Clean Water Advocacy

Read about current and past efforts to bring safe drinking water to those who need it most.

The Water Conditions in Ethiopia, Part Two

by Mark B Published 10.7.2015

While in Ethiopia in August to learn more about what they do about drinking water, I visited the Debre Damo Monastery.  About 1,600 years old, it is situated on a flat-topped outcropping of solid rock. The only way in or out is by climbing a sheer cliff using a 15 meter rope made from woven rawhide. The top supports a community of about 150 monks. Certainly the most extreme location I found people living in this most northern part of the country. Tufts of green in the landscape below reminded me that it was still their short rainy season.    

        

The question in my mind is that these men live on top of a solid piece of rock - what do they do for drinking water? The site has been in constant use for centuries, so they must have solved this essential question long ago. The answer is found in the rain catchment pools carved into the stone itself.

    

Although many consider the water here to be holy, the source is vulnerable to pollution. The pools are open to the sky so bird droppings can fall in, a resident troupe of monkeys use the same water source, and anything that lands on the bare rock surrounding the pools can be blown or washed in. The abundance of algae on the surfaces is an indication that nutrients are present. (Algae could easily be transported to this place on the legs of birds.) The water I sampled was positive for coliform bacteria. 

It would be interesting to return in the dry season. If I go again I now know to bring a wider range of water test kits. I would like to check water quality when contaminants are likely to be more concentrated due to evaporation.  Time and opportunity did not permit on this visit, but it would be interesting to talk to the monks about their perceptions of drinking water quality. Is there any evidence of illness caused by this water? Are they interested in treating it or even reducing evaporation? Maybe not. There were some very old men up there. Perhaps in this case the habits and traditions of centuries are as sustaining as the water itself. 

 

Contact Mark B.

 


The Water Conditions in Ethiopia, Part One

by Mark B Published 9.24.2015

In August, I was able to visit northern Ethiopia to look at some of the drinking water issues.  As you might guess, there are many, ranging from polluted water to almost no water at all.  That made it interesting to discover the inhabitants of Adwa and Aksum rely on a reservoir.  The reservoir water is treated first by aeration to oxidize iron, then with a flocculant which attracts dirt like a magnet, slow sand filtration to remove the floc, and finally chlorination to disinfect.  This level of treatment is actually standard practice for many municipalities in more developed countries.   

 I brought with me a kit to test for coliform bacteria – the kind of bacteria normal to the human gut.  Most are not harmful, but you probably have heard of a bad one that  represents fecal coliforms: E. coli.  I tested multiple faucets where I was staying in Adwa and found no coliforms at that moment in time, including no E. coli.  This water is typically provided by a single tap to a group of households.  It is relatively unusual for Ethiopians to have fairly easy access to water, so what I observed might be considered a model for “best practices” in the country. 

                                                                                                        

Outside Adwa and Aksum, however, the situation was more like what I was expecting, which is to say dire. With the help of a guide, my two Kinetico co-workers and I took a half hour ride out of Adwa to Gendebta. As we hiked along paths through farm fields, we first passed a hand dug well and a manually pumped well, then another manually pumped well, and finally came to a muddy hole that water seeps up into. 

The first pump did not work, so the hand dug well was being used for livestock and humans to drink from. It tested positive for total coliforms and E. coli. Further away, the second pump did produce water, but only during the very short rainy season. 

The photo shows a barefoot girl filling and carrying a 20-liter container for her family.  The jerrycan is carried using a length of rope across her chest. While her journey home that day was fairly short, that water still weighs about 44 pounds.

After hiking for an hour, we came to the source of water people use when the shallow wells no longer produce.  As I watched, a mother and daughter filled their clay water jugs, skimming the less muddy water from the top. Livestock stand in the puddle to drink from it as well. In the 10 month dry season people travel by foot over great distances to collect their water here. They collect water early in the morning until it runs out. Then they wait until the afternoon when it has refilled a bit. This source tested positive for coliforms. 

While the people of Adwa and Aksum are fortunate to have a year-round source of water that is relatively safe to use, most of the country does not.  Those who collect for their households are primarily girls and women travelling long distances to carry heavy loads, perhaps more than once a day. 

When I returned home and opened the tap, I just stared for a moment, appreciating what I have and thinking further about how I can help. 

 

Contact Mark B.


Pea Soup: A Second Helping

by Ed R Published 9.9.2015

In my February blog, I introduced you to a pretty serious situation which is taking place in many parts of the country and all over the world: algal blooms, cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins.  Well, it looks like last year's problems are once again repeating themselves.  First a quick refresher...

Cyanotoxins are a group of toxic compounds produced by cyanobacteria.  They can be dermatoxins (affect skin) hepatoxins (affect the liver), or neurotoxins (affect the nervous system). Cyanotoxins have caused human or animal illness in more than 50 countries and at least 35 states, and can occur in both fresh and sea water.

Cyanobacteria are often referred to as blue-green algae but they are really bacteria that are photosynthetic.  They resemble algae but are really quite different.  Not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, and those that do can produce toxins that vary in potency and are therefore a health concern.

So, what happened over the last 12 months in response to this problem?  Well, a lot actually.  In May of this year, the USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) issued a "health advisory" for two cyanotoxins, microcystin and cylindrospermopsin (see table below).

USEPA 10 day Health Advisory Levels

Health advisories are not regulations, but provide guidelines to officials so that they can adequately protect the public health.  There is more than one type of health advisory. Below is a chart and description of the types. 

Harmful Algal Bloom Advisory Types:

Recreational Public Health Advisory - A Recreational Public Health Advisory sign will be posted at beaches where toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold, warning individuals who are elderly or very young and people with compromised immune systems that swimming or wading is not recommended.

Recreational No Contact Advisory - A No Contact Advisory sign will be posted when toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold and there are one or more probable cases of human illness or pet deaths attributable to HABs.  This sign will warn people that unsafe toxins are present in the water and to avoid any contact.

Drinking Water Advisory - Do Not Drink (bottle-fed infants and children younger than school age) - A Do Not Drink Advisory will be issued for bottle-fed infants and children younger than school age when the toxin levels exceed the recommended thresholds.  Alternative water should be used for drinking, making infant formula, making ice, brushing teeth, and preparing food.  Healthy school age children and adults may use the water.  Do not boil the water.

Drinking Water Advisory - Do No Drink (for all) - A Do Not Drink Advisory will be issued when the toxin levels exceed the recommended thresholds.  Alternative water should be used for drinking, making infant formula, making ice, brushing teeth, and preparing food.  Healthy adults may use the water for bathing, washing hands, washing dishes and doing laundry.  Do not boil the water.

Drinking Water Advisory - Do Not Use - A Do Not Use Advisory will be issued when the toxin levels exceed the recommended thresholds.  Alternative water should be used for all purposes.  Do not boil the water.

(Source OEPA)

Additionally, no less than five federal and numerous state bills have been introduced to address algal bloom monitoring, toxin levels and fertilizer applications.  Nearly every alphabet soup agency and organization is focusing on this problem.  Even NASA is getting into the act, joining forces with the EPA, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to implement a satellite early warning system.  In addition, 32 states established dedicated resources to answer questions and provide guidance.  The problem isn't just here, but is international in scope.  As an aside, in April of this year, I attended the U.S. Algal Toxin Conference in Akron, Ohio.  Representatives from seven different countries, all of the government agencies, water utility representatives, engineering firms, professional organizations and academia all weighed in on this issue.  "Red Tides" in the Gulf, the "Blob" on the West Coast, and the coming of "El Nino" are all on the radar.

Closer to home, scientists are predicting that the western end of Lake Erie will see one of the most severe outbreaks of toxic algal blooms in recent years.  Late August through September is the critical time, and believe me, conditions are ripe.  Fortunately, this situation was taken very seriously since the events of last year and there are tools in the box to keep this from becoming a health threat.  To find out more in depth information on this subject, including the effectiveness of various technologies for treating it, go to:  http://1.usa.gov/1vlrJxe

Stay Smart, Stay Well

Ed 

 

Contact Ed R.


Drink Local. Drink Tap. Following Up On Our Work in Uganda

by Guest Bloggers Published 5.28.2015

Erin Huber is the founder and executive director of Drink Local. Drink Tap., Inc.™ a non-profit organization focused on creatively reconnecting people to local water. She inspires people to become better stewards of water through education and awareness in the west and she designs and implements sustainable water projects in the east (Africa). Huber’s passion for safe drinking water is supported by more than a decade of volunteer work and awards, a B.S. of Environmental Science and an M.S. of Urban Studies from Cleveland State University, emphasizing sustainability policy and new economics.  

Every time I go to work in the field, I am reminded of how lucky we are in Northeast Ohio and the Great Lakes Region. Rural Ugandans have never seen a faucet, a flush toilet or a big lake. Ironically, Uganda is boarded to the south by one of the Great Lakes of Africa, Lake Victoria. The problem is the quality is not good and the infrastructure is not there to serve the people with this basic life-giving liquid. There is no access to safe, sustainable water. People walk an average of four miles, twice a day to haul unsafe water in buckets. In the process, they risk sickness and death. Young children miss school, work and family time. Animal attacks, physical attacks on young girls, car accidents when crossing main roads are also common. Although this is all very heartbreaking, we know that together, we can make a change.Boy gathering water from a pond

When I am working in Africa, I bathe in a bucket of cold rainwater, I filter my water and simply, just try to stay healthy. Coming from a place of plenty, I could not imagine being in their shoes for life. This inequality in access to safe water really gets me fired up, and at Drink Local Drink Tap, we are ramping up our goals to bring safe water, sustainably, to people so they can live healthier, dignified lives. This work would not be possible without the generous support of our partners like Kinetico.

Since 2011 in Uganda, we have completed a documentary about our work and water in east Africa, we have received our non-governmental organization status in Uganda, we have finished nine projects in eight locations, we have begun piloting bio-sand filtration for slum areas and for three of the schools we worked with, and we have twelve schools in our project pipeline. We have developed partnerships, shared knowledge and learned many lessons. It’s been an amazing few years.

We dug deeper into the world water crisis in Uganda this winter.Girl carrying water on bike

We went back to Uganda this past December to build five of seven projects at rural schools.People in these villages were so happy that their children would have the safe water they need at school. Safe water storage containers where placed in each classroom so students literally have ‘taps’ at their finger tips. Villagers nearby can also partake in water collection from the new sources.

Here is a short clip of the singing that went on everyday as we worked.

Digging deeper into the world water crisis, we continue to try to work in places in Uganda that do not receive much attention from non-profits, are facing extremely dry conditions each year and where contaminated water from far away places is the only option people have. We interviewed twelve new potential school sites, ten of which ended up being eligible for funding. Some of the children from these twelve schools are walking as far as seven kilometers one way to collect water from inland lakes. 

We continued to visit our past projects and have learned we are not part of the statistic that "80% of the water projects built in the world fail in the first two years." We, are in fact, bringing hope, health, education, equality and dignity to people. Hearing the stories of how new water sources have changed daily life at the schools we work with is amazing. On follow-up visits, teachers come running to tell me, "No one is sick! No more typhoid! No more diarrhea! No more skin disease! Our girls are safe! The students are in school!" It’s working and it’s a real, sustainable change.

We invite you to become part of the Drink Local Drink Tap story. Invite us to your school or business, start a fundraiser or become a sponsor today. When you support DLDT you are directly helping this life changing work move forward.

Comments or questions? Send us a note at info@drinklcoaldrinktap.org.

 Thank you Kinetico

 


Drink Local. Drink Tap. Continues Their Mission to Bring Safe Drinking Water to Uganda

by Guest Bloggers Published 9.19.2014

Erin Huber is the founder and executive director of Drink Local. Drink Tap., Inc.™ a non-profit organization focused on creatively reconnecting people to local water. She inspires people to become better stewards of water through education and awareness in the west and she designs and implements sustainable water projects in the east (Africa). Huber’s passion for safe drinking water is supported by more than a decade of volunteer work and awards, a B.S. of Environmental Science and an M.S. of Urban Studies from Cleveland State University, emphasizing sustainability policy and new economics.

When I last wrote, Drink Local. Drink Tap. had been planning to bring three sustainable water projects to children in Uganda. Well, we did that, and then some. A gravity-fed tap system was installed as Phase III to our St. Bonaventure school borehole project, we built our first gravity-fed irrigation system for Family Spirit AIDS Orphanage and Child Center’s farm, and we installed a borehole project at Family Spirit Primary School where 267 orphaned children live, attend school and try to battle sickness such as AIDS, malnutrition, and previously, illnesses from dirty water.

There are some extremely important points to make about these special projects. Kids will have a sustainable food supply (healthy and with variety) for the first time at Family Spirit AIDS Orphanage and will also learn job skills as many of them have to enter the "real world" after 7th grade or age 13. Already, they have vegetables growing and their health has improved.

cabbage field and worker

The borehole at their school has allowed the children to stay safer not looking for "dirty" water, stay healthier by not drinking dirty water and get a better education because they are in school and not spending precious daylight hours carrying heavy containers of water from a nearby swamp or spring. Something else really special? Most of students at St. Bonaventure, and the villagers in Mulajji, have now seen running tap water for the first time in their lives. The 500-700 kids there no longer have to fill dirty containers with water, no longer have to pump water, and even no longer have to carry it one single foot when they need a drink, to wash their hands or to bathe. With your generous support, we were also able to use a few hundred dollars to rehabilitate two water tanks that were completely infested with parasitic worms and sludge where children were drinking (see photo below). We also purchased cups for all 700 students and staff at one school so everyone can stay hydrated all day and get the most out of class each day.

dirty borehole being cleaned

This year has been life changing, and life saving. One of these schools lost two children just months before we came - there is an emergency now, children are dying and we have proved that we can do something to make life possible there. We can all do something to help children and vulnerable people live more healthy, happy and dignified lives.

Here’s what’s next!

We are going back to Uganda in the summer of 2014 to begin planning projects with seven new schools, to follow up on past projects and to continue building our network of support. Ten schools were interviewed in January 2014 and only seven were chosen to continue to move forward with us in planning sustainable and safe water projects. After combing the south and western parts of the country, we found some children walking four miles, roundtrip at times, to collect water from swamps, crowded and polluted public water sources and 50-100% of the children at these schools have worms (bilharzia) because even cattle share their water source. This has to change if we want our world to change.

Read more about our current projects here.

Our Wavemaker Program students, volunteers, churches and businesses are all making their drops in the bucket. What’s even more special? Kinetico has given DLDT an amazing jumpstart and committed to help build one full project this year with their Gold Level support!

It can be overwhelming to think about all of the pollution in the world, the one billion people without access to safe drinking water or the fact that more people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. But, if we work together to make positive change, we can truly impact those unimaginable statistics- we’ve proved it and will continue to work hard, with you, to save our water and save lives.

Ways to get involved:

We are able to offer our Wavemaker Program to schools. Send us an email at info@drinklocaldrinktap.org if you’d like us to work with your school or youth group.

Additionally, you can help by hosting a fundraiser or screening our documentary, Making Waves from Cleveland to Uganda. You can also donate directly. For information on these fundraising and outreach programs visit the Drink Local. Drink Tap. website.

women laughing with water


Drink Local. Drink Tap.: Bringing Safe Drinking Water to Uganda

by Guest Bloggers Published 8.5.2013

Erin Huber is the founder and executive director of Drink Local. Drink Tap., Inc.™ a non-profit organization focused on creatively reconnecting people to local water. She inspires people to become better stewards of water through education and awareness in the west and she designs and implements sustainable water projects in the east (Africa). Huber’s passion for safe drinking water is supported by more than a decade of volunteer work and awards, a B.S. of Environmental Science and an M.S. of Urban Studies from Cleveland State University, emphasizing sustainability policy and new economics.

When I last wrote, Drink Local. Drink Tap. had just returned from drilling 180 foot deep borehole (new water source) in Uganda for St. Bonaventure Primary School. Previously, children had been walking miles each day to collect water they did not know was even safe to drink. We’ve learned a lot in the past few years and made a positive impact in the world thanks to Kinetico, all of our sponsors, volunteers, Wavemaker Program students and you.

This year, we plan to build three sustainable water projects in Uganda at two orphan schools so that children and their community can be healthy, experience a better education and stay safe. In late 2013, we will install a tap system for the children at St. Bonaventure. This phase of the project will help students hydrate, wash, complete chores, cook, grow food, get a better education and experience even less sickness and death. In Masindi, Uganda, we will build a two part project at Family Spirit AIDS Orphanage. A shallow borehole and gravity fed farm irrigation system will be built for the children in order to remove the cumbersome walk for water and increase sustainable food production. This will help the orphan school save funds, improve health and increase nutrition for the already vulnerable children. Just this summer two children have died from HIV and TB; we cannot leave them to continue to worry about death from dirty water too.

We are excited to get back to Uganda, but we can only help others with your help. Youth and adults everywhere are getting inspired and involved, especially the students involved in our Wavemaker Program for schools. We have already worked directly with 30 classrooms this year and can reach another 20 in the fall thanks to recent support from Kinetico Incorporated. The students in our Wavemaker Program take action to care for our water locally, but understand that all water is connected and it’s important to help other students in need of access to safe water. They have been raising funds to help build our safe water projects, volunteering at beach and river cleanups, conserving water and reducing their plastic waste to become positive wave makers in the world.

Erin Huber of DLDT with a group of Ugandan schoolchildren

We’ve also had the help of individuals and organizations to raise money and spread awareness for our next three water projects. In the spring of 2013, David Christof ran and biked from Prague to Morocco (Africa) 3,000 kilometers in 63 days to support phase three at St. Bonaventure. We celebrated World Water Day at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium with Wavemaker Program students and also hosted a private documentary screening event.

It can be overwhelming to think about all of the pollution in the world, the one billion people without access to safe drinking water or the fact that more people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. But, if we work together to make positive change, we can truly impact those unimaginable statistics- we’ve proved it and will continue to work hard, with you, to save our water and save lives.

Ways to get involved:

  • We are able to offer our Wavemaker Program to a number of schools this fall because of the generous support of Kinetico Incorporated. Send us an email at info@drinklocaldrinktap.org if you’d like us to work with your school.
  • Additionally, you can help by hosting a fundraiser or a documentary screening. You can also donate directly. For information on these fundraising programs, to donate or to read about our recent or upcoming events and projects please visit the Drink Local. Drink Tap. website at drinklocaldrinktap.org.

Using Our Oceans to Produce Drinking Water

by Mark B Published 4.2.2013

Learning to SCUBA dive at an early age in the chilly Gulf of Maine gave me exciting views of an incredible hidden world. This led to other adventures exploring the salty world beneath the waves, researching whales, coral reefs and fisheries. On one of these occasions I spent about six months on a tall ship, where our drinking water was taken from the ocean and filtered by a specialized, high pressure, reverse osmosis (RO) membrane. The RO takes in sea water and rejects the salts, leaving fairly pure, fresh water. People can’t drink sea water directly because it puts the body’s natural balance of salts out of whack—there’s so much salt in sea water that it actually drives the water out of our bodies. Not so good when you’re thirsty. I’m reminded of a line from an old poem, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, where a sailor and his boat were trapped far from land: “Water, water every where Nor any drop to drink.”

It’s incredible that the oceans hold over 97% of all the water on our planet. The remaining is fresh water, most of which is locked up in the polar ice caps and permanent ice on mountains; less than 1% of the Earth’s water is potentially available for drinking. If you filled a five gallon bucket and said that it represents all the water on our planet, nearly all of it would be too salty to drink. In fact, roughly ½ a cup from that whole bucket would represent all that we have in the ground, our lakes, rivers, and ponds. Consider that even less than that is easy to make safe for drinking—not so muddy, brackish or polluted that extra measures are needed. Unfortunately, there are many places where people can’t afford to treat the water and end up drinking it as-is, contaminants and all. The worse the water quality is, the harder we have to work to make our tiny existing fresh water supplies drinkable.

This means, for those who can afford treatment, we put in energy, equipment, disinfection chemicals, time and effort to make it potable. Is all that water in our oceans unavailable to us, like it was for the Ancient Mariner? Like on my ship, when it comes to salts, high pressure RO membranes are now used for many communities around the world (including here in the United States) to make drinkable water from the oceans. Another common way to do this is distillation. These are important technologies for areas with access to salty water but not enough fresh and as you may have guessed they do require significant energy inputs. 

Image of DewPoint Systems' RainDome

Image courtesy of DewPoint Systems.

Another interesting technology, DewPoint Systems' RainDome,uses naturally cool sea water to draw moisture from the air without electricity or moving parts. In coastal areas where the conditions are right, the fresh water it makes can be used for drinking and even to irrigate crops.Using the oceans to produce drinking water is not only possible, increasingly, it’s a reality for a thirsty world.
 

Want to learn more? Check out the following resources.

Desalination by Reverse Osmosis:

Contact Mark B.


Non-profit, Drink Local. Drink Tap., brings safe drinking water to a rural Ugandan orphan school

by Guest Bloggers Published 11.29.2012

Erin Huber is the founder and executive director of Drink Local. Drink Tap.©, a non-profit organization focused on creatively reconnecting people to local water. She inspires people to become better stewards of water through education and awareness in the west and she designs and implements sustainable water projects in the east (Africa). Huber’s passion for safe drinking water is supported by more than a decade of volunteer work and awards, a B.S. of Environmental Science and an M.S. of Urban Studies from Cleveland State University, emphasizing sustainability policy and new economics.

What we promised and what we've done: turning passion into action.

Mulajji Village, Uganda 2012

It’s not always easy turning your passion into action, planning projects eight time zones across the planet or telling the story of the world water crisis so people will help, but we’ve done it and we can’t wait to go back for more. In 2011, Drink Local. Drink Tap.© (DLDT) flew a film crew, a local school teacher and me to Africa for 30 days to plan a water project and gather film footage for a movie. We learned that students at St. Bonaventure Primary School in Mulajji Village, Uganda and most of their community had never flushed a toilet, seen a tap or even a lake. Students were forced to walk 2.5 miles in the “non-dry” season and 4.5 miles during the dry season for water just to survive. This walk happened DAILY before school started (6 am) and in the evening at (6 pm) ten months each year. The lack of safe water forced students to miss school due to time spent gathering water, time and kerosene spent boiling water (although fuel is always unaffordable), typhoid, e. coli, dehydration and lack of sanitation, which especially affected the ability of young women to wash properly during their menstrual cycles and they were forced to miss school.

As if that wasn’t enough, many of the children are orphans of war or AIDS. The school is only able to care for some of these children; the surrounding rural community helps to house the children who remain “homeless.” Some of the students have HIV. Most students have no shoes. Most do not eat breakfast or lunch. Only a handful of books and desks exist, and most cannot afford the 1,000,000 shillings it costs to go to the high school. The situation is dire and unimaginable to most of us. During our first trip, these issues became extremely overwhelming at times. We finally realized we could not solve every problem in Uganda or the world, but we could share safe water access.  

Increased safe and sustainable water access equals increased time, health, money, education, and equality for humans; water is literally the base of all life. Erin Huber with a group of children

In July 2011, we made a promise to the St. Bonaventure children and their community to eliminate the walk for water and bring LIFE. We started designing a sustainable, safe water project in 2011 that would consist of a water team, a new protected borehole (water source) and ongoing hygiene and sanitation education. We built a team of students, school and parish staff and community parents which installed community ownership from day one. We consulted the community and team to hear their stories and moved forward based on their needs, wants and abilities to maintain a new source. For one year, we worked with U.S. school children, businesses and communities to raise the funds needed to implement a successful project. We filmed the progress so we would be able to tell their story. In the summer of 2012, we drilled 60 meters into the earth to reach safe water in a rural village few have traveled to. The school is happy but we aren’t done.

DLDT wants to remove the jerry can (water container) that children carry to retrieve water. This will help to prevent additional disease, provide larger amounts of water with easier onsite access and will ease the stress of daily life in the parish. The next phase, to be completed near the end of 2013, will be a gravity fed tap system which will run three taps to the school and removing the need for the jerrycan, improving the safe water chain and increasing water access.

DLDT didn’t stop at St. Bonaventure Primary; there is too much work to be done in the world. We also traveled to Masindi, Uganda this year to scope a two part project at an AIDS orphanage during the next project installation in Mulajji Village. The AIDS orphanage project will bring a shallow well and gravity fed farm irrigation to the children to remove the walk for water and increase sustainable food production to save the school funds and increase nutrition for the already vulnerable children.


How Do You Use Water?

by Mark B Published 9.11.2012

We use water in so many ways, just around the house. For most of us, it’s always there – just turn the faucet handle and get instant gratification along with the wet stuff. Lose that water from a power outage or a break in the water main and we very quickly remember how incredibly important it is. My own appreciation list is a long one – I use it to: drink for health and hydration, provide to pets and houseplants, wash dishes, fruit and veggies, my body, clothes, and the car, flush the toilet, and to brush teeth. What’s on your list? In these days of increasing water scarcity, it pays to ensure the supply of clean waters lasts as long as it can. It’s not free, and making water clean enough to use costs extra - conservation helps the wallet now and leaves more for the future.

Piggy bank with a tap coming out of itOne way to cut back is to replace older appliances with ones that limit the amount of water that gets used each time. Last year when our washing machine finally broke beyond my ability to fix it yet again, I replaced it with a high efficiency front loader. As much as I hate putting things into the landfill before their time, I really might have thought to do this earlier: not only is the electrical cost cut to less than half, it uses about one third the water without sacrificing how clean the clothes get. I pay a lot for my water (and electricity), so that’s a pretty sweet deal.

One study found American homes have around 11 toilet flushes per day (Rockaway et at, 2011). Where the older toilets may use 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf), a water conserving toilet uses just 1.6 gpf, saving about 7,600 gallons a year in that household. That’s a lot of water! I replaced the toilets when we moved into our house not too long ago, but I hadn’t realized until just now how much this has impacted our water usage and the utility bills.

A few other useful things we can do include:

• Install low flow shower heads and faucets. These don’t reduce the pressure of the water coming out so it should still feel like it’s at full force, but the volume is limited.

• Consider watering the lawn only when needed instead of using a timer. Those with irrigation systems can save water by using a sensor to control when it turns on based on the weather or how dry the soil actually is. • Use a soaker hose or drip emitters to water just the outdoor plants you want to target.

• If you feel you have to use chemicals on the lawn or farm, follow the directions scrupulously to reduce how much ends up in the environment or even back in your drinking water. That should help keep down the cost of treating your water to make it safe to drink. And when pollutants are removed, a fair amount of water can be used to carry them away, so less contamination can means less wasted water too.

How do you use water? For just a day, try to be conscious of each time you open a faucet, do a load of laundry, or flush the toilet. What would it be like to do without? There are some fairly easy ways to reduce, saving both water and money. The more we save today, the more there is tomorrow.

Contact Mark B.


Weakening Nicaragua's Cycle of Poverty With Drinking Water Technology, Part 2

by Mark B Published 8.9.2012

In May, 2012, I returned to Nicaragua with Aqua Clara International and Fairmount Minerals. We worked with the slow sand filters that Aqua Clara and a group called AMOS have been installing throughout the country. Access to safe drinking water is a major health issue Nicaragua and in many other places around the world. Slow sand filtration is not new, nor is it unique to Aqua Clara or Nicaragua. The ones I’m talking about provide drinking water to a single household but they can also be bigger to serve a school or community. Household filters come in different shapes and sizes, depending on whose design it is and what materials are available. Basically, it is a container with a layer of coarse gravel at the bottom with smaller and small gravel on top of that, until finally the topmost layer is fine sand. Dirty water is poured in at the top and displaces filtered water so the good stuff just pours out the tap. The sand does more than simply strain out the bad stuff – it supports a biological environment that gives the harmless microbes the opportunity to eat or out-compete the ones that make people sick. It’s a simple but highly effective technology for the prevention of water-borne diseases.

Household slow sand filters are normally made by local people with locally available materials, which serve an overarching goal of helping people to help themselves. When parts and materials are not specially imported, a drinking water filter becomes more financially accessible to the end user and more sSlow sand filterserviceable. Another important benefit of this strategy is that the builders develop an intimate understanding of how these things are supposed to work – this enables them to also teach about and repair the units.

One of the interviews we had in May included a family that had been using the slow-sand filter for about six months. The father reported that he can now work every day because he no longer feels weak, and specific health issues were better than they had been in years. He felt this was because he was now drinking the filtered water. That made sense considering the consequences for an adult body to be constantly fighting off infections in the gut.

Simply put, slow sand filters can and do change and save lives every day. If you’re interested in exploring further, here are just a few links to some of the many resources available on the subject.

 

An additional list of resources for slow sand filters can be found here.

Contact Mark B.


Water: Understand it, Value it, Respect it. Learn more about life’s most vital resource.

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