Every year on World Water Day, there is a theme and this year it is: Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge. The United Nations reports that by 2030, nearly 60% of the world will reside in cities, resulting in critical problems regarding how we manage water as well as wastewater.

Wells Bring Hope does not work in urban areas. The population we serve is rural, in fact, one of the most rural places on earth, Niger, West Africa. However, as we share this planet with those residing in cities, it behooves us to support efforts to strengthen water management programs wherever they are. As more and more villages get wells, people become more economically stable and sometimes migrate to urban areas to experience a better quality of life. Thus, rural moves to urban areas a compound the problem. However, the overriding need is to save lives with safe water and improve quality of life

Our former fiscal sponsor, prior to becoming our own non-profit, was the highly esteemed Pacific Institute. Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program said this: “Today, roughly 141 million urban dwellers don’t have access to safe drinking water, and close to 800 million live without access to improved sanitation.” “We’re working to identify new policies and approaches that insure urban centers have access to adequate, safe, and affordable water supplies, while promoting healthy ecosystems.”

One new approach the Institute is working on is improving water and sanitation services through crowd-sourced map data using mobile phones. The pilot project is in Indonesia, which ranks sixth in the world for number of mobile phone subscribers. This project provides an exciting new tool for enabling information to flow between communities, governmental entities, and service providers, in support of rapid and informed decision-making.

“This tool will give people a way to report conditions such as poor water quality or quantity, well failures, and failure of private water supplies,” said Meena Palaniappan, director of the International Water and Communities Initiative. “It can be a key way to allow poor urban customers to hold utilities and other water providers accountable, as well as give these utilities important information to better plan in the face of climate variability.”