Solving the water crisis should be the forefront of a list of battles the world is facing. Otherwise, it is going to cause unfathomable problems later on. Let’s take a look at one opinion on what’s going on and the efforts being made by nonprofit orgs and other drinking water solutions like the Amazon water charity.
Water is the source of all life on planet Earth. But, to the surprise of many, we are running out of it — Why is that?
To examine the problem closer, let’s use one of the largest cities in India on its eastern coast; Chennai, located on the Bay of Bengal. Today, there are nearly 11 million people who call this place home.
But it faces a massive challenge; that being an almost impossible shortage of drinking water. Especially with its growing population, there are already hardships and the city faces high uncertainty moving forward.
But the people of Chennai didn’t just wake up one day with an absence of clean drinking water. The taps didn’t just run dry without warning.
So, what happened?
Chennai has been gradually losing water for decades upon decades. This problem can be boiled down to two main reasons, though:
- Low Rainfall
- Depletion of Underground Water Reservoirs
“There has been no rain in this city. We have never had such a severe water shortage in years past.” — a resident of Chennai, 2019
Understandably, people of Chennai want answers; how did a city of so many people get to the brink of running out of drinkable water solutions? Hang with me here while I dig into the core of the problem quickly.
It started a long time ago with the mismanagement of natural resources. However — not to get too detailed — the problem came to light in the Nineties with the growing demands of globalization.
The Indian economy — like many other places around the world — expanded very rapidly. Too rapidly to keep pace with itself, in fact.
To cope with such fast growth, cities around India started growing in an unmanaged and unplanned fashion (especially Chennai and other large urban capitals of India). In that process, one of the most neglected sides of the growth was water resources management.
So, Chennai faced a serious issue with unregulated urbanization. In fact, many researchers found that India has lost one-third of its wetlands in the last decade due to urbanization and other development projects. That kind of loss causes schools, hospitals, hotels, and many other businesses to close its doors down for good.
“The government announced they will give out water on ration cards now. They are handing out two buckets per ration card. How is this enough? Will it be the same amount being given to ministers’ homes? Two buckets of water — How is that enough to keep a family alive?” — another Chennai resident
Chennai is far from the only Indian city running into these problems. As a matter of fact, according to the National Institution of Transforming India, there are 21 major cities just in India (including the capital, Delhi) that could run out of water supply as early as 2020.
There are other reports that claim at least half the Indian population are staring at an extreme water scarcity very soon — a direct reflection on the poor water management of India. It is not the lack of precipitation that is the problem so much as the mismanagement in India’s case. Statistics show India only retains 8% of its natural precipitation; which significantly lacks behind the per country global average.
However, just because other countries are doing a better job with their resources does not mean people aren’t being affected worldwide.
Let’s take a look. . .
According to a study done by ScienceDirect, one in four of the world’s largest cities are water-stressed. Water stress occurs when the demand for drinkable water exceeds the available amount in a certain period.
ScienceDirect found that cities with over $4.2 trillion (which they defined as ‘big cities’) move over 500 billion liters of water per day a total distance of nearly 30,000 kilometers to keep afloat with its citizens’ growing demands.
In 2015, the situation in Brazil’s urban capital, São Paulo, got so bad that authorities had to begin escorting water trucks to avoid riots and looting. Many saw this as just a window to what is to come around the world as situations worsen. At the time, the city had less than twenty days worth of water left. Imagine the devastation that could have occurred that was as little as three weeks away.
To some, it is impossible to imagine a city running out of water. The possibility just doesn’t exist for so many of us who are fortunate enough to have near unlimited access to clean drinking water. It is something many people take for granted.
More recently, in Cape Town in late 2018, government officials announced the city had less than three months of water available. Residents were hit with an extreme drought that lasted most of the year. This, of course, led to serious water rationing.
“Before, I was using two kettles of water to wash myself. Now, I use only one.” — Cape Town resident
The situation was desperate in Cape Town, a town where a quarter of the population lives in informal settlements and has no lawful home. This complicated the issue because, under law, these areas are guaranteed no regular supply of water.
We always see awareness videos regarding the wastefulness of our habits (leaving the facets on, watering our lawn, washing our cars), but the truth of the matter is, the people who need it most use very little water per day.
According to Future Water Research Institute, the one million people in Cape Town living in informal settlements (25% of the population) were found to only be using 4% of the water supply in that time. Just the necessary means to get by, it seems.
Solving the Water Crisis: The Impact of Climate Change on Water Scarcity
Climate change is doing much more than turning up the heat and melting the ice caps. It is altering weather patterns and causing chaos on water supplies around the world.
Why does this matter now?
Many people may think since 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water that we are a long way from serious, life-threatening water shortages. However, take into account that out of all that water, only 1% is fresh, consumable drinking water.
That means this problem’s reach is far beyond the limitations of just third world countries. It doesn’t affect only the poorest of the poor (although that’s no reason you should not worry even if it did only affect those places), it is said 2.1 billion people in all places of the world don’t have access to a reliable source of safe drinking water.
The main issue is the demand for water. Whether it be for agriculture, industrialization, urban development, or whatever the venture — the demand for water in our modern age has shot through the roof and thanks to climate change, our supply is being decreased.
Another problem is the rising cost to transport water and the adverse effect that has on climate change. We face a serious dilemma in that many of the largest sources of water left today aren’t where the demand is. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to get the water to those who need it. Not to mention taking a toll on our environment.
The War for Water
According to the United Nations, in many conflict areas of war such as Mali or Syria, there is a major lack of water that is only adding fuel to the fire. The World Resources Institute claims the issue has escalated to the point of water being weaponized in these zones.
In the book, The Water Paradox, author Edward Barbier discusses the economic significance of the water crisis. He claims water is the most valuable resource on the planet in that it meets more needs than any other resource — even ahead of fossil fuels and oil. This, of course, makes sense in terms of survival but he dives deeper in explaining its uses other than for drinking.
Yet, we treat it differently than oil and other fossil fuels. Almost as if there is an endless supply and it is just a free commodity. This, despite the fact that it has been proven that the availability of clean water won’t be here forever.
This reflects the true economic value of water compared to its actual monetary value in today’s world. Being that other limited resources such as oil are priced much higher, it is conceived that water is not as precious as it is. It entitles people to use it as they will instead of being conscious of their habits.
In the book Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, the author, journalist Steven Soloman, makes the case that oil is no longer the world’s scarcest resource and that water is. This is a terrifying belief being that oil has played as a significant cause for most of the wars of the recent past.
As we can see in war-torn Pakistan, where economic water scarcity can be attributed to a lack of investment in necessary water infrastructure, for both transportation and supply, this is causing major stress and violence around the country.
Now, consider what could and very-well might happen in water-stressed, nuclear-armed, terrorist-infiltrated, overpopulated, heavily-irrigation-dependent and already politically corrupted Pakistan when its only freshwater source, the Indus River, loses a third of its flow upon the disappearance of its glacial water source (which science has proven is happening).
Pakistan ranks ninth in a list of the ten countries with the most marginalized access to water. Roughly one of every ten people in Pakistan does not have access. This has sparked regional warfare in several areas around the country.
This would be a crisis even if it were only a million people affected by the shortage. But it’s not one million people. There are 21 million people in Pakistan alone without access to clean drinking water.
This number pales in comparison to the amount of people worldwide without clean drinking water — which sits at about one of nine people; nearly 800 million people who have no access to safe water. And, with as fast as the population is growing, the world’s water usage has grown twice as fast in the past century. It is impossible to contemplate keeping up with the demands when most of the freshwater on Earth is locked away in glaciers. Hopefully, you are concerned, but being concerned isn’t enough anymore.
It is clear we need to do better in managing our water. In the next chapter, we will begin to look at some of the solutions around the world.
Drinking Water Solutions Around the World
We must face the issue of water scarcity head-on. And what’s the best way to deal with scarcity issues?
To invest in solutions.
We must invest in solutions. All of us. It starts from the top; The government must cover the costs of better water and sanitation services to ordinary people like you and me. In many administrations around the world, not enough of the budget is allocated to this pressing matter. They also need to make clean water sources more accessible around the world. But it doesn’t stop there. We, as ordinary people, must get involved too.
We must cover the costs of at-home water management appliances. We must invest our time in learning new lifestyle tendencies; some as simple as turning the tap off while we aren’t rinsing or collecting rainwater for different aspects of our lives). We must invest in education on the topic. And we must invest ourselves into believing this is a crisis.
With the growing population, and without unity in these solutions, the situation will only get worse. Policy and regulation alone will not solve this problem that humanity faces. Of course, mandated policies and regulations can supremely help the cause, but it will take a total behavioral reconstruction to accomplish anything.
All countries are facing the same problem in various parts of their region of the Earth. It is time we start developing common solutions and approaches toward the growing water shortage. Once we start sharing ideas and examples of good water management, those ideas will begin to be implemented elsewhere in the world and, like a domino effect, the impact will be made little by little to save us.
Unless we (and leadership) acknowledge the severity of water scarcity around the world, cities will continue to grow without proper planning. Our water resources will continue to be stretched without any saving grace. And at some point, we will cross the line of no return and could see an ugly war. We must act now on this crisis. Luckily, there are already people and organizations/ governments around the world doing their part to tackle the problem. Let’s take a look.
Amazon Water Charity
Editor’s Note: Please be aware that this is not a paid promotional piece of the Amazon water charity. This is simply one opinion by the author that charity : water is making the most strides in the development of solutions and should be promoted in this piece.
Amazon Smile is a program built to provide funding for five major organizations working toward different causes. Our favorite of the five being charity : water.
At its core, charity : water is a fundraising platform. It invests the funds it has raised into organizations with years of experience to build sustainable, community-based water projects in struggling regions around the world.
Their mantra is 100% of the money raised is put toward clean water and their team concentrates on ensuring every dollar is accounted for, used properly, and reported back to the people who give.
Scott Harrison, the founder of charity : water, started the organization in 2006 with the goal to find a solution to end the water crisis within this generation’s lifetime. Sounds lofty, right?
So far, the charity has funded nearly 52,000 water projects worldwide (2020) which has given access to clean water to over 11 million people in 28 countries. This is just a start, as mentioned earlier, there are over 800 million people without access to clean water. However, project-by-project, this charity has been expanding its reach, making a difference, and working toward a real sustainable solution.
Water scarcity, poverty, political stability, and availability of strong partner organizations all play a factor in where the charity chooses to work, however, there are projects in parts of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. In some instances (most instances) they have provided rural villages with its first access to clean drinking water.
So, what’s the next step?
Sustainability. And the board at charity : water know this. They know a good thing won’t last without proper education, the desire to learn, and proper funding to last.
That is why the organization works with local village leaders, ensuring they speak to the right people to keep water flowing and continuing this critical mission. Cutting-edge technology has been introduced in some of the ruralist parts of the world to keep an eye on how the water systems are operating and staying intact.
Charity : Water’s approach is simple. They travel around the world to find sustainable, fully functioning and effective organizations – with proven track record – in the most affected regions with whom they can work, fund, and support their best projects and methods.
The first step is choosing a location. Their partners choose the location of water points based on geography and needs assessments. They also take into account the possibility of strong relationships with local stakeholders, the possibility of overlap with other organizations, and the availability of spare parts and repair services. In addition, the willingness of the community to participate is important, as strong programs require adoption and participation in order to maintain water points over time.
Next, comes finding the right tools for the job. The context determines which water technology is appropriate for which area. Physical factors (such as landforms) play an important role, but cultural factors (such as the comfort offered by the community when designing the technology) also play an important role. It is also ensured that spare parts can be purchased on site.
After finding the water technology, they must select their partners. They select their partners based on their support for the mission of providing sustainable and safe drinking water. To identify a good partner, charity: water assesses water quality, sanitation, and hygiene programs, as well as elements such as water supply facilities and sustainability indicators. To ensure responsible use of resources, they also assess their operational capacity and fiduciary accountability. Each new or potential partner is subject to this monitoring process.
Then, comes the implementation.
First, charity : water must determine project costs. A project is not just about cement, pipes, and pumps. These costs include engineers’ salaries, community organization, and training of mechanics. Field teams need an operational base, so they often help to cover the costs of local partner offices and support staff such as accountants and managers.
Next, they must follow best practices in hygiene. In developing countries, there are many ways to provide hygiene services. This charity works with experts in the field to identify the most effective methods so that they can continue to ensure that best practices are applied in their programs.
Staying on schedule is important, too. Transporting the material on uneven ground or laying several miles of pipeline may take weeks. The team brings together the community for long months, promotes safe sanitation practices, and strengthens the capacity of the water committees to manage projects. The whole process takes about 21 months.
This requires a bit of work with local governments. Local government plays an important role in maintaining water flow. Charity: Water partners work with community, district, and regional leaders to plan projects to be financed. This increases local involvement and can help build local capacity to support projects in the coming years.
Maintenance is also an important step in the process.
Firstly, ensuring sustainability. Each charity project has a plan for local stakeholders to ensure a smooth water flow after installation. They invest in the creation of strong water committees, cooperate with local government, and train technicians to carry out repairs.
Not only that, but they monitor and evaluate the programs too. Understanding the failure of projects helps the industry learn how to increase their effectiveness. The program team makes sure that all projects are closely monitored during and after their implementation. They often monitor their work in the field and, if necessary, ask external evaluators to evaluate the project independently.
Then, comes the social proof. The last step in ensuring life-changing water supplies.
In the end, they map every completed project on the charity : water website using Google Maps so supporters can see exactly where the work their money supports is being done, the types of projects that are funded in each area, and the number of people being helped. This is a revolutionary way to show social proof and build back the trust that seems to have gone missing in modern day charities with people around the world.
What are the solutions?
Charity : Water has over a dozen sustainable solutions for the problem including hand-dug wells, drilled wells, rainwater catchments, gravity-fed systems, water pipe systems, water purification systems, bio-sand filters, spring protections, and latrines. All of these, together, have combined to ensure 11 million people have been granted the right to clean drinking water around the world.
How to get involved
There are multiple ways to get involved with charity : water’s mission including fundraising, donating to a campaign, sponsoring a community, volunteering, and even brand sponsorship. However, the best way for an individual to get involved is through the charity’s new program called The Spring.
Similar to a water spring, The Spring is all about giving consistently. It costs $40 to give one individual water for an entire year; that’s it. One year of survival and health for only $40. Think about the amount of entertainment subscriptions we give money to every month without thought. Netflix for $10, Amazon Prime for $12, Spotify for $8; these costs add up. Those things make our lives better — but The Spring will make other peoples’ lives better. Not just better, but possible.
Even if you can’t donate a full $40 per month, what about aiming for that amount per year. With this logic, you can truly make a difference in one person’s life. You can save that person’s life. How about that!
If you want to volunteer – great! We have the perfect cover letter for your volunteer mission and we are giving it to you for FREE just because you read this book. Use this template for any volunteer opportunity you come across to bolster your application.
For web readers, visit this link: shorturl.at/FJ358
Understanding the Dangers of the Water Crisis
There is nothing more important than water for life on earth. But from Cape Town to Flint, Michigan, from sub-Saharan Africa to a quiet southeast Asia village of the Philppines, there is a global water crisis. People are struggling to access the water they need to drink, cook, wash their hands, and grow in development.
Access to clean water can protect and save lives simply because it is available. Access to clean water has the power to turn time that would normally be used fetching water into time to gain an education. It can turn problems into potential: open education, economic prosperity, and better health.
When people get clean water, it changes everything. When people have access to clean water, they are better able to put good hygiene and sanitation into practice. Children are healthier and attend school more often. Parents are no longer worried about water-related diseases and the lack of access to clean water. Instead, they can irrigate crops and livestock and diversify their incomes. Communities no longer seek rights on the few water sources and there is less violent conflict. Everyone deserves to determine their own future, and water makes it possible.
Between 1990 and 2015 there has been astonishing progress in providing safe water for 2.6 billion people in developing countries. This represents an increase from 76% of the world’s population to 91% (over this period have gained access to safe, drinkable water). However, the benefits of clean water can still be multiplied through better sanitation and hygiene education.
Every day we try to improve this situation. Clean water and sanitation should be everyone’s right. By giving people the chance to meet this basic human need, they can give their families hope and health and the chance to break the cycle of poverty.
Join the fight. Improve lives. Save lives.