Despite its small population size, Eswatini (Swaziland) has the highest HIV prevalence in the world and has been greatly affected by the epidemic (UNAIDS, 2019). With this in mind, Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer began an outreach called CHIPS in Maphiveni. It was an intervention in the local communities in eastern Swaziland for impoverished and isolated HIV affected children and their caregivers to access health care. The goal was to develop a local clinic, employing and training local Swazi’s to provide services to their communities. Today, CHIPS stands for Community Health Intervention Programme in eSwatini.
One of the needs Daran and Teresa noticed was that of clean water. The community tap supplies water from a borehole and storage tanks, and they needed to make sure the water was clean. There was also a rainwater collection system installed at the clinic, which also invites contamination. We had many clinic staff sharing they were experiencing gastrointestinal problems due to the contaminated water. The clinic also sees many community members with water borne illnesses.
Both of these systems give the option for clean water instead of collecting it from the Mbuluzi River or irrigation canals. This river suffers from animal and human fecal contamination as well as contamination from the sugar cane fields and mills upstream. In addition, there are crocodiles that one also needs to avoid when collecting water as people have been taken before. Simple purification methods are also financially out of the reach of most residents: bleach or extra firewood for boiling water are commodities beyond the financial reach of most.
With this in mind, they decided to ensure clean water for the clinic and community with two VF600 Facility Filters. The overall project was funded through a generous gift from Rotary. Daran and Teresa also collaborated with community leaders to set up and regulate the system. As of two weeks ago, they finally had everything set and are excited to see the impact of these facility filters in the communities where they work. These filters will allow the clinic to have more time to focus on those affected by HIV and others with health needs.
If you know a community that would benefit from a facility filter like the one Daran and Teresa installed, connect with us! We are happy to discuss options and assist in bringing clean water to those in need. If you would also like to learn more about Daran and Teresa’s work in Eswatini, check out their website.
In the East African nation of Burundi, the rainy season begins in October. After many dry months, rain once again starts falling onto farms and crops, pouring into the currents of the Nile River, and slapping the surface of Lake Tanganyika.
Yet despite the long-awaited precipitation, as well as the country’s abundant natural resources, this nation remains in the grip of a water crisis.
Of the over 11 million inhabitants of Burundi, almost 40% do not have access to safe drinking water in less than a 30 minute trip from where they live. In 2017, according to UNICEF, more than half of the population did not have access to basic sanitation facilities. Even in many health centers and schools, clean water is not nearby. This bears witness to the problematic reality here as in so many areas throughout the world, that water is not being distributed equitably to all communities. This shortage in coverage for water services in Burundi is due in part to destruction from the civil war, as well as the multiple changes in government within the past several decades. However, it may also have another cause: deforestation.
Deforestation has slashed the amount of trees in Burundi down to a staggering 6% of what it once was. Why? With the majority of citizens working in agriculture, many forests needed to be cut down to clear the land for farms. Far from happening overnight, this took place over many generations and under multiple foreign occupations and changes in leadership. Major crops such as coffee and tea account for a significant amount of the nation’s exports, and they are vital to a strong economy. Yet an even larger aspect of agriculture in Burundi is subsistence farming. This is the type of farming in which individual families grow their own food. These farmers are resilient, hardworking, and dedicated to providing food for their families and neighbors. However, in this process of subsistence farming, the soil can easily become stripped of nutrients if not given enough time to replenish itself through rest or carefully selected crop rotation. Unfortunately, the very trees that were cut down to clear land for more farms are proving to be quite critical components in the overall sustainability of healthy soil, air, economic systems, and even clean water.
Effects of Deforestation
Loss of Biodiversity: One of the most irreversible consequences of deforestation is the loss of entire species of animals and plants that rely upon the trees in order to survive. In Burundi, the eucalyptus trees, acacia trees, fig trees, and oil palms all interact with multiple other species. For some, these trees are their home. When their habitats are removed, these creatures can perish. For others, these trees provide food, shade, water, or concealment from predators. Without them, many animals face starvation, exposure, and thirst.
Climate Change: Trees naturally expel oxygen into the atmosphere, and take in carbon dioxide. As the number of trees dwindles, carbon dioxide levels increase, thus contributing to a higher level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. These gasses re-radiate heat in the form of infrared radiation back to earth, causing rising temperatures that can be harmful and even deadly to many different forms of life.
Soil Erosion: When extensive amounts of trees are taken from the land, soil becomes much more vulnerable to erosion. Tree roots are no longer anchoring into the ground and stabilizing it. When rain or winds come, healthy soil is displaced or washed away, leaving behind ground that is less able to grow healthy crops and sustain agriculture.
Loss in Freshwater: As soil erodes, silt often deposit into rivers and streams. These feed into lakes and eventually can lower the quality of the local water. The presence of forests also helps to regulate the flow of rivers in both rainy and dry seasons, which reduces water scarcity. Without these forests, the dry seasons become drier and more dangerous. The Institute for World Economics predicted that droughts would increase in severity as the climate continues to change, and warns that the deforestation of trees drastically impacts the hydrologic cycle. Evapo-transpiration accounts for nearly half of all rain generation around the world. With less trees transpiring water into the atmosphere, even the rainy seasons produce less and less rain.
Resilience and Hope in the Youth of Burundi
In the face of these challenges, the citizens of Burundi have not been silent. In 1980, the government of Burundi founded national parks, in order to conserve and protect wildlife. This also has helped boost the economy through the promotion of tourism, so that visitors could travel into the country to admire the beauty within it.
As a nation of many young people, with the country’s median age being between 17 and 18 years old, we are seeing the youth rising up in their creativity, advocacy, and determination.
UNICEF recently partnered with Cartendo and 14 other youth organizations to challenge Burundian youth to create innovative solutions to problems surrounding COVID-19. The winning ideas were given financial awards so that they could be turned into real actions within the local communities of the winners. 670 solutions were submitted and 5 were endorsed as prizewinners, including a rainwater filter design by 16 year old Johanna Bizindavyi, and a new online platform for distance learning by 16 year old Chanelle Iteriteka.
Also during this time of COVID-19, a major hygiene manufacturing company, Savonor, partnered with humanitarian groups to offer discounted rates on their soap so that it was more easily accessible to all who needed it. The company also chooses to only use palm oil in their products that has been extracted sustainably under strict environmental standards while also paying fair prices to farmers. It is admirable to see a company like this, who could easily have inflated prices for soap and hygiene prices as the need for them surged, decide instead to lower their prices while still sourcing their ingredients ethically. Even in the uncertainty of a pandemic, hope is still being found.
While some are addressing the current needs of a world battling the coronavirus, others are continuing to do all that they can to create a better world for future generations by tackling climate change.
One of the most inspiring accounts of hope and sustainability in Burundi is the Greening Burundi Project. This environmental non-profit organization was started in 2018 by 25 year old Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, and its mission is to plant 50 million trees in Burundi. They have already planted over 256, 738 trees, and are preparing to plant even more in mid-October.
“I initiated this project alone,” explained Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, “And the hardest part was having a lack of financial resources. But I tried to inspire young people and now we have around 150 young volunteers helping me to plant the trees. We plant native trees, agroforestry trees, forestry trees, as well as fruit trees.”
When asked about the importance of trees, Niyoyabikoze answered, “A tree is a natural climate solution. Here in Burundi, we suffered from deforestation. The reports show that in 1990, the forest cover was 57% but in 2018, it was 5.6%. If nothing is done, we will fall into desertification. The main activity in Burundi is agriculture, and this desertification caused soil erosion, soil infertility and the agricultural production became insufficient. Poverty occurred and malnutrition and diseases increased. That is why I started Greening Burundi to reforest my country.”
With a passion for positive change, Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze is motivated by the fact that trees are absolutely crucial to the well-being of the planet and future generations. They combat climate change, increase the quality of the soil, provide habitats and food for many creatures, and even improve the amount and quality of freshwater available to local communities.
To invest in and support the inspiring youth of Burundi like Niyoyabikoze is to water a seed. And make no mistake: from these seeds, hope is growing.
At Business Connect, we love to hear these stories of sustainable work to alleviate the water crisis. If you would like to be involved in projects like this one, you can partner with our friends at Connect for Water or Greening Burundi.
Everyone is looking for new ways to help improve their health. Whether you’re dieting, working out, or simply trying to increase your water intake, it’s requires dedicated effort with some parts easier than others.
It’s time to start thinking about how your water is filtered, regardless of whether you’re drinking water at home, out and about, or in any other location. If you live in America, water filtration and clean water probably isn’t the first thing on your mind when you head to the sink to fill up a cup.
You’re not living in a developing country, so your water has to be clean, right? Unfortunately, toxic tap water is a real issue in several different cities throughout the United States, including (but not limited to), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Brady, Texas, and the well-publicized and infamous Flint, Michigan.
We’re going to lay out everything you need to know about the state of your water, water filtration, and the types of water filters that might be available to you, as well as the benefits of water filtration for you home and your family.
What Is a Water Filtering System?
If you’re unsure about what a water filtering system is to begin with, here are the basic. In its simplest form, a water filter helps decontaminate water by either using a physical barrier, chemical process, or a biological process.
People use water filter systems for a variety of different reasons, and there are dozens of benefits of filtering your own water. For example, people will use water filters to remove chlorine and bacterial contaminants to provide better tasting and better smelling drinking water. They’ll also use them to remove lead from drinking water immediately before they drink it, eliminating the chance of a harmful substance entering their bodies.
Another benefit of water filter systems is that they provide you with clean water without racking up a huge bill from plastic water bottles ( environmentally-speaking, this is a much better option too).
Overall, drinking clean, filtered water can help to protect your body from diseases and lead to greater overall health. Filtered water can reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disease by more than 33 percent, help children’s’ developing immune systems grow strong, act as the last line of defense against 2,100 known toxins from drinking water, and greatly reduce the risk of rectal cancer, colon cancer and bladder cancer by removing chlorine and chlorine byproducts.
And water filtration doesn’t only benefit drinking water. In fact, filtered water should be used for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, bathing, and more. Using filtered water means there’s a healthy mineral deposit and a healthy pH in the water you ingest!
Types of Water Filters
There are several types of water filters that are typically used, each with different mechanics and functions, but all serving the same purpose: cleaning your water supply to provide healthy, safe water. Let’s focus on a few common types.
The activated carbon filter is one of the most common household water filters. This type of filter uses activated carbon granules that attract and trap chemical impurities through an absorption process.
Activated carbon granules are based on charcoal and are very porous forms of the carbon that is created by burning wood with a reduced supply of oxygen. Charcoal, somewhat like a cross between lead and a sponge, has an internal surface area that’s riddled with nooks and crannies that can help to boost that absorption process.
The Environmental Working Group does offer one important caveat to remember when using carbon filters:
Keep in mind that carbon filters vary greatly in effectiveness. Some just remove chlorine, and improve taste and odor. Others remove contaminants including asbestos, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. However, activated carbon doesn’t remove common inorganic pollutants such as arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate and perchlorate.
Additionally, this type of filter isn’t ideal for dealing with hardness like limescale heavy metals, nitrates, fluorine, microbes, and sodium.
Here’s a helpful overview of how activated carbon works:
You remember osmosis from science class, right? It’s when one things absorbs another. Reverse osmosis is the forcing of contaminated water through a membrane at pressure so that the water is able to pass through, but the contaminants in the water are left behind.
Essentially, you’re making the water go against its natural inclination, to force the comaninents out of a water supply. Unfiltered water is pumped in through a plastic membrane, clean water flows through the membrane at pressure, and that semipermeable filter or membrane will catch all the contaminants in said water.
Again, the Environmental Working Group offers a helpful note regarding reverse osmosis:
Also, consumers should be aware that reverse osmosis systems waste a lot of water – they typically use three to 20 times more water than they produce. For this reason, EWG recommends that they be used for drinking and cooking water only.
Ion Exchange filters are some of the best filters for softening water. They can take hard water and make it more digestible by removing limescale. In layman’s terms, these filters are designed to split apart atoms of contaminating substances to make ions, then, then traps those ions and releases less good ions.
These types of filters use zeolite beads that contain sodium ions. These beads, which act as filters, trap the incoming contaminants and replace them with sodium ions. Without that magnesium and calcium, your water is going to taste softer much more pleasant.
This is one of the simplest ways to purify water. While this is less of a type of filter and more of a way to filter water on your own without the use of a fancy device, distillation is still one of the best ways to filter or purify water.
Distillation involves boiling the water, but then taking things a step further to ensure purity. First, you boil water to make steam, much as you would boil it to kill the bacteria. Then you capture the steam and cool it back into water in a separate container. Because water boils at a much lower temperature than other contaminants (like toxic heavy metals), these will stay back as the steam separates and boils off, leaving you with clean water.
Regardless of where you live (home, on the road, or when you’re camping), it’s important to keep your water as clean and filtered as possible. Water filters are becoming more and more important in a world where every day health seems to be diminishing. Remember to change your water filter every 3 to 6 months, or sooner if you notice the water flow slowing down or your water color becoming darker.
You can easily pick up a water filter at your local grocery store or supply shop, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a simple $30 home filter that you put on the end of your sink faucet will significantly help,. Ultimately, it’s important that you’re putting your health first, and keeping you water clean and filtered is a big step in that direction.
Water is everywhere, right? You use water when you turn on the faucet to wash your hands, to use the restroom, wash your clothes, and of course, you drink it. Water seems like an abundant, never-ending supply, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not true. In fact, is pretty far from the truth. Water is a limited resource, and even though it seems like you’re surrounded by it, only about 1 percent of water on earth is available for human use.
That’s because the rest of the water is either salt water in the oceans, frozen into polar ice caps, or is inaccessible for us to practically use. This should dramatically shift the way you look at the water. Not everyone has the same access to water, which means that you and your community should understand the way water usage affects you, those around you, and even those around the globe.
In this article, we’ll take a look at water usage, help you understand how countries use water, and discuss the details of water conservation.
Water is a precious resource, but it’s difficult to understand that until you get the global picture. That’s what this article is all about.
Let’s Talk About Water Usage
“A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
Water, as you’d imagine, plays a huge role in our everyday life. There are the obvious uses for water, of course, some of which we discussed above — drinking water, washing water, bathroom water — but think a bit deeper.
What about how your city uses water? Without water, there’d be no fire-fighting, no municipal parks, no swimming pools, or sewage systems. Now consider all the other uses for water, like:
That’s a lot of water being used every day.
Now, consider that the thousands of cities around the world using water in the same way. We’re talking billions of liters per day.
These are massive numbers and it’s hard to grasp their significance until we compare them to other countries. Hang in there.
Now let’s zero in on now on the average American family. This average family uses about 1136 liters of water per day at home, with about 70 percent of this water being used indoors. About 24 percent of that water is for flushing the toilet, 20 percent is showering, 19 percent is from the faucet, 17 percent is for washing clothing, 12 percent is due to leaks in the pipe systems, and about 8 percent for other, miscellaneous uses.
To put that in perspective, it takes anywhere from 13 – 26 liters of water to flush a toilet. That’s a lot of water.
Now let’s step back see how much water other countries use in comparison to the United States.
In Australia, the country with the second-highest water usage rates, the average person uses about 470 liters of water every day. Following that:
The average person in Italy uses about 390 liters per day,
The average person in Japan uses 375 liters per day
The average in Mexico is 360 liters per day
The average in Spain is 325 liters per day
The average in Norway is 300 liters per day
The average in Austria is 230 liters, respectively
Contrast this to developing nations like Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, Haiti, and Ethiopia, use about 2 to 15 liters of water per day, per person.
Are you starting to get the picture? Developed countries use an incredible amount of water compared to developing countries. The disparity is staggering.
Water Conservation Matters
“Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other.” – John Thorson
After seeing how much water the United States uses compared to other countries, you probably have a lot of questions, such as:
How do we replace that water?
How does my water usage affect other countries?
What can I do to help?
Let’s break down it down a bit more to give you better grasp on the current water situation, how we replenish our water, and how each person’s actions can determine water usage for those around them.
First, let’s talk about the watershed. A watershed is a precipitation collector. In short, it’s an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet like a bay, a reservoir, or even a stream channel. This water is collected, stored, and then put to use for drinking, mining, industries, irrigation and more.
Watersheds are one of the biggest ways that we replace and replenish our water supplies. Put simply, watersheds are all over the place. Look at the ground below your feet, you’re standing on a watershed designed to collect the falling rain and drain it to a common outlet so that it can be used later.
How does this affect you, those in your area, and those far away? Watersheds are connected. In fact, all land and water are ecologically linked with each other through a watershed (also called a catchment or drainage basin).
Watersheds don’t have boundaries, they’re not ruled by politics, and they can encompass several national, cultural and economic spans. All this to say, each watershed affects the next and the next and the next. It’s a web of cause and effect, and the actions we take direct the people downstream from us, downstream from them, and so on.
So, how does water conservation work, and can your actions help conserve water for other people who need it? Short answer: Absolutely.
There are dozens of ways you can change the amount of water you’re using every day in order to conserve water for others. For example, test all of your pipes at home for leaks. As you might remember, data suggests that about 12 percent of the average American family’s water supply is depleted by leaks, so get those checked out to keep a better eye on your water supply.
Additionally, monitor your showers. Take shorter showers, don’t leave the faucet running, and consider upgrading your toilets to new models that don’t need up to 26 liters to flush.
Also, watch how often you water your lawn, wash your car, or use the washing machine. Keeping a schedule and restricting your usage can make major changes in your water usage patterns, which in turn, will deeply affect the rest of the world. Everyone can, and should, do their part to conserve water.
How We Use Our Water: Some Final Thoughts
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” – Carl Sagan
Even though water surrounds us, we’re constantly fighting the battle of depleting water sources, over-usage of our water supply, and unequal water distribution due to an area, poverty, and political issues.
It’s important to remember that water and watersheds connect us all. Our actions have a direct impact on the people near us and far from us. The way we treat and use our water can determine the outcome of the way other people and countries treat and use their water, and so and so forth.
Water usage is not always — in fact, is very rarely — equal among countries. Because we’re a web of connected watersheds, water conservation in your own home is extremely important to determining the amount of water that people in towns, cities, states, countries, and continents have.
Monitor your water usage, learn tips and tricks to cut back on the water you use daily, and remember that in some way, we’re all connected by the water around us.
You may have seen that the internet has been buzzing about The Ocean Cleanup Project. However, even if you’re familiar with the term, it can take a lot of research to truly understand what the Ocean Cleanup Project really is.
We’ve done that work for you and gathered all the information you need to get up to date on The Ocean Cleanup Project, discuss the garbage issues plaguing our oceans, and decide how you can help with this issue.
If you’re interested in learning about the Ocean Cleanup Project, its origins, what it does, how you can be a part of it, and in gaining a better understanding of the seriousness of the issue of trash in our oceans, read on!
What Is The Ocean Cleanup Project?
In 2013, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation was established by an 18-year-old dutch inventor named Boyan Slat. According to the foundation’s site, it was begun with the goals of creating ways to clear the Pacific Ocean of Pollution and educating people on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The idea, Slat hypothesized, was to use the ocean’s currents to our advantage, allowing our passive drifting systems to clean up over half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in about 5 years’ time. Slat proposed that it would be nearly impossible to go after the garbage in the ocean with nets and vessels, and more than that, it would be costly and time-consuming.
With this in mind, he devised an Ocean Cleanup Passive System that would be comprised of a floater with a solid screen underneath that would concentrate debris and lead them to a collection system. Then, that system would be slowed to the point that it moved less quickly than the plastic, which would result in the plastic being trapped.
The technology behind the Ocean Cleanup Project is fairly simple, but compelling. With their solid screens underneath floating pipes, debris can be caught both on and under the surface. These systems will be drifting freely about the Pacific Ocean and will help to concentrate plastic towards a central point for collection by vessels, where it can be easily removed.
For a visual representation of how the system will work, watch this short video:
Again, according to the Ocean Cleanup Project’s site, the foundation believes that by deploying a fleet of systems, they can clean up an estimated 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years, and that the concentrated plastic can be retrieved for recycling purposes. Then, the money that’s made from recycling the plastic can be used to help fund the project’s expansion to the other four ocean systems.
The foundation has been working on testing and trials for this project for a great deal of time, launching expeditions over the ocean gyres in the last few years. The first cleanup system deployment is schedule to take place in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in May of 2018.
How Big is the Threat, Really?
To get a better understanding of the Ocean Cleanup Project, it’s important to get a firmer grasp on how big the problem of pollution in the ocean truly is. First, it’s vital to know what the term “garbage patch” refers to.
Seemingly self-explanatory, a garbage patch is a conglomeration of trash, plastic, and pollution that forms into a giant patch and litters our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the very spot the Ocean Cleanup Project intends to reduce and hopefully eliminate, is also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex.
It’s composed of trash and litter that spans an area from the West Coast of North America all the way to Japan. It’s so large, in fact, that it even has east and west sections.
This issue is an increasingly hazardous one, as most of the trash in the garbage patch is not biodegradable, causing a massive buildup that’s dangerous for not only ocean climate, creatures, and marine life, but for the human race as well. Much of this trash is visible, but a lot of it is made up of microplastics, non-biodegradable bits of plastic that can’t be seen without a microscope. In short, they’re tiny, but they’re terribly dangerous.
But trash isn’t just clogging up the Pacific Ocean, it’s plaguing our oceans and waterways everywhere. For example, Lagos, Nigeria produces about 600,000 metric tons of plastic trash annually, and approximately 100,000 tons of that ends up in the ocean. The result is landfills brimming with plastic garbage and coastlines strewn with trash.
About 5.25 trillion pieces of trash and litter are clogging up our oceans. To put that in perspective, that’s about 14 billion pounds of garbage dumped into our oceans annually, or about 1.5 million pounds of trash dumped in the ocean every hour. Even more disturbing is the about 269 tons of that trash are floating on our oceans’ surfaces. This trash ends up on islands like Henderson Island, a remote island that has millions of pieces of garbage wash ashore every year.
Those facts alone should be troubling, but when you take into account the harmful effects that trash can have on the oceans’ climate, marinelife, and creatures, it’s more than just troubling. With the entry of trash into our oceans comes the entry of toxins and pollution that poison marine life. Additionally, plastic debris in the ocean is said to kill fish, seabirds, and other marine mammals, impacting at least 267 species worldwide.
More than that, it affects the lives of humans as well. With toxic chemicals entering our oceans via pollution, it’s unsafe for people to consume marine life that’s been impacted by the pollution. In fact, doing so can result in dangerous health problems.
What Can You Do To Help?
So, what’s the next step you can take to help the Ocean Cleanup Project, or just to help clean up our waterways, bodies of water, and expanses of fresh and saltwater? While it may seem unlikely, small efforts by individuals can make go a long way toward decreasing the garbage in our oceans.
When speaking specifically about the Ocean Cleanup Project, there are a few specific ways to help this foundation inch their way toward success.
First, you can simply help fund the cleanup. The foundation needs help bridging the gap between their first-system and the full-scale development of the plans they have to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch. The foundation states that any amount helps to further their mission, so donating is certainly a great way to get involved.
Second, you can volunteer your time, skills, and efforts to the cause. According to their site, there are plenty of career, as well as volunteer, opportunities to work with the foundation.
Speaking generally, though, you can help reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean and contribute to solving the trash problem by making small dedicated efforts.
Reduce your use of single-use plastics
Avoid microbeads in cosmetic products
Back organizations that work to fight pollution and encourage ocean cleanup
As you can see, the massive amount of garbage conglomerating in the oceans is harmful — not just for the creatures and environments under the water, but also for marine mammals, birds, fish, turtles, and even human beings.
Though there’s an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of trash in our world’s oceans, it’s nearly impossible to determine how much debris is making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, because the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is too large for scientists to trawl. Even worse, it’s harder to tell because not all of the trash in the area is floating on the surface, and much of it made up of tiny, microplastics you can’t see with the naked eye.
Much of this trash comes from everyday pollution or land-based activities that take place in Asia and North America, but a percentage of it also comes from boaters, cargo ships, and offshore oil rigs.
The Ocean Cleanup Project, and other organizations like it, are doing their part to help rid the world and its oceans of the rubbish that plagues it, but you can help, too. By increasing your recycling habits, reducing your single-use plastic activities, and dedicating yourself to encouraging friends and family to do the same, you too can reduce the impact of garbage that’s clogging up our oceans.
If you live in a developed country, and I assume many of you are if you’re reading this, waterborne diseases probably aren’t something you typically worry about. But did you know that poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined?
Even in America, pumps, pipes and purification facilities could all fail, leaving you susceptible to waterborne diseases.
So what exactly are waterborne diseases? How many people are actually affected by them? How do we keep our water clean and safe? How many people are dying from these diseases, and what can we do to prevent that from happening? We’ll answer all of those questions here.
How Much Drinkable Water Is There?
First things first. Before we can understand why waterborne diseases are so prevalent, we need to have a clear understanding of how much drinkable water is actually available.
While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered in water, only 2.5 percent of it is drinkable. And of that, only 1 percent of it is easily accessible, with the rest trapped in glaciers and snowfields.
Since most of the Earth’s fresh water is frozen at the North and South poles, that leaves the rest of the fresh water in surface water and groundwater. Surface water is found in the Earth’s lakes, rivers, and streams. Groundwater is just surface water that has made its way into the soil.
You might be wondering if we will ever run out of fresh water. Our population is rapidly increasing, and most of our uses for fresh water are increasing right along with it. So, will we always have enough fresh water to go around? We will.
The Earth is very efficient when it comes to recycling its water. Every drop of water we use continues through the water cycle. Water on the ground and in lakes and streams is evaporated into the clouds, and then sent falling back down to the ground. Although we may never run out of fresh water, we still need to do our part to be sure we keep it as clean as we possibly can.
What Are Waterborne Diseases?
A waterborne disease is simply any disease that is contracted by drinking dirty or contaminated water. In under-developed countries the water is typically contaminated by human and animal feces or a general lack of sanitation. In more developed countries, it can be caused by faulty pipes, pumps, or purification facilities. It’s even possible to get a waterborne disease by eating food that was contaminated by dirty water.
Some of the most well known waterborne diseases are polio, malaria, cholera, and diarrhea. All of these diseases are serious health threats and could lead to death.
Polio attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.
When you think of malaria you probably think of mosquitos, but malaria is also a waterborne disease. Malaria is a life threatening illness that causes high fever, chills, vomiting, and even coma.
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Diarrhea may seem harmless enough, but believe it or not, in developing countries without access to modern medicine and clean drinking water, it kills about 2.2 million people per year, usually due to severe dehydration.
The most common waterborne disease that affects tourists in under-developed countries is likely travelers diarrhea. Also known as Delhi Belly or Tourist Trot, an estimated 10 million travelers are affected by it each year. The biggest risk factor to developing travelers diarrhea is your destination.
If you’re traveling to an area that has a high occurrence of waterborne diseases, do your due diligence to prepare so that you don’t contract anything while you’re on the road.
The Key Statistics
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 report on the progress of drinking water recently published its 2017 update. The report finds that in 2015, 29% of the global population (2.1 billion people) lacked safely managed drinking water services – meaning water at home, available, and safe.
This widespread inability to get safe drinking water is very serious and should not be taken lightly. Every year there are more than 3.4 million deaths from waterborne diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world.
What’s worse is that most of those deaths are young children, about 4,000 a day. At any given time, close to half of the population in the developing world are suffering from some type of waterborne disease. In 2013 to 2014, waterborne diseases caused 289 cases of illness, 108 hospitalizations, and 17 deaths in the United States.
Keep in mind these are deaths due to the effects of unsafe drinking water, most of which are completely preventable.
Keeping The Water Safe
They say it’s always better to be proactive instead of reactive, so the best thing to do to keep people from getting waterborne diseases is to use clean water. However, that’s not always as easy as it sounds. It’s estimated that 780 million people don’t have access to an improved water source.
As was already mentioned, most people have access to clean water in America. The water supply and sanitation in the United States is one of the cleanest and most regulated in the world. That being said, nothing is perfect, and Americans can still be exposed to unsafe drinking water.
As many as 63 million people, almost a fifth of the country, from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade.
Industrial dumping, farming pollution, and pipe deterioration are the main causes of the contaminated water. In some instances it took nearly two years for the issues causing the contaminated water to be resolved.
The good news is that there are things we can do to keep our water clean and safe.
Recycling items, and properly disposing of items that cannot be recycled, keeps them from getting into to our rivers and oceans to contaminate the water. Even disposing of your cigarette butts properly will go a long way toward keeping our water clean.
The best way to keep chemicals from getting into our water is to simply not use them. There are plenty of all natural, chemical free products we can use that will cause no environmental impact. From laundry detergent to window cleaner, always go natural.
Participate In Cleanup Efforts
Participate in or organize a cleanup effort. Clean up the beaches and river beds to keep trash from entering the water supply. Organizing a cleanup day with a local school will both keep the water clean and educate children on the importance of a clean water supply.
Set up a home rainwater capture system to maximize your home water use. A basic rainwater system channels water from gutters into a collection barrel. Use this water to water your flowers, wash your car, or use it to make a natural cleaning detergent.
So, how can we prevent waterborne diseases? This may seem an obvious answer, but we need to keep our water clean. Clean water is a prerequisite for reducing the spread of waterborne diseases. People need to be provided safe and sanitary ways to dispose of feces, as well as ways to store their water to keep it from becoming contaminated. Dirty water has to be disinfected to stop the growth of pathogenic organisms and to protect people’s health.
We can also think outside of the box. For example, the Kohler Clarity system is a simple, inexpensive water filtration system that removes 99% of all bacteria and protozoa in water. It can filter up to 40 liters of water per day, making it ideal for families who are struggling to find adequate clean water.
Other examples of thinking outside the box are River International and Water For Life. These charities work to provide clean water for those in developing countries who have little or no access to water supplies.
That one invention and that one charity can save millions of lives by giving them access to clean water whenever they need it. We all need to do our part.
Waterborne diseases may not get the funding or attention it should or that other diseases get, but it is a very serious illness that kills millions of people every year.
On a large scale, this is a serious issue faced by billions in developing countries without the access to resources we have in developed countries. On a smaller scale, though, people are still dying in America from drinking contaminated water, even with these resources.
Waterborne diseases are the leading cause of death around the globe, and it’s almost inexcusable. Keeping our water safe and clean to prevent the spread of disease should be a high priority. It’s time to clean the water that has been contaminated and keep our clean water safe.