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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dirty water kills more people than violence

The Lack of clean of clean, safe drinking water is a worldwide crisis. This article points out in glaring terms how severe a crisis this is.

A 4/15/10 Post from WASH (Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene), which provides
international news on water supply, sanitation and hygiene services in developing countries.

Dirty Water Kills More People than Violence, says UN

Saving half the water lost through leaky pipes and ill-maintained sewage networks could supply 90 million people with clean water, says a UN report [1] released on World Water Day.

Dirty water is killing more people than wars and other violence, the United Nations announced on World Water Day.

Almost all dirty water produced in homes, businesses, farms, and factories in developing countries is washed into rivers and seas without being decontaminated.

And up to 60 percent of supplies that have been purified to the point that they are potable are lost through leaky pipes and ill-maintained sewage networks, according to a report released on 22 March 2010. Saving half of these lost supplies could give clean water to 90 million people without the need for costly new infrastructure, says the UN.

“The sheer scale of dirty water means more people now die from contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including wars,” the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

This includes 2.2 million people whose deaths are attributed to diarrhea, mostly from dirty water, and 1.8 million children aged under five who succumb to water-borne diseases. This equates to one infant every 20 seconds.

The findings were presented during a three-day conference held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to coincide with the annual focus on clean and sustained water supplies for a human population expected to grow by 50 percent in the next four decades.

“If the world is to survive on a planet of 6 billion people heading to over 9 billion by 2050, we need to get smarter about how we manage wastewaters,” Achim Steiner, UNEP’s director, said in a press release. “Wastewater is quite literally killing people.”

Rivers of sewage in the slums

Less than five miles from the downtown conference center hosting the water conference, Grace Gathura spent Monday morning as she always does – queuing for water at a communal tap in Nairobi’s Kibera slum.

The shantytown, home to 1 million people largely ignored by the city authorities, is notorious for its “flying toilets.”

Without decent latrines in their iron-walled huts, people are forced to defecate into plastic bags, which are then unceremoniously thrown out of the door.

The waste is among the 2 million tons of sewage and industrial or agricultural waste that ends up in rivers and streams each day.

Most of those water sources are then also used for cooking and cleaning water.

“I have lived here in Kibera for 12 years, and it is only two years ago that this tap was constructed,” Mrs. Gathura said. “Before, there were people selling clean water at prices which are too high for us. But even now, there are many of us who do not find clean water every day, and so many are sick.”

According to the UNEP report, more than half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people struggling with illnesses linked to contaminated water.

Easy solutions?

“It may seem like an overwhelming challenge but there are enough solutions where human ingenuity allied to technology and investments in nature’s purification systems such as wetlands, forests, and mangroves can deliver clean water for a healthy world,” said Mr Steiner.

Aside from recommending a focus on fixing leaky pipes, the World Water Day meeting called for water recycling systems and multi-million dollar investments in sewage treatment works.

But, the UN added, just $20 million could pay for drip-irrigation and tread pumps to draw water from wells, which could lift 100 million poor farming families out of extreme poverty.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Collaboration with BOFISH

Over the past several months we have been researching potential partners for one of our social venture enterprises; aquaculture and hydroponics. This research has led us to the premiere provider of this technology in Mexico BOFISH. Our goal is to incorporate aquaculture and hydroponics into our sustainable sewage treatment system such that these enterprises will help generate revenue for the operations and maintenance of the treatment plant, high-value agricultural products, and local employment.

We are pleased to have this collaboration is this helps move our vision forward of making a truly sustainable wastewater treatment system, and turns a public health hazard into a major public asset.

Board meeting notes 22 May 2010

We held a Board meeting on Saturday afternoon May 22 to bring everyone in the organization up to speed on our progress and our challenges.  We had several members joined in person and a few more on the conference call.  Stan and I went over the history of the past year, including an overview of our two trips to Oaxaca.  We then spoke about the challenges and opportunities we are currently facing in trying to implement our sustainable sewage treatment system.  We hope to have a major announcement about this project in a month or so.

The conversation then moved to how to reshape our board and acquire more board members who are more experienced in nonprofit management and fundraising, along with more representation from the Hispanic community.  In addition, we are working on an overall marketing strategy, and a strategy to increase our sphere of influence with our donors and their friends.  Our goal is help our current donors to help us expand our network of supporters.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The first of many weekly updates

This is a new feature for Water for Humans.

I wish to introduce Michael Hughes.  He is helping us with marketing and writing grant proposals.  He lives in Stanwood and is excited to be part of the team.  Welcome Michael! 

An update on what’s happening in Mexico:  Nelly is in touch with a lab to do the water testing and to measure the flow rate.  Rick would like to get an extended flow rate for a month before and during the rainy season. Maria, the current mayor of Santo Domingo, is in the midst of an election campaign.  By May 25th, Nelly should have information on property ownership of the area around the perimeter of the dump.

Let me also introduce Fernando Bonilla and Carlos Leon Ramos of BOFISH, a company in Mexico which engages in fish-farming and hydroponics (aquaponics). They have a great website, Acuaponia.com 

Rick and Stan are working on a formal budget to support the emerging fundraising strategy.

Rick will host a Water for Humans Board meeting Saturday, May 22, 2010 at his home NE in Seattle starting at 4 pm. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

8 March 2010 ---“Gathering for an autonomous life”

Instituto de la Naturaleza y la Sociedad de Oaxaca (INSO)--(Major sponsor) and Water for Humans shared a table at this event (see image of the poster in a post below)

From the Oaxaca news.

To combat the crisis of negatives impacts to nature and society, it’s urgent to make transformations, and to mark these transformations the “Gathering for an autonomous life” begins on the 8th of April in EL Llano Park.

In accordance with the call to combat the changes in nature and society leading to repercussions in health, it’s necessary to adopt new attitudes and practices.

Through round tables, interactive games, projections and technology exhibitions for treatment of waste, organizers are looking to raise people’s consciousness so they will change the attitudes that harm the environment.

“Beginning with the autonomous action of people and groups, propelled by the dire necessity of survival, or due to old ideals, we can convert the disasters that overwhelm us into opportunities to reverse the phenomena that they create,” say the Center of Support of the Popular Movement Oaxaca.
More than the fact that these new attitudes and practices can enrich daily life, they create natural and social harmony, and stimulate forms of dignified life.

Teemed with the ensemble of these actions is the goal to exemplify another way of life that doesn’t affect the natural environment.

Organizations and communities of Oaxaca and of the country will participate in this gathering to share their experiences, knowledge, attitudes and various capacities to work on the construction of an economically feasible, ecologically sensible and socially just world.

Other events taking place are the 6th Congressional Expo -“Towards a holistic vision of health”, the 5th Expo Ecology Fair - “The sun comes out for everyone”, dialogue and climate conventions in the towns, Tianguis indigenous multicultural, Seminary “Rethink water from civil society” and the second national forum of 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fears That a Lush Land May Lose a Foul Fertilizer--Mixquiahuala Journal

 Fears That a Lush Land May Lose a Foul Fertilizer--Mixquiahuala Journal

From the New York Times 
MIXQUIAHUALA, Mexico — Night and day, Marcelo Mera Bárcenas slops the fetid water that has coursed 60 miles downhill from the sewers of Mexico City and spreads it over the corn and alfalfa fields of this once arid land.
The New York Times
Mexico City's sewage irrigates Hidalgo State's farmland.
From the roads here in the Mezquital Valley, fields stretch to the hills in a panoply of green, graced by willow trees. But up close, where Mr. Mera is paid for every acre of field he irrigates, the smell and look of the water that feeds this lushness chokes the senses.

With only rubber boots for protection, he does not buy into the general belief here that the water does no harm, that a scrub with detergent each night will cure whatever ills it brings. Itchy boils break out on his hands, he said. He is often sick with colds and the flu.

“Of course it affects us because the water is so dirty,” said Mr. Mera, a laborer who has worked in the muck of these fields for 38 years, since he was 15. “But there’s nothing else to do.”
For 100 years, Mexico City has flushed its wastewater north to irrigate the farmland of Hidalgo State. This foul cascade, which the farmers call “the black waters,” flows through a latticework of canals and then trickles over the fields.

So when word got out that the government was finally going to build a giant wastewater treatment plant, one might have expected the farmers around here to be excited. Instead, they were suspicious.
“Without that water, there is no life, “ said Gregorio Cruz Alamilla, 60, who has worked his family’s 12-acre farm since he was a boy.

Mr. Cruz knows the water is loaded with toxic substances, including chemicals dumped by factories, and he tires of clearing his field of plastic bottles and wrappings every time he irrigates.
But like many others here, he worries that treating the water, though it may remove harmful contaminants, will also strip away some of the natural fertilizers that even the authorities here say have helped make this valley so productive. And despite the government’s assurances, the farmers here suspect the worst: that once the water is treated, it will be pumped back to Mexico City, leaving the farms dry.

“If they take away the black waters we will die of hunger,” Mr. Cruz said. “We don’t know how to do anything else.”

Farmers irrigate crops with wastewater across the developing world, but nowhere else on the scale of Mezquital Valley, researchers say. The 350 square miles of the valley’s irrigated fields lie at the end of a crisscross of tunnels, rivers, lakes, dams and reservoirs that date from the 14th century, when the Aztecs settled on an island amid lakes and engineered the first network of dikes and dams to control the floodwaters.
Mexico City has never managed to keep those waters at bay. When they break loose, as they do most every year during the rainy season, the wastewater gushes into the streets and swamps the patios of working-class neighborhoods in the city’s low-lying eastern suburbs.

It has been almost 40 years since Mexico City has built a new tunnel to drain the city’s wastewater, and it now needs constant maintenance. Since then, the population of the metropolitan area has doubled to almost 20 million people.

“It was a predictable problem, but we never paid enough attention to it,” said Ernesto E. Espino de la O, who manages the treatment and water supply project for the National Water Commission. A collapse of the crumbling system, warned one study from Mexico’s National Autonomous University of Mexico, would be catastrophic, flooding large parts of the city.

To stop the flooding, the federal government is building a 38.5-mile tunnel to drain all the wastewater north at a rate of 40,000 gallons a second. “In July, August and September, we need the whole system to work well,” said Rafael Carmona Paredes, who is in charge of the tunnel project for the commission, known as Conagua.
Engineers have begun to drill a series of giant shafts going down as far as almost 500 feet. Below, enormous circular boring machines cut through the rock and lay down the tunnel’s concrete casing. At the tunnel’s end, near the town of Atotonilco, is the site of the planned water treatment plant, now just a sloping hillside and a sign with a promise.

“It is a disgrace that Mexico City doesn’t treat its wastewater,” said José Ramón Ardavín, the deputy director of Conagua.

The plant, which is budgeted to cost $1 billion and will begin operating in 2012, will clean 60 percent of the city’s wastewater. The water commission’s measurements show that the water is laced with heavy metals like lead and arsenic, filled with high levels of pathogens and parasites, and weighed down by grease.
But the farmers “are worried that the treatment plant will take out the nutrients, that the water will go back to Mexico City and that it will be privatized,” said Filemón Rodríguez Castillo, the director of the main irrigation district here. “The water is very much appreciated here, independent of the fact that it smells so ugly, that it stinks.”

One of his jobs is to persuade local residents that even though the residents of Mexico City will have to pay to have their water treated, they will not get it back.

The main benefit of irrigating with clean water, he has told them, is that they will be able to grow many kinds of vegetables, which are now restricted to protect consumers from illness.

Officials here now direct farmers not to grow crops in which the edible part comes into contact with the irrigation water and is eaten raw, ruling out vegetables like lettuce, carrots or beets. Alfalfa is permitted because it is used as animal feed. But enforcement is spotty and the farmers abide by an elastic interpretation of the regulations, planting broccoli and cauliflower, for example.

To the farmers here, whose sturdy opinions match their surprisingly good health, the proof that their water is good is in what they see around them. “Plants won’t absorb poison; they would die,” said Jesús Aldana Ángeles, a 75-year-old fifth-generation farmer, who was watching his small flock of sheep munch on the remains of his harvested alfalfa field. “There is no better laboratory than the ground. The earth absorbs everything. It purifies it, it treats it.”

As the sun set, he brought the sheep in, crossing a footpath over an irrigation ditch that curls around his house like a black moat. “Bad water would never make anything green,” he said. “But here the black waters turn everything green.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oaxaca faces severe water supply problems

March 10th, 2010

Oaxaca faces severe water supply problems
“A bottle of water is 5,000 to7,000 times more costly than what one would pay for normal water distribution services.”

A public meeting was held to re-evaluate the relationship between Oaxacans and their water supply.  Specialists and academics in the field explained about the critical condition of the sewage water in Oaxaca from ecological and management point of views: there are serious water supply and pollution problems.

Pointed out were the serious effects of the irresponsible relationship society has had to its water resources on the water table and bodies of water, including overexploiting and contaminating the rivers due to a lack of functioning sewage treatment plants.

Juan Jose Consejo talked about the difficulties facing the water tables in the Valles Centrales region, where the number of wells have drastically increased in just 1 year.

Raul Corzo Jimenez, general coordinator of urban development, public works and municipal ecology of Oaxaca, highlighted the actions the municipality has taken to mitigate the effects of water contamination, but admitted that there is a lot left behind in the material.

He spoke specifically about the ecological ordinance (not sure if that’s really what the Spanish word means) signed recently in conjunction with federal and state offices, which will serve as a tool toward a new path to sustainable development and care for resources, like water.

There was a reading of a text by Jean Robert, of the University of Morelos, which talked principally about the origins of the philosophy of water as a resource for the community as opposed to a market interest for big businesses.  The arguments set forth in the text are supported in works by Carl Marx and Lockey Malthus.

After the public meeting, Carlos Plasencia, organizer of the Water Forum, indicated that according to studies, the cost of bottled water is 5-7 thousand times more than the cost of normal household water distribution services, and in addition, recent studies show that 20%of bottled water is not as clean or pure as the companies contend.

GEA and UABJO presented on alternative sanitation for sewage waters.  The conference ended with a review of the conclusions and proposals, which in future stages the seminar will return to.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Life Autanoma Conference Oaxaca April 2010

Water for Humans was represented via Nelly (our staff person working for INSO).  This is the poster Nelly had to present us to this growing community.