15 October 2010

Blog Action Day 2010 - Water

This post is my contribution to Change.org’s Blog Action Day 2010, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers with the goal of sparking discussion and collective action. This year, more than 3,000 bloggers are writing about water, a global issue that affects everyone.

I made this video last year to illustrate the process I personally had to go through in order to have a glass of water while living in Kenya.  The video quality is pretty terrible, so please forgive me as bandwidth did not allow for a better version and I did not save the original.


Other blogs have and will discuss the impact of water issues on the undeveloped world.  I want to do something slightly different and show how it affected my life for a year.  That is not to put my experiences on par with people who struggle for water on a daily basis.  I always had the option to buy a bottled water if I absolutely needed it.  My point is to show how the lack of clean water can cause a shift in the way one can operate .  With much time and energy spent in regards to water, the energy spent collecting, storing and treating water can prevent people from doing other things.

Without any real order, I am going to quickly list the ways that water impacted my life:

  • Every morning I had to do the following (took up roughly 45 min a day more or less):
    • Fill up solar shower to heat up in the sun
    • Collect water to be filtered.
    • Store filtered water in bottles.
    • Boil at least one pot full of filtered water and store it
  • 500 mL of Coke cost 30 KSH while 500 mL of water cost 35 KSH
  • We had a box to allow sitting when using the toilet
  • Toilet is flushed by giving a strong toss of water
    • This means that a bucket of water has to be present and filled on a regular basis as a few L of water is necessary for a proper flush
  • Shower frequency was directly related to rain frequency; more rain = more water = more showers
  • Rain means life stops; with mud roads from the rain, everything stops once rain comes
  • When it does not rain for awhile, thinking about when it will rain again becomes a pre-occupation for everyone

What’s the point?

The lack of clean water means everything. African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. After that, the water should be filtered and boiled.  However, as it is additional work to gather firewood and costs money to have a reasonable water filter, water is often boiled every so often and generally delivered as tea or coffee.  Many times it is drank untreated; exposing the consumers to waterborne illness.

I had it easy compared to everyone else, yet water dominated my life.  It meant that I could shower 2-3 times a week (sometimes more or less depending on water), dishes and clothes had to be washed in bulk to conserve water and developed a relationship with rain as if it was a person.  Maybe I became a little sensitive to it, but the fact is that for a person who did not have to struggle at the same level as others; it meant that it was a significant burden to the rest of the community.

What should be done?

I make no claim to be an expert, only a person who has a small level of personal experience.  Because of this I will make no large claims.  The fact is that the solution is to provide the ability for every person to access clean water in their homes. 

Some will suggest that we can play a part by taking shorter showers, hand washing dishes, never leaving the water running and so on.  It is nice to think that we can turn off the shower when lathering up and save the world.  There is an ease to this action.  However, how does that bring clean water to Cameroon?  I am not suggesting that water conservation is not important, but let’s not connect it to the problem that affects billions of people.

This is a nice exercise in bringing about awareness in terms of clean water, but it is an issue that is far more complicated than a single post can cover.  Even the solutions that are touted (playpumps) are not always sustainable solutions.

This is an infrastructure issue.

Water issues have to become a part of the entire package of development.  Resources have to be allocated to work towards providing clean water solutions.  This includes proper latrines, running water, clean water and high availability of all resources.

Here in the US?

We bring water to a desert to entertain people…



You have to check out this post on the Tao of Water. It is a fantastic meditation on water that everyone should read.

*I don’t usually offer petition links, but since I am participating and they will be broadcasting my post, the least I can do is provide the above banner to the change.org petition.