colombia has enough fuel to run its own power plants, putting further pressure and reliance onto Venezuelan hydropower.

Furthermore, protests occurring in Venezuela have been occurring for more than two months, fueled by resource shortages, crime and inflation. With a lack of constant access to water and related services, the protests could continue to get worse. Already, the unrest has seen 41 deaths as well as over 700 injured.

As the El Nino weather continues in the region, the country faces a water shortage that could cause many problems across the board for Venezuela. The choice by the government to start rationing the water should help ensure a continued supply for the citizens for now, however. With any luck, and with officials hoping the rationing program will only be needed until August, Venezuelans won’t have to suffer long until the rainy season returns to abate the country’s water shortage.

– Matthew Erickson

Sources: ABC News, BN Americas, New York Times: Venezuela looks to Wind and Nuclear Power, New York Times: Electricity Emergency, Raw Story, Reuters
Photo: Construction Week Online

Poverty in Yemen
As one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen is currently faced with some of the most extreme poverty issues in the world. There are several issues that are unique to Yemen that contribute to this magnitude of poverty, issues that are on track to only get worse unless direct action is taken to mitigate these circumstances. If basic problems, such as lack of access to water, are not properly addressed, other matters, such as sub-par literacy rates, will continue to plague the region and exacerbate poverty in Yemen.


Top 5 Facts about Poverty in Yemen


1. Yemen’s population stands at 25.4 million and approximately 54% of those people live in poverty.  In other words, 54% of the population survives on fewer than 2 dollars per day.

2. Approximately 45% of the population is malnourished.

3. Life expectancy in Yemen is 64 years old, 14 years younger than the average life expectancy in the United States.

4. Major infectious diseases plaguing the country include Bacterial diarrhea, Typhoid fever, Dengue fever and Malaria, all of which are preventable, curable and in some cases largely unheard of anymore in the western world.

5. There is less than 1 physician for every 1,000 people in Yemen.


Major Causes Behind Poverty in Yemen Today


  • The dire water shortage: The use of the word ‘dire’ cannot be stressed enough. According to Maplecroft, a global risk analysis organization, Yemen is ranked as the seventh most water-stressed country on the planet. Even though there is a water shortage in Yemen, approximately 90% of the country’s water is put towards its largely ineffective agricultural practices. In Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, tap water is only available once every four days for its 2 million people. Even worse, in Taiz, a major city in the south, tap water is only available every 20 days. It is estimated that in 10 years, Sana’a will literally run out of water for its citizens.
  • On the brink of famine: In mid-2012, several major humanitarian relief organizations issued a warning that 44% of the population’s food needs are not currently being adequately met. Five million of these malnourished Yemeni citizens require emergency aid and immediate action. The warning cited a surge in food and fuel prices and political instability as the cause behind the number of malnourished people doubling since 2009. Though there is food available in some cases, many Yemenis cannot afford to buy nourishment because they have been displaced from their homes due to conflict.
  • Lingering political instability: Like most of the Middle East, Yemen felt the effects of the Arab Spring in 2011. The initial uprising was centered on protesting high unemployment, economic conditions and government corruption, which included the then president’s plan to alter the constitution to allow the direct transfer of power to his son. Al-Qaeda also has a presence in the region, which further contributes to political instability. For these reasons and many others, the attempt to reach stability within the government and the region is an ongoing process. After significant fighting and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of citizens, a new president was placed in power after running uncontested in an election. The new president is responsible for overseeing the drafting and implementation of a new constitution and further presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.

– Colleen Eckvahl


Sources: BBC: Yemen’s President cedes power, BBC: Yemen on brink of food crisis, Green Profit, Maplecroft, The World Bank


In the north Indian city of New Delhi, severe water shortages affect the entire city, a problem that will only be exacerbated as demand rises in the summer months. As the heat rises, demand for water can outstrip availability by 25% — and this number only refers to those areas of the city connected to the city infrastructure. Up to a quarter of the inhabitants of New Delhi have no access to piped water. In these areas people are forced to seek water from overused wells or polluted rivers, or the occasional tanker of water that is delivered.

As ever, the shortages are felt more strongly in lower economic circles. But even middle-class citizens are left scrounging for water to supplement what the city provides.

Many factors contribute to these continuing shortages. New Delhi’s population has swollen by nearly 50% over the past 20 years, and the city has been unable to keep up with infrastructural development. Across the city’s network, 25-40% of piped water is lost due to leaks, before arriving at its destination. Additionally, the majority of waste produced goes untreated, and is released into local bodies of water, polluting them and making them unusable as resources. For example, the Yamuna river, whose source lies in the Himalayas, enters the city still relatively clean, at which point some 200 million gallons are extracted from the river every day by the public water agency. However, as the river runs through the city, nearly a billion gallons of public sewage is dumped into it daily.

This problem of waste causes severe health concerns, especially in slums with no connection to the city’s sewage systems. In these areas sewage is left exposed,  contaminating water sources used for bathing and washing.

The irony of these water shortages is that New Delhi has access to enough water to feasibly provide for the demand. But due to these issues of infrastructure and treatment, the system is failing. And those most strongly affected are those underprivileged to begin with.

With water scarcity becoming increasingly a source of potential conflict, providing the infrastructure to alleviate the burden must be a primary concern of governments globally. Demand will only continue to increase exponentially, and while cities like New Delhi will be the first to feel the strain, they will not be the last.

– David Wilson

Source: New York Times, Wall Street Journal