There is increased awareness of the need for clean water in the world. The global water crisis has become both a rallying point for many who strive to address the issues of lack of access to drinkable water and other limited resources. When thinking about fighting about the water crisis, we usually think about the struggle for clean drinking water, and it can be easy to overlook another challenge faced by those lacking access to water – the inability to take a shower and bathe their children.
But for approximately 8 million people in rural Niger, the only water available is downright filthy, and even that is in short supply. It’s usually the same water animals swim in, and it’s often contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can lead to a number of horrible diseases, such as diarrhea, trachoma, and bilharzia. For Nigeriens, the water isn’t “yucky”—it’s dangerous and often deadly. With no other options, though, they have no choice but to risk drinking it. That’s why Wells Bring Hope is determined to drill the 11,000 more wells that are needed to provide everyone with the clean, safe water they need. When a village gets a well, the people in that village get access to clean water—something we in the U.S. often take for granted—and their lives are transformed. For them, water isn’t about washing cars or watering lawns. It’s about survival—another thing many of us take for granted.
ut Niger was different. It was raw. It took that knowledge I had in my head and moved it to my gut. As I rode hour after hour through a barren landscape, the needs became simpler and more gut wrenching. Water is life. Water is everything. There are no other needs if there is no water. There are no other choices if there is no water.
The correlations between human conflict and environmental issues are complex. Environmental factors are rarely the sole reason for conflict, but issues such as access to and availability of clean water inevitably lead to clashes or violence. Environmental degradation, poorly designed trade and aid policies, and reckless exploitation of natural resources imperil human security.
This past Saturday was World Water Day, a day to be grateful for our access to clean drinking water and a time to turn our attention to the millions of people who are so fortunate.
Globally speaking, fresh water is an endangered resource. Droughts are common and water is scarce. According to the U.S. State Department, the domestic need for fresh water will exceed supply by 40 percent by the year 2030. While people are aware of the global water shortage to some extent, many do not realize the implications for the impoverished residents of undeveloped countries.
Whenever we drill a well, we teach the people living in the village how to make use of every droplet of water. Water is scarce, and every single drop counts. One of the ways we do this is by teaching them that the water that has been used for washing should not be discarded because while it is no longer potable, it can still serve a valuable purpose. This use of greywater, the water collected from hand washing stations, dish washing, and other household washing, is essential in drought-ridden West Africa. In every village where we drill, we teach the villagers how to use this greywater to nurture their gardens using the technique of drip water irrigation. This simple form of technology increases the efficiency of water usage and produces incredible benefits. This system relies on simple buckets or trash bins- to act as water reservoirs- and drip tape, which is placed between every other row of crops. The drip tape is attached to the water source, and allows for low-pressure water to trickle down to the soil, nourish the vegetation, and ultimately deliver produce that is packed with nutritious benefits to supplement the villagers’ diets.
The water crisis is about as big and deadly as it gets. There are 345 million
people in Africa who lack access to clean, safe water. I saw it firsthand when I had
the opportunity to go to Niger, West Africa in January 2012. On that trip, I visited a village without “safe water,” which meant that the women and girls would have to walk for miles to a filthy water hole to get any form of water. They would fill a large bucket with foul, brown, disgusting water and trudge back to their village carrying the heavy load on their heads. Water so filthy that I wouldn’t even give it to my pets was their only source of water for cooking and drinking. Forget about hygiene – water is too precious and rare to be used for hand washing or showers. Because of all this, more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.
After testing to see if the pump was working properly, the water was sampled and sent to the water quality laboratory. The results indicated that all major parameters met the WHO standard except that nitrites were slightly elevated. An analysis revealed that the nitrites may have come from the chemical product used for mud drilling. After hours of pumping, another sample was drawn and sent for analysis. The water sample passed, and the hand pump installation followed on June 7th after the concrete apron around the pump was constructed.
Due to unsafe water, there are 4.7 more deaths per 1,000 children under age five in countries such as Niger than there are in countries such as the United States. Due to unimproved sanitation, there are 6.6 more deaths for every 1,000 children under five.
In beginning this blog post, I asked myself one question, “How important is water?” I get that it’s essential to our survival. I’ve been taught that since kindergarten. I saw 127 Hours. I know that James Franco’s biggest problem wasn’t his arm being stuck under a rock; it was trying to make a half bottle of water last for however many days 127 hours is. I know that in war, when supplies get cut off, it’s not the lack of guns or food that depletes an army; it’s the absence of potable water. I read The Hunger Games. I remember the advice to the tributes – “Forget the weapons. Find shelter and water.”