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Drop In The Bucket (DITB) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that takes pride in its hands-on approach to bringing water to the people of Africa. Founded just four years ago, it has already made an impressive impact through an effective comprehensive development process that it manages from funding to project completion.

The NGO began as an idea among a group of very dedicated and creative individuals in the entertainment industry who decided to put their communications and networking skills to use in serving the higher purpose of global water sustainability. As a result, DITB has completed 81 wells in Sudan and Uganda that are now delivering a steady stream of clean water to thousands of people, primarily located in community schools that serve as the heart of rural communities.

DITB has 42 more wells slated for construction and more will come as funding is established to conduct site planning, secure equipment and hire engineering and construction employees. The organization, however, does not stop at constructing wells. It uses its networking capability to bring together engineers and infrastructure specialists to develop new answers to the water crisis.

One of the group’s greatest achievements is the development of “Roundabout Pumps” – pumps designed as playground “roundabouts” that children use in their play every day, which in turn pumps water into a waiting reservoir for use by the school and the rest of the community.

DITB is also working with engineers to that help contribute to sustainable water resources, including rainwater harvesting units for villages located at high altitudes that make pumping difficult, village carbon filter units that can filter water for the entire community, manual percussion drills that enable villagers to drill their own wells and eco-sanitation units that can clean sewage much quicker than conventional units.

The organization appreciates the support it gets from its Hollywood friends, corporations and schools around the country, and welcomes those who are interested in being involved with a program that places its focus in setting goals and then achieving them tangible results in the fight for sustainable water in Africa.

Nonprofit organizations (NGOs) seeking an answer to the growing global water crisis are fast forming their own business niche, with more well-meaning startups springing up every day. What many of these lack, however, is proven experience in the field of water sustainability.

The Groundwater Foundation celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2010, making it a legacy in the water resources nonprofit world and a model for how to establish and sustain long-term solutions to communities that lack a stable and clean source of water.

The Nebraska-based NGO uses a three-pronged approach to fulfill its mission that focuses on supporting innovation, education and action in the area of groundwater sustainability, particularly in communities in the United States.

Educational goals are achieved through a comprehensive education program that involves the hosting of ongoing webinars, school programs and projects, and several annual events like the Children’s Groundwater Festival. Innovation stems from coordinating with numerous science and engineering firms to promote new ideas, and then taking action by using those concepts in actual projects that help establish and maintain access to groundwater.

The emphasis on groundwater is also unique among NGOs. It is often underplayed as a technical matter despite its critical role in water resource management as a primary source of water used for drinking and crop irrigation. The Groundwater Foundation brings the importance of that science to the forefront of the fight for water sustainability.

Individuals who want to get more involved can participate in one of the NGO’s many programs or activities, as well as read its quarterly publication, The Aquifer. Communities and watersheds that want to take advantage of foundation benefits can become Groundwater Guardians, a special program designed to encourage communities to provide educational opportunities and initiatives to its citizenry through support and acknowledgment.

The Groundwater Foundation supports a network of 420 volunteer entities that collectively educate millions of people about the importance of groundwater, and the NGO welcomes all with an interest in active participation.

It’s no secret that water supply and sanitation is big business around the globe. Everyone needs it, but a lot of people don’t have it; tens of millions of people, in fact, live with little to no access to a sustainable clean water source.

When the Imagine H2O non-profit organization was founded in 2007, it was with the idea that there were great ideas for supplying sustainable water resources to those who needed it, but that the ideas themselves were not getting the support they needed to attain functionality.

With that in mind, Imagine H2O founders developed a model that allowed them to generate funds that could provide capital to startups, as well as provide those new businesses with the networking connections needed to propel it into a sustainable, operational phase. In their words, they are helping to build a “Silicon Valley for water” where stakeholders are linked to innovators who have the vision and technological expertise to bring water to those who need it.

Imagine H2O accomplishes its mission in many ways, but the genesis of the non-profit and source of its success is in the promotion of programs like its annual Water-Energy Nexus Competition, wherein it awards a cash prize to the entrant who submits an early-stage water business plan that provides a solution to a water challenge while also saving energy.

This year’s $100,000 cash prize went to Hydrovolts, a company that designs in-stream hydrokinetic turbines that can be dropped into an open water channel like a canal or stream and generate power from the water current. These will be used worldwide to harness energy from otherwise unused water that is already flowing downstream.

Hydrovolts will also benefit from Imagine H2O’s “incubator” system of promotion and networking. The non-profit’s ability to introduce Hydrovolts innovators to other water resource professionals in its network will allow it to expand its business while also helping safely use water to create clean energy.

Imagine H2O’s approach to developing sustainable water resources may be one more of inspiration than direct delivery, but there is no question that it provides a vital link between technological innovators and investors, and public and private sector operators through its unique programs.

Texas Drought Grows More Severe

by admin on June 15, 2011

The current drought that is plaguing much of Texas is on its way to breaking every record in the almanac as it enters its seventh month. Many are wondering whether the end is in sight, while older residents are reminded of the six-year drought that began in 1951.

The soil has not yet reached the level of dryness experienced toward the end of that long-ago drought, but the crisis point has already been reached in the country’s second-largest agricultural state. Climatologists call the occurrence “textbook” and even somewhat predictable given what is now known about the effects of La Nina, but now there are more people, more farms and a larger need for water.

Several towns and cities have implemented water restrictions, some for the first time in their history. In other areas, water boards and other administrative bodies are calling for drought contingency plans and voluntary restrictions as they prepare for a worst-case scenario.

And for some, that scenario has already arrived. Cattle ranchers have been forced to sell off their herds at lower prices and in some cases even cull them in an effort to avoid paying supplemental feed costs. Non-irrigational farmers are facing an even worse outlook – once water delivery systems begin implementing mandatory restrictions their only hope will be rain, and predictions for that are grim.

Texas farmers estimate they have already lost $1.5 billion are on track to lose billions more. A delicately balanced hope is that hurricane season will bring enough precipitation far enough west to help save this year’s plantings while not devastating their neighbors with storm damage.

The US Drought Monitor shows that nearly all of Texas is suffering from a lack of water. And, the situation will not be improved as the summer season sets in and temperatures start to rise. Where once a drought could mean forgoing watering the lawn or filling the pool, Texans may face much more severe limitations this year.

The Water Project began in 2006 in Canada in response to the growing water crisis plaguing the country of Kenya. The non-profit organization (NGO) has since expanded its network of donors and is now able to deliver life-sustaining resource assistance to many countries in Africa, as well as expand their efforts in India.

While The Water Project embraces a broad vision for long-term sustainability and coalition building, their primary goal is to get water to the people by digging wells. They are very effective in establishing funds and mobilizing people within communities to get wells up and running that serve tens of thousands.

The organization is active in Kenya, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uganda and various locations in India. Projects completed recently are wells at a Rwandan girls’ school that serves 450 people, a Rwandan college that serves 635 people, among many others. This “Wells for Schools” program has the added benefit of providing a path for community members to teach children the importance of clean water to health and the dangers of water-borne illnesses.

In a unique turn among NGOs, The Water Project keeps donors and the public informed about their progress with meticulous record-keeping and a transparent philosophy wherein they admit that sometimes projects do not go as planned. They do this by providing all donors with a tracking link to projects their donations are funding that documents progress – and delays – for all of their work using GPS coordinates and real-time photos.

The organization has helped to bring clean, sustainable water wells to more than 125,000 people through completion of more than 250 projects since its inception. As awareness to the growing global water crisis rises, The Water Project hopes to bring water to all of those who are thirsty through a shared sense of community and commitment.

Water For Humans, a non-governmental organization (NGO) formed in Seattle in 2008, is a relative newcomer to the growing list of non-profits mobilizing in an effort to defuse a growing global water crisis that puts more than 2 billion people at risk every day.

As the global population surges toward 7 billion people, clean water is becoming scarcer in many areas of the world, and dramatically increases the risk of death from water-borne illnesses in many countries as people are forced to risk sickness to quench their thirst.

Water For Humans works by collaborating with other NGOs, governments, universities and local communities to create solutions that provide sustainable access to water. The organization’s focus is one of partnership as it builds coalitions to bring properly sanitized water to the 2.5 billion people who currently live without it, including the 884 million people who lack clean drinking water.

Its first big project is now underway in Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla, located just outside of Oaxaca City, Mexico. Water For Humans is partnering with several organizations in Oaxaca City, including Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO), Instituto de la Naturaleza y la Sociedad de Oaxaca (INSO) as well as federal government officials.

It is also partnering with Action Sustainability, a group of experts in the field of developing proven, scientific methods for specific projects that require long-term sustainability solutions.

The plan for this project is to meet immediate tangible goals while also establishing local partnerships to continue the work in the future. The focus here is much broader than just “water;” Water For Humans is tackling illegal dumping and the cleanup of raw sewage, which will provide a foundation for clean water moving forward.

As Water For Humans draws more support and creates more partnerships, as it has done with groups like Rotary International and Global Water Watch, it hopes to expand its project operations to as many countries in need as possible.

Water For People, a nonprofit established to address the global water crisis, stands apart from other organizations by taking the long view when employing solutions.

The group was formed in 1989 when dedicated members of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) took it upon themselves to apply their expertise in water resources to a more global vision of providing clean water and suitable sanitation to those in the world who need it most.

Since then, Water For People has developed programs in Central America, Asia, South America and Africa that are spread over eleven countries where abundant safe water and sanitation are in the shortest supply.

Water For People focuses on building local coalitions that have a vested long-term interest in developing water resources using sustainable methods, which involves training and education by sponsored volunteers. The organization accomplishes this through its World Water Corps volunteer program, wherein specialists travel to locations identified as having a critical need for assistance and helping to create a lasting infrastructure.

This mission requires solid relationships and support that Water For People develops through AWWA and many other organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation and the Water Quality Association among others.

These agencies bring a vast amount of expertise to the Water For People team, as well as a very qualified pool of volunteers that attracts the attention of funders and donors that feel strongly about investing in organizations with a solid knowledge base and a proven track record.

Water For People, although stressing its mission as one of sustainable availability of clean water and adequate sanitation, delivers quantifiable results that it measures with its Field-Level Operations Watch (FLOW) system of monitoring.

This is an important and unique aspect of the organization that provides an additional level of transparency, and helps committee members, employees, volunteers and donors see measurable benefits with what works, as well as where areas that can be improved.

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Dennis Nelson, CEO & President of the Project WET Foundation, who shared how their organization is helping conserve the world’s water resources through water education.

Can you tell us the story of Project WET and what you hope to accomplish?

Dennis NelsonI was working with the North Dakota State Water Commission when I founded Project WET in 1984. At that time, the Commission had a planning division with the mission of educating the public about water resources and management, but we found a lack of accessible materials for educating children—future water users—about water. We also found that there was great interest in the topic, not only among students but also among their teachers. That led us to focus the education efforts on reaching children through teachers and other educators.

In 1989, Montana State University in Bozeman invited what had become known as Project WET North Dakota to pilot the Project WET model in Montana, Idaho and later Arizona. The success of the pilot led to funding from the US Bureau of Reclamation for the development and publication of the Project to fund the development and publication of the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide in 1995 and the establishment of the Project WET USA network in all 50 states. Project WET published more than 50 water education guides and books for children and teachers between 1995 and 2005 and launched and expanded the Project WET international network to include 19 countries.

In 2005, Project WET left Montana State University to form the Project WET Foundation, a private, independent 501(c)(3) organization. The Foundation continues to publish educator guides, children’s activity booklets, resource posters and much more. Moreover, Project WET’s international work has greatly expanded since then, with Project WET working in some capacity in more than 50 countries around the world. Our materials have also been translated into other languages and localized with the input of educators on the ground in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Tanzania.

We have found that Project WET works because its hands-on, interactive methods of education are universal—children in Uganda respond just as enthusiastically to learning a song about proper hand washing as children in Montana do. Our driving mission is to reach children, parents, educators and communities of the world with fun, science-based water resources education that empowers people to take action in their communities to help solve local water-resource issues, a concept we call ActionEducation™.

How can water awareness help conserve the world’s water resources?

Water education and awareness helps individuals understand where they fit within the larger world of water. Once they identify their watershed address and discover their role in the water cycle, it becomes easier for them to recognize that water knows no boundaries. It flows throughout the world and connects everyone. We believe that knowledge helps people to think about the actions that they take individually and collectively—and that understanding the real value of water promotes the management, conservation, and protection of the resource.

It appears that you hope to reach future farmers and future homeowners. Do you have any educational tools or activities around the subject of irrigation for both agricultural and landscape?

One of our guiding principles can be succinctly described as “Water for all water users.” To us, that means that water of sufficient quality and quantity is vital for all water users, whether they are farmers and ranchers, manufacturers, homeowners or recreationists.

We do have publications and activities that focus on irrigation and landscape, in fact the Conserve Water Educator Guide and companion Conserve Water Kids In Discovery series (KIDs) activity booklet are completely dedicated to this topic. Project WET has gone to great lengths to help people understand that water users you may never see or even know exist, use water to grow, produce, manufacture and deliver food for people to eat. In the activity “Water Works,” for example, we discuss “virtual” water, and agriculture is one focus group. Other examples can be found in the Discover a Watershed Series, specifically in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and the Colorado education materials.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you face in spreading water awareness throughout the world?

Perhaps the biggest challenge is helping individuals and organizations understand that water fits into nearly every aspect of human life. In the developing world, that is in some ways easier to accomplish because clean, safe water is not yet taken for granted in many areas. In developed countries such as the United States, however, water is a given, noticed only when something goes wrong.

The fact is that water affects almost all human activity. We can’t grow food without water, and most people recognize that, but they may not realize that we also cannot make a pair of jeans or even provide electricity to our homes without water. The “green” bandwagon may be increasingly popular, but that doesn’t often include a thought for water. We believe that both individuals and organizations need to consider their “water footprint”—the total volume of water that it takes to produce goods and services and simply live their lives. Explaining what the water footprint is and why it is important is a huge challenge.

Another challenge is delivery. The need for water education is huge globally, and we are constantly challenged to effectively reach people with our materials—meaning that school and community educators are using Project WET materials and that student learning is occurring. We monitor this through independent field tests and ongoing research. Our approach to delivery is broad, as we work with people in places that have no electricity or running water, so a web-based program is of no value. On the other hand, we work in some of the most technologically advanced places in the world, so we also need to accommodate digital delivery as an enhancement to our longstanding commitment to network-led, face-to-face workshops, courses and events.

Can you describe any work you are doing in developing countries around water-related health issues or low-cost irrigation methods?

A few years back, a researcher from a prominent philanthropic foundation asked, “What can a water education program like Project WET do to reduce the number of deaths caused by water-borne diseases?” This was a watershed moment for Project WET, an inquiry that stimulated considerable discussion and reflection, and served to help Project WET better define its vision and role for worldwide water education.

Eventually, this discussion led to a decision to add ActionEducation™ to the Project WET Foundation’s core work. Through ActionEducation, Project WET’s mission worldwide has evolved from awareness, to empowering learners to take action, leading to sustainable solutions for community water resource issues.

To raise awareness of the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene and to promote actions and behaviors with positive outcomes, the Project WET Foundation, with the support of USAID’s Africa Education Initiative and in cooperation with local educators and governments, developed a series of hands-on education materials for sub-Saharan African teachers and students. The materials were distributed in 14 African countries, reaching more than 30,000 schools; 175,000 teachers; and five million students between November 2007 and September 2009.

Evaluations conducted at the conclusion of the Africa projects showed marked positive improvements in behaviors that reduce waterborne diseases. Those results have encouraged the scaling up, localizing and distribution of the materials into other areas. We are working on Spanish-language versions for a UN-HABITAT project in five Latin American countries as well as in India. We also work together with other organizations that promote water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) improvement programs, such as Engineers Without Borders, the Peace Corps and Global Water Challenge.

As far as low-cost irrigation goes, rainwater harvesting is part of our program, and we link this to providing water to grow food in gardens and to drinking water.

How is Project WET leveraging growing communication technologies like mobile smart phones, tablets, or social media to improve water education?

Blue PlanetWe believe in the power of social media to tell the story of what we’re doing, which is why we have a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn presences as well as a blog and email newsletter. We are also working to integrate technologies such as SmartBoards, web portals and e-Learning into our curriculum and publications. We are in the process of developing an online water education module for tweens as well, although I can’t say too much about that yet because it’s still under wraps.

In Africa, we have found that mobile phones are a great help for conducting successful project evaluations. We worked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year on a pilot project to institute an automated mobile phone survey to gauge the effectiveness of our WASH materials in Uganda.

As a publishing house, we recognize the need to keep our eye on technological innovation. At the same time, however, we believe that in many cases the most effective methods of education require no technology at all—just interactive, hands-on activities that get people out of their seats and into learning.

How can people or businesses get involved or help Project WET?

We rely on multiple sources of funding to continue our work, including the support we get from the educators around the world who use our materials. Buying and using our materials (http://store.projectwet.org) to teach and learn about water is one of the best ways to support Project WET! We also actively seek corporate partnerships and sponsorships as well as individual donations to extend our reach. From an awareness perspective, we love to share our work with people through our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ProjectWET) and Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/ProjectWET) and to subscribers of our email newsletter.

The War Among States Over Water

by admin on May 2, 2011

The war among states over water has been raging since the establishment of boundaries. It is nothing new, although citizens in arid lands often wonder why water bills keep rising, not realizing they live in an area where water is not abundant.

Areas of Southern California, Las Vegas and the growing metropolis of Phoenix are fine examples of populations sustained under a false pretense of available water. Boomtowns across the Southwest have historically relied on outside water sources, and the golden goose is tiring.

A great deal of water for all of these areas is supplied via Colorado and precipitation that forms, falls and then discharges from the Rockies. Colorado is legally obligated to provide this water to downstream users, which largely fall west of the Continental Divide.

Colorado, and other states in similar positions, was not always happy to so freely give “its” water away, and perhaps rightly so. Arguments abound regarding fair use, and how it’s not the responsibility of Colorado to sustain communities that spring up in such dry environs.

The war initially settled by the Colorado River Compact in 1922, and included six beneficiary states (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming), has been amended 11 times since its enactment to make concessions for growth, yet the thirst for water from the Rockies still rages.

Now, records show that annual demand of Colorado River water is surpassing supply, and there is no legislation in the works to slow or divert demand.

Coloradans are at a loss about how to fight the oncoming threat of diminished water supply, in large part caused by the needs of downstream users who they argue make no contributions to their welfare.

Even if legislation could cut off the flow, it is hard to say who is in the right about the use of freely flowing water that has its source in a state other than the one in which they live.

More Water Resources:
Your Online Guide To Water Pollution
A Teacher’s Guide to Water Related Lesson Plans and Materials
A Kid’s Guide To The Water Cycle
An Educational Guide About Drinking Water

It is no longer a secret for those exposed to the media that the world is in the midst of a global water crisis. Millions of people die every year from water shortages and water contamination, and millions more are subjected to an endless cycle of poverty driven by a need for water.

Author Charles Fishman asserts in his new book, “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” that water at the molecular level is never absolutely consumed, and that the answer to the water crisis is a matter of a shift in water consciousness.

Fishman explains water consciousness as a better understanding of the nature of water and how it is used now, as opposed to how it could be used in a more efficient and resourceful manner. He emphasizes how water use is only water borrowed, and that many answers lie in better planning and recycling.

He used the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan as an example of conventional water “borrowing” that has resulted in tons of water being used, polluted and then dumped into the ocean. According to Fishman, it didn’t have to happen that way; that it was the result of not understanding the benefit – or the efficiency – in cleaning the water rather than allowing it to seep into the ocean.

The topic of water use in energy generation in the U.S. and around the world is a big topic for Fishman in “The Big Thirst.” He notes that while every American consumes an average of 99 gallons of water a day for personal uses like bathing, washing and cooking – a number often trumpeted by water conservation organizations – it’s more telling that an American uses 250 gallons of water a day to supply his or her electricity usage.

Even so, Fishman is quick to remind readers that America is in the midst of a water revolution, and that the country uses 15% less water than it did in 1980, despite a $7 trillion increase in GDP and a jump in population of 70 million.

His thesis turns upon the argument that the answers are out there, but that it will take this revolution and more to address global water needs in the future.