Water is essential to life. It affects every aspect of life. Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, succinctly captured it, saying,
“Clean water, the essence of life and a birthright for everyone, must become available to all people now.” — Jean-Michel Cousteau
Unfortunately, several factors, including inadequate infrastructure and poor economic management, have plunged the world into perpetual water scarcity. While there has been substantial progress in increasing communities’ access to clean drinking water, billions of people worldwide still lack this essential commodity. Currently, about 10 percent of the world’s population has no direct access to safe drinking water.
As a result, families use contaminated water from ponds and rivers or travel dangerous, long distances to reach a water well each day. Without access to clean water, people are susceptible to more than two dozen water-borne illnesses, including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid fever. In addition, it’s estimated that contaminated drinking water causes 485,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year.
It’s difficult to grasp such large numbers, but it’s important to remember that these are not just statistics— they’re people’s children, parents, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
The Sixth Sustainability Development Goal
The water scarcity problem in various communities worldwide prompted world leaders to develop the sixth Sustainability Development Goal (SDG). The goal specifically focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation.
As world leaders and countries look for sustainable methods for clean water access, it’s crucial to consider the following factors. Clean water access solutions should be:
- Affordable for communities: Most of the world’s communities that lack access to clean water live in poverty. They may not have the resources to acquire expensive water solutions, regardless of how badly they need them.
- Low maintenance: It is critically important that the water access solutions are easy and inexpensive to use and maintain. Getting the most out of these programs calls for maintenance and improvement of the existing services. Offsetting the cost of maintenance is possible by using lower technology solutions for the provision of the services. Besides, low-technology solutions have lower health and environmental impacts.
- Locally operable: Communities must be able to easily use the water access solutions they get from donors and partners without the need for specialized knowledge. When a technician must always be on-site for the community to access water, the project ceases to be cost-effective and sustainable. Therefore, the need for communities to own their local projects is paramount.
- Locally repairable: Where technology solutions are involved, the locals should receive training on repairing and maintaining the equipment without help from an expert.
- Easy to manufacture: Can communities replicate the water access solution introduced by world leaders and organizations to cover a wider geographical location? Any solution that is not easy to manufacture within the community might not be sustainable in the long run. If all the equipment provided breaks down, there is a probability that the community will plunge back into water scarcity problems.
Examining Water Access Solutions
Various solutions reveal the complexities of coping with water scarcity, with several businesses, government, and organizations taking steps towards bold, innovative clean water solutions, including:
- Waste to water solutions: Recycling human waste and sewage to clean water is an operational approach in some communities. However, the technology involved is also expensive and out of reach for most remote communities. The process may also raise questions about the safety of the drinking water.
- Desalination: The process tries to purify seawater or saltwater for human consumption. However, desalination costs are high, and most arid communities cannot take up the solution.
- Personal filter straws: These are handy small-scale technologies that enable people to drink clean water from any source apart from seawater. While they may work for individuals, they may not be applicable for large-scale use.
- Bicycle water purifiers: This simple technology allows people to access clean water in remote villages. The technology harnesses water directly from the source and cleans it as the cyclist pedals, passing it through a system of micro-filtration membranes.
Unfortunately, most of these solutions do not satisfy the factors outlined in SDG. Instead, they demand frequent deliveries or require expensive technologies to operate.
Cost-Effective, Sustainable Answers
Thirst Relief International and its network of partners focus on clean water access that maximizes the characteristics outlined in SDG. One of the most popular and effective is the BioSand filter, a simple technology that provides clean water.
The BSF was designed to be as low-maintenance and affordable as possible and requires neither heat nor electricity (another scarcity in developing countries) to purify water. The method is sustainable, easy to use, affordable, and requires no special knowledge to use.
Instead, the BSF model is based on the natural process by which the earth filters the water: a “biolayer” of beneficial microorganisms, a column of filtration sand, and two layers of gravel. Within 30 days of use, it creates a biolayer culture that pulls out most remaining impurities, effectively fighting against pathogens and contaminants. Each filter can provide clean water for more than ten people for up to 30 years.
Thirst Relief International uses locally available resources to make Biosand Filters. Therefore, each item on the filter is easy to manufacture locally. All these factors make it a sustainable solution for clean water access for communities around the world.
You Can Be Part of the Solution
Thirst Relief International provides access to clean water with projects in India, Brazil, and four countries in East Africa. With your support, we can extend our reach to other communities. You can partner with us in various ways, whether through cash donations or participating in a fundraiser event. Join us so that families don’t lose their loved ones because they lack access to clean water.