Blog

Water

  • Rwanda, Water, and Me

    When I visited Rwanda, I became aware of the plight of women who have to walk miles each day to fetch water. I was aware of water and sanitation issues in developing countries on an intellectual level. But I wasn't emotionally touched by these issues until I saw first hand what that meant. 

    This is a typical house in the Rwandan countryside. It doesn't have running water. The woman of the house has to walk long distances every day to get water. She typically carries the water balanced on her head. 

    After returning from Rwanda, I vowed to do something. I decided to start this blog and dedicate myself to writing about water and related issues for one year. 

    Awareness simply won't fix the problem. It takes money. I've researched many organization and decided to promote two. Please consider making a donation either to the Blue Planet Run Foundation or Water For People.

  • Gregoria's Story

    The Kerani Water Project in Boliva, with the help of Water for People and Blue Planet Run Foundation, created a central water piping system and installed water taps for households, schools, the main square, the health center, and the cemetery.

    Gregoria Choque, one of the villagers, explains how having a water tap outside her home changed her life. She and her husband Cecilio are in the photo.

    "Before the tapstand next to my house, every day I walked about 20 – 30 minutes to a private well and then back again to get water. We had to get up at 4am to get water because later than that there would be no more water left in the well. We would bring two or three 20 litre buckets each day from the well. It was always me and my daughter who went for water but now because it is so close we all go.

    We use the water from the tapstand to drink, cook, wash clothes and personal bathing. The water is cleaner and healthier. When we used well water we had to filter it through a cloth but now with the tap stand it is not necessary. We no longer have diarrhea or stomach pains."

  • "I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel"

    Back in the 1970's R.J. Reynolds used this slogan to push their cigarettes. I doubt, however, that any cigarette smoker would have walked 6 kilometers (4 miles) for a cigarette. Yet this is the distance that women in developing countries, on average, walk to fetch water each day.

    Could you do that? A liter of water weights 2.2 pounds. How many liters of water does your family use in a day?

    In Rwanda, I saw women walking to get water. They walk bare footed, on rocky and uneven terrain. They don't have any high-tech gear from REI to distribute the weight of what they carry. They don't have a wagon to pull or a bike to ride. In fact, women typically carry loads on their heads. The average load being 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

    I took this photo in Tanzania. You can get an idea of the sort of loads women carry.

  • Moussa's Story

    Moussa Samake is from Dialakoroba, in Mali. Trained as a hygiene specialist, he ensures that the new village wells are being kept properly and also teaches people about good hygiene practices.

    He describes his important job:

    "I go around the wells to check that they are clean and that the buckets are hung up properly. If a well is not clean then we will call the committee members to come and clean it (each well has a committee of two women and one man)."

    "In the afternoon I go to visit families. I have pictures explaining hygiene and sanitation – how to wash hands and how to use and clean latrines. I use pictures as they have more impact. I show them pictures of good and bad hygiene and explain why children need to wash their hands before they eat and why food should be stored in covered containers. I tell people they should cover latrines otherwise flies will come and spread dirt around and make them sick. Most people accept the practices but others are reticent until they know what it is about. But it is not only one session – I go every day! I am very patient and explain things a lot of times."

    "Before this project it was like any other village here but now everyone uses latrines and it is clean. Before we had open wells and just after the rainy season we had outbreaks of cholera."

    "I like my job very much. I am getting a salary and I am from this village—there is nothing better than helping your own people."

  • Yaws, It's Not a Typo

    You might be thinking I mean Yawn or Jaws, but I really mean Yaws. It's a disease that children in tropical areas can get. Caused by a bacteria, yaws starts out with a sore where the bacterial infection started. Children get lesions and develop inflamed bones and fingers. If not treated, the child's skin and bones can be destroyed and disfigured.

    The good news is that yaws can be cured by penicillin if you treat it early. One shot would have prevented the man in this picture from a life of disfigurement. Can you imagine? The fact is that poor people in developing countries often can't get the treatment. They simply don't have access to health care.

    Why do children in the tropics get this disease in the first place? Overcrowding, poor personal hygiene, and poor sanitation.  Without adequate access to water, it's difficult to have good personal hygiene and sanitation.

    You have the power to help stop yaws and other diseases related to lack of water and sanitation.

  • Every Water Source Contaminated

    Startling, isn't it. But I ran across this short article about Haiti's water:

    "Nearly every water source in Haiti – rivers, streams, springs and wells – is contaminated with human waste and disease. There are no public sewage treatment or disposal systems anywhere in the country – even in the large cities. The result is a tragedy."

    See: Innovative System to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Developing Countries (The photo is from that article)

    One of the most tireless workers in Haiti is Dr. Paul Farmer whose organization Partners in Health fights disease in Haiti and other countries. A great read about Dr. Farmer's work is Mountains Beyond Mountains. Dr. Farmer points out how important living conditions—water, sanitation, and food—are to staving off disease. His story shows how one person can make a difference. Partners in Health is another extremely worthwhile group to give to. You can make a difference! A mere $100 can purify water of a household that doesn't have access to clean water

  • Cholera: If it's preventable, why are people dying from it?

    "Cholera is a waterborne disease resulting from inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Despite efforts to keep its spread under control, cholera remains a serious disease in many parts of the world." Center for Disease Control.

    Dr. Eric Mintz says:

    "Inexcusably, the completely preventable ancient scourge of cholera rages among poverty-stricken and displaced people today, with as many as one in five persons with severe illness dying for lack of safe drinking water and sanitation and a simple therapy consisting of salt, sugar, and water. Cholera, a dreaded waterborne disease of centuries past, remains a troubling barometer — and often a fatal consequence — of inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation." Lion in Our Village - The Unconscionable Tragedy of Cholera in Africa

    That's right, over a century and a half ago, a physician in London discovered water transmitted cholera. In the late 1800's a Bristish civil engineer figured out a way to engineer the water system to prevent cholera. So why are we still living with the disease? It's very inexpensive to prevent. A small donation to the Blue Planet Run Foundation or Water for People will help alleviate the suffering you see in the photo. That image (credit to Medindia.com) shows two very ill children from a cholera outbreak in India.

  • Bintu's Story

    Bintu Kamara lives in Myla Village, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is located between Guinea and Liberia, on the western coast of Africa. For only $7,500 US, 700 children can now get clean drinking water. Read how this has changed her life. Then donate to Blue Planet Run Foundation to help fund another project like this. You can make a difference.

    "I am Bintu Kamara and I am an 11 years old girl living at Lower Allentown near the Faith-in-Christ Primary School where I attend class 5."

    "I'm the youngest of 7 children, all living in the same house. I used to fetch water from a stream very far away and a steep slope - an every-morning chore before I go to school. Every child in the neighbourhood had to do so before and after school. We also had to fetch water for the school to provide drinking water."

    "The stream is also used for laundry and other purposes, so it is dirty. The stream is polluted by a lot of garbage. It is not surprising though that so many people in this community so often have problems with their health, especially in the days when there is a cholera outbreak."

    "A few weeks ago the rainwater harvesting tank at our school was completed, and so the situation changed. For laundry and bathing we still go down to the stream, but for drinking I now have pure and clean water from the tank. By that we don’t have to take the dangerous and straining way to the stream upon us so often every day. Everyone in the community pays a little to a committee, which maintains the pump, the tank and the supply of water."

    "I still have to go to the stream for laundry and bathing like all my neighbours. However, our health is much better now and we have more energy and time for school work."

  • A Thousand Children Will Die in The Next 24 Hours

    Would you be shocked if I told you that 1,000 children in your town were going to die in the next 24 hours due to unsafe drinking water unless something was done immediately? What would you do if you also knew that $200 would fix the issue? If you are like most people, you would probably spring into action to help your community, either by donating money or labor to fix the situation. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you are unlikely to run into this scenario. But for many children in the southern hemisphere, death due to unsafe drinking water is a reality.

    Even though these children are not in your neighborhood, you can help them by donating to Blue Planet Run Foundation to improve water and sanitation in developing countries.

    See Lighter Footstep.

  • The Pipe Filter

    The water crisis is so far reaching that it's just not possible to dig a well and get clean water to everyone who needs it. At least not all at the same moment. The pipe filter is a low-cost solution that allows people to drink from contaminated water sources without getting sick. Using a pipe filter, you can avoid guinea worm and other diseases.

    Life Straw is one of the pipe filters that's being widely distributed to people who can't get clean water. It has been hailed as an innovation of the year, perhaps the century. Check out how it works. You can also find out how to use it at Point of Use Technologies, an organization that promotes the use of products that reduce illness without requiring infrastructure.

    Two boys use a pipe filter. (Photo from Point of Use Technologies.) Would you drink from this water source?

  • The Lethal Quench

    People in Bangladesh were plagued by waterborne diseases until several groups came to their aid by drilling groundwater wells. Although cholera and other diseases diminished, other problems started within a few years. People complained of patchy skin, stomach pains, gangrene, and the incidence of cancer increased. What was happening? Arsenicosis. Here is an advanced case of arsenic poisoning, China. (Photo courtesy of USGS.)

    Bangladesh and a number of other Asian countries have naturally occurring arsenic in their groundwater. A recent field study ("Scientists solve puzzle of arsenic-poisoning crisis in Asia") investigated why. Bacteria turns out to be a culprit. When robbed of oxygen, these bacteria "breathe" using rust, arsenic, and other chemicals. The process of using the arsenic converts the arsenic into a form that dissolves easily in water.

    "Every day, more than 140 million people in southern Asia drink groundwater contaminated with arsenic. Thousands of people in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar and Vietnam die of cancer each year from chronic exposure to arsenic, according to the World Health Organization."

  • Nanosponges for Water Cleanup?

    In 1997, Los Alamos National Laboratory announced a polymer-based material that cleans up water. As its name suggests, a nanosponge works on a molecular level. It is not really a sponge; it was so-named because it "soaks up" organic contaminants from water.

    That was 12 years ago.

    A few weeks ago nanosponges made it into the news as a possible solution for cleaning up South Africa's water. The country currently uses conventional purification treatments for coolant water from power plant turbines. But they aren't enough. South Africa water is also polluted from mining activities, sewage, and phosphorous fertilizer runoff.

    The nanosponge—still expensive and unproven as a long term solution—is reusable and responds to molecular charges instead of just filtering. Because they can be created to target specific polltant, they are described as "smart" sponges.

    But is this the perfect solution for water purification? Read Nanosponges: South Africa's high hopes for clean water and decide for yourself.

  • Madagascar Children Under 5 Have a 50% Chance of Dying of Diarrhea

    "Because most schools in Madagascar have no access to running water, lack of hygiene and sanitation have become a major problem for children on the Southern African island. Many pupils fall sick regularly, are unable to attend classes and hence don't perform well at school." Fanja Saholiarisoa

    I recommend reading this article: Madagascar: Education Hampered By Lack of Clean Water.

    Help bring water to children. Donate to Blue Planet Run Foundation.

  • Q Drum: Reinventing the Wheel

    Women in developing countries fetch water, carrying heavy loads on their head. Whenever I've seen women carry such weighty parcels, I've wondered how they do it. If I put that much weight on my head, I am sure several things would happen:

    • My neck would break
    • I'd sustain a back injury
    • I'd fall over

    My traveling companions think that if you start out as a small child carrying such loads, that you get used to it. Used to it or not, who wants to spend a good part of their day just to fetch water, and the water might not even be clean! I've done my fair share of fetching water when I've gone backpacking. It's charming for about a week or two. Then it gets tiresome.

    Piet Hendriske thought there had to be a better way to carry water. So much so, that he took time off from his career as an architect to design a new water-fetching container called Q Drum. You've got to check out the Q Drum website. It's amazing! (Photo courtesy of Q Drum.)

    The Q Drum is a drum with a longitudinal shaft through it. You thread a rope through the shaft and start pulling. The drum rolls behind you. No more neck strain! What a great idea.

    Now the bad news. Each Q Drum costs $30 to produce, which makes is unaffordable for the people who need this the most. How can we get this marvelous invention to those who need it? Make a donation to Blue Planet Run Foundation.

    Hear Piet Hendriske talk about Q Drum. See it in action by watching this video produced by Tri-Film Productions.

  • A Water Technopreneur

    What do you get when you cross a researcher with an entrepreneur? A technopreneur. That describes Dr. Andrew Benedek, who won the first Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize in March, 2008. Dr. Benedek develops low-pressure membranes that can filter the contaminants out of highly polluted water.

    The membranes have all sorts of applications, one of which is to create low cost water treatment to small villages that need water.

  • Rhoda's Story

    The Litchenza Samuti and Chamasowa Project in Malawi helped 1,500 people (300 families) get drinkable water. A child in Chamasowa Village tells how the project helped her.

    "My name is Rhoda Chiputu, I am 10 years old. I come from Chamasowa Village and am in Standard 3 at Chamasowa Primary School.

    "Before the construction of the borehole here at Likoto in Chamasowa Village, we used to fetch drinking water from an unprotected well, which was very inconsistent in terms of the flow of water. People used to crowd over there, spending more time on water collection. Sometimes the well could go dry and people had to wait for the water to start flowing again. Other people resorted to drawing water from the nearby river. In addition, during rainy seasons the well used to get mixed with run-off water with a lot of turbidity, dirt and waste. The children regularly suffered from diarrhoea; which resulted in high absenteeism from school and, hence, poor performance."

    Rhoda nearly dropped out from school in 2005 as her friends used to laugh at her in class due to her poor performance. Most of the days, Rhoda could not do her home work because she had no time, as she spent most of her afternoons helping her mother fetch water.

    "Now that there is a borehole in my community, the scarce potable water has become easily accessible; the distance to the water source has been much reduced; and this rainy season I have not suffered from diarrhea. I now spend less time collecting water than before and have more time to do my homework and concentrate in school. My performance is improving."

    You can help other project like this by donating to Blue Planet Run Foundation.

  • Leptospirosis

    Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that you can catch after being exposed to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. If you wash laundry or bathe in infected water, you are risking infection. If you don't wear shoes around water in tropical areas, you are at risk. As you might imagine, people who don't have running water or a safe source of water for drinking and washing are at a big risk of getting leptospirosis.

    What does it do to you? High fever, headache, chills, red eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, skin hemorrhages, bleeding of the lungs, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash.

    Researchers at Cornell are hoping to develop a vaccine. Read about how they identified a key protein in the leptospirosis bacterium.

  • A Hundred Years Ago and Some Things Aren't Better

    A few days ago I received email about what it was like 100 years ago. Meant to be amusing, it listed many facts that were true in 1909 but are absurd to most US citizens today. See 100 Years Ago in America. The fact list starts out by saying ... "This will boggle your mine, I know it did mine..."

    After I read the email, I wrote the following back to the person who sent it to me:

    "What boggles my mind is that in the year 2009:

    1 billion people wordwide (1 in 6) do not have access to clean water.
    1.8 million children die every year from waterborne diseases, including diarrhea.
    40 billion hours are spent each year in Africa to fetch and haul water
    The top THREE leading killers of children are penumonia, diarrhea, and malaria

    How can we let this go on?"

    Diarrhea was listed as one of the leading causes of death in 1909. Many people find that absurd, but is it still true today. 

    It is amazing that while we are doing extremely well in the USA there are people around the world struggling as much or more than those in 1909.

  • Blue Planet Run Foundation

    Blue Planet Run Foundation is kind of a strange name for a group that raises money to get safe drinking water to those in need. 

    "You ain't gonna miss your water 'til the well runs dry." ~ Bob Marley

    The "Run" part of BPRF has to do with an around-the-world running event in 2007 that kicked off Blue Planet Run Foundation. (Even Hilary Swank promoted the run.) Since then, many people undertake athletic endurance events to raise money for BPRF.

    I'm raising money for them too, but I'm not doing an athletic event. I ran five marathons in the past to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. It is quite a commitment of time and energy.

    Writing a blog is also a big time commitment, but it doesn't make me collapse face first on the bed at night in total exhaustion. Fortunately Blue Planet Run Foundation isn't just about running. HOWEVER if someone out there donates a big enough chunk of money to BPRF in my name, I just might be persuaded to do another endurance event, even if I have to crawl.

  • Bishnupada Kanjilal's Story: Getting Arsenic-safe Drinking Water

    This story is from Blue Planet Run Foundation, about Project Well:

    In her home state of West Bengal, India, arsenic is slowly poisoning the population. They are unknowingly consuming it in the crystal clear water from shallow tube wells originally constructed to prevent gastrointestinal diseases. The water contains high levels of arsenic, leading to serious health and social problems for residents. For example, arsenic poisoning causes cancer, skin lesions and, ultimately, death. Women with skin changes due to arsenic are sent back to their parents' house and their husbands are remarrying.

    Project Well educates communities about the effects of arsenic poisoning, has the community assemble around the issue to select a site to donate for construction of a well, notifies local government and ensures long term community ownership in the project. Bishnupada uses a manual pump to get clean drinking water. (Photo from Blue Planet Run Foundation.)

    Mrs. Kanjilal says that the dugwell water is arsenic safe hence they have agreed to have one constructed in their premises for the community. They have started using the earthen filter that they appreciate a lot. They have noticed that they do not get any stomach problems, such as wind, any more.

  • What About Blue? Lake Itasca to New Orleans

    On July 20, 2009, three kayakers—Kevin Lilly, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan—will embark on a 2300 mile journey on the Mississippi River. Kevin, Danielle, and Brian are traversing the length of the Mississippi to raise awareness and money for the global water crisis. The funds will go towards preserving US waterways and also to build wells for people in developing countries. They named their nonprofit What About Blue in response to all the attention given to thinking "green."

    The Mississippi is the second longest river in the USA, only 200 miles shorter than the Missouri. The Mississippi headwaters are in Lake Itasca, one of the many, many lakes in Minnesota. In the 1930's, the Civilian Conservation Corps moved the channel of water that starts the Mississippi to improve the tourists' experience! The CCC added a rapids for visitors to wade across. If you want to cross the Mississippi, this is the easiest place to do it.

    Lake Itasca isn't too far from the town of Bemidji, which houses a statue of Paul Bunyan. If you want to send off the What About Blue kayakers on July 20th, make sure you stop in Bemidji to catch a glimpse of Paul! If you can't make the send-off, consider giving them a donation.

  • Sandra's Story

    Sandra is 25 years old. She was born in Masiguito, into a large family of 8. At the age of 13 she married her husband Martin. Martin is a respected community leader and a subsistence farmer who grows corn and beans on small plots of land near the village. They have two sons, ages 12 and 4. They live in a comfortable wooden house which Martin built for his family and his mother.

    Sandra is a member of the committee which organized and supervised the water project in Masiguito, that Blue Planet helped to finance, and she and all of her neighbors worked every day on the project during its construction, digging the ditches and laying the pipe from the spring to the houses. She continues as an active member of the committee, serving as treasurer and collecting a small sum each month from each family, to have a fund ready to pay for any needed repairs. Here is Sandra with her two children at a newly installed water spigot. (Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Run Foundation.)

    Prior to the water project, Sandra walked for 20 minutes downhill from her house to an open stream to collect water in a clay jug and carry it back on her shoulder. Her two sons accompanied her, carrying smaller water jugs. She reports that it took about 40 minutes to walk back uphill, not only because of the weight of the water on her shoulder but also because the children went more slowly. She made this trip several times every morning, and several times every afternoon. Since the project was completed, she has a spigot in her back yard which delivers clean water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She no longer spends 4 or 5 hours a day carrying water. Sandra has gone back to school, and now (2 years after the project) is in 2nd year of high school, studying on Saturdays at the Adult School in the village of La Calamidad, 4 kilometers away. She walks the 4 km each way every Saturday because she does not have money for the bus. But now she has time.

    She also has time to grow a few vegetables in the back yard near the spigot, protecting the plants from her flock of hens with wire and thorny branches. She also has time now for the activities of her church, a small Catholic chapel serving the two sectors of the community of Masiguito. She attends services, workshops, and special events at the church, which she was not able to do before.

    Sandra represented El Porvenir, and Blue Planet Run water projects, at the UN in New York in July of 2006.

    "Thanks to you, I am now able to go to school and educate myself."

  • Blinding Trachoma: Eliminated by 2020?

    Water shortage doesn't cause trachoma, but it, along with flies, poor hygiene, and crowded living, create the conditions that promote this debilitating disease. WHO defines the disease:

    "Trachoma is one of the oldest infectious diseases known to mankind. It is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis – a microorganism which spreads through contact with eye discharge from the infected person (on towels, handkerchiefs, fingers, etc.) and through transmission by eye-seeking flies. After years of repeated infection, the inside of the eyelid may be scarred so severely that the eyelid turns inward and the lashes rub on the eyeball, scarring the cornea (the front of the eye). If untreated, this condition leads to the formation of irreversible corneal opacities and blindness."

    This photo (Photo courtesy of WHO. ) shows the corneal opacity caused by blinding trachoma.

    Trachoma affects 80 million people who live in the poorest and most remote rural areas of 56 countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Australia and the Middle East. WHO's "SAFE" strategy for eliminating the disease by 2020 consists of eye lid Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and changing the Environment.

  • Elena and Zaqueo's Story

    Zaqueo and Elena are grateful that their school's hand washing station will be repaired soon, as only two taps are working properly. They also comment on the insufficient hand washing possibilities for the pre-primary children (ages 4-6) – they can not reach the taps because they are too high for them and therefore rarely wash their hands after using the toilets or before eating. Furthermore, they also drew our attention to the leaking flush toilets for the pre-primary students causing the students clothing and feet to get soaked. (Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Run.)

    Elena and Zaqueo thank Team Blue and the children in the US for their help.

    Elena Brito Kujutch is 13 years old and a 6th grade student at the “Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Kanaquil” in the village of Kanaquil. She lives together with her grandmother and her aunt in Kanaquil, her parents and her 5 brothers and sisters (3 younger and 2 older) live in the village of Tzalbal, about 10km away in direction of the municipal capital Nebaj. After completing 3rd grade in Tzalbal she moved to lived with her grandmother in Kanaquil. They share a one-room house made of wood, with an earth floor and a separate kitchen. The kitchen is equipped with an improved stove and the house counts with its own water tap and latrine.

    Elena enjoys studying very much and her favorite subject is Mathematics. After completing the 6th grade she would like to continue studying in secondary school to become a teacher later on.

    Elena’s typical school day starts at 6am, when she gets up to help with preparing breakfast. School starts at 7:30am and during the 10am till 10:30am recess she takes care of the mixtamal (cooked maize ready to get ground) and takes it to the mill. She says she can do that because she lives very close to the school. School ends at 12:30 and she heads home to have lunch and to do her homework. Some days she meets with her friends to play.

    Elena’s classmate Zaqueo Emeterio Raymundo Lunes is also 13 years old. He has two older brothers and two older sisters. His grandparents are already dead. He and his family live in a traditional adobe house with a cement floor. They share one room and have a separate kitchen. The kitchen has no stove, cooking takes place over an open fire. The house is connected to the local water system and has its own washing station (pila) and counts with a latrine.

    Zaqueo also likes studying a lot and would like to continue after having finished primary school. His favorite subject is also Mathematics and he would like to become a bank accountant.

    His school day normally starts at 6:30am, he has breakfast and walks to school. After school and lunch he and his brothers usually help his father in the corn field (milpa). Whenever he has some spare time, he plays football with his friends.

  • Drinking Water From the Air?

    Science Daily recently published an article that discusses "mining" the air for water. Here's a summary of the process, which was invented by Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB:

    "... hygroscopic brine – saline solution which absorbs moisture – runs down a tower-shaped unit and absorbs water from the air. It is then sucked into a tank a few meters off the ground in which a vacuum prevails. Energy from solar collectors heats up the brine, which is diluted by the water it has absorbed"

    This sounds too expensive and equipment-intensive to be useful for people in developing countries. But who knows? (Photo courtesy of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.)

    (Thanks to Greg Laden for suggesting this story.)

  • Nematodes: The Thread-like Ones

    More 15,000 species of nematodes are parasitic. Nematoda, from Ancient Greek, means "thread-like ones." I suppose a small, thin worm is like a thread. Unfortunately, the human parasitic species -- like ascarsis shown in the photo -- is not as innocuous as a thread. Intestinal nematode infections account for almost half of the malnutrition in the world. (Photo courtesy of the Orange County Public Health Laboratory, Santa Ana, CA.)

    Adult female worms can grow to be almost a foot in length. Imagine a bundle of these things in your intestines eating the nourishment you supply. They are going to grow, and you won't. It's rare that you would ever get this disease in the USA. But children in tropical an subtropical areas are at great risk if they drink unclean water, have inadequate sanitation, or poor hygiene.

    Over a billion people are walking around with these worms. You can make a difference by donating to Blue Planet Run Foundation. Clean water is needed for good hygience.

  • Blue Gold: The Most Precious Natural Resource of All

    In Africa, nearly two-thirds of the population who live in rural areas, lacks an adequate water supply.

    Larry Edelson's article "A Crisis Beyond Comprehension" provides an overview on the world water crisis.

    Here's the first section of his article:

    No, I’m not talking about the global financial crisis. Nor am I talking about the AIG disaster … Citibank’s failure … the collapse of GM or Ford. I’m not even referring to the Dow’s recent plunge to below 7,000.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am not minimizing the financial crisis that’s affecting people all over the world.

    I just don’t want anyone to forget about a crisis that’s killing 12 million people per year, including 10,000 children per day.

    I’m talking about the worst crisis of all time, the intense and critical shortage of water … pure fresh water. What I call “blue gold” — a term I coined back in 2004 to describe one of the most precious natural resources of all and to help motivate others to take notice of the growing crisis.

    Festering for years, sadly, the world’s water crisis is now getting worse by the day. And the global financial and credit crisis is merely one reason why.

    Another is the ongoing modernization of major parts of the world, which continues despite the world’s financial meltdown. This is increasing demand for water, while at the same time polluting it.

    Yet another is major droughts around the world, including in our own back yard, where 60 percent of the U.S. is officially experiencing a drought. In fact, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency just last weekend due to the state’s now three-year running water crisis, its worst on record.

    Neither Wall Street nor Washington is doing much about the water crisis. Even the recent infrastructure spending bill has largely ignored it … allocating only $6 billion over the next 20 years to water projects.

    And the rest of the world isn’t doing much either. All told, I count less than $80 billion in spending going toward saving the lives of those who are dying from lack of water.

    Continue reading this excellent article


    This excerpt was republished from Monday and Markets under the agreement of providing attribution to the author (Larry Edelson) and this paragraph:

    "This investment news is brought to you by Money and Markets. Money and Markets is a free daily investment newsletter from Martin D. Weiss and Weiss Research analysts offering the latest investing news and financial insights for the stock market, including tips and advice on investing in gold, energy and oil. Dr. Weiss is a leader in the fields of investing, interest rates, financial safety and economic forecasting. To view archives or subscribe, visit http://www.moneyandmarkets.com."

  • Teacher Turns Pencils Into Water

    Blue Planet Run applauds a genius idea from teacher, Tina Adwar. She models great behavior for her students while saving lives. Here she is with her students from Newfield High School in Selden, NY.

    Tina says:

    "I am an Earth Science teacher at Newfield High School in Selden, NY. My students are required to have pencils for lab work, graphing etc. I used to be frustrated at the number of students who did not have a pencil on any given day."

    "For the past two years, I have turned a negative into a positive."

    "Students who forget their pencils buy one from me for 10 cents. When we reach $15, I match the money and we buy bricks to line a well through Blue Planet Run Foundation. So far this year we have made two $30 donations. Last year we made three. Students understand where the money is going because I show them the videos on your website. It's been a great learning experience for the students to realize the need for water in other places in the world."

    You too can use your genius to raise money to bring clean water to developing countries.

  • Water For People

    WFP uses local resources to solve water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. They work in Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi, and West Bengal, India. A lot of their donations come from water-related industry groups such as the American Water Works Association, National Association of Water Companies, and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. They also get many generous donations from people like you.

    They fund projects only in communities that are committed to contributing in-kind labor and funding. For a project to be successful, the community must help plan, implement, and maintain the water and sanitation system. Ongoing maintenance and education is important. That’s why I like WTP — it puts into place processes that ensure continued success.

    Another feature of WTP projects is that women must be involved in the project. That’s because women in developing countries are usually the ones who have the burden of finding and carrying water for their families.

    They have a terrific website. Check it out.

  • Yes, It is okay to pee in the shower!

    GEORGE: Aha. Aha. Could it be because you don't want him to know that you have a friend who pees in the shower, is that it?!

    ELAINE: No, that's not it!

    Bathroom with toilet is the kind of shower that George Costanza would love. Demotech, a Netherlands organization, promotes unique solutions to improve lives. They propose a family unit bathroom that can accommodate bathing and sanitation. (Drawing by Demotech.)

    But wait—what's so unique about that? I have two of those "units." You probably have at least one as well. Many people in developing countries don't have indoor plumbing. They walk to fetch water and use an outhouse or maybe even the great outdoors to relieve themselves. The family unit that Demotech proposes is basically a closet-size area where you an throw a bucket of water over your head but you can also remove the drain screen and pee or poop down the same pipe used for the bathing water. George Costanza would be welcome here!

  • Design Challenge: Tip Tap Tips

    A Tip Tap is a low cost water "tap". It has two major parts:

    • A water container that can be tipped easily
    • A drainage area

    You can download a PDF that describes the basic design here: http://cowfiles.com/resources/pdf/How_to_make_a_tip_tap.pdf 

    Hy2U (Hygiene to you) promotes making beautiful water bags. If you think the basic Tip Tap design is a bit drab, it's time to get inspired! Ditch the plastic container and get out a sewing needle. Take a look at these water bag designs. Here is one from Demotech:

    The Tip Taps might be a fun project for you to try out. But in Africa and other developing countries a Tip Tap is quite practical. It helps people keep their hands clean. Clean hands are important to good health, especially in places that don't have clean water running out of a water tap like people in the USA have. That's why building Tip Taps is part of Send-a-Cow training.

  • FLOW: The Scariest Movie at Sundance

    If you are looking for a movie to watch this weekend, consider FLOW? Wired bills is as the scariest movie at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie is available on iTunes and Netflix.

    Flow is about the world water crisis, what's causing it, and some possible solutions. You'll also find out about the politics of water and why people should not be able to sell water. That's like selling air, isn't it?

    Here is an excerpt from a review posted on Boing Boing:

    "Global water profiteering is at the center of a global healthcare crisis that kills more people than AIDS or malaria. The film shows the grim reality of water in Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the USA. The mortality is awful, and not just from bad water or no water -- also from police forces in states like Bolivia who go to war against people whose water supply has been sold to foreign multinationals who are reaping windfall profits while they die." (Written by Cory Doctorow)

  • Play, Pump, and Drink

    Playing and pumping water happen at the same time with the PlayPump. It's a simple idea. The PlayPump looks like a "merry-go-round" but it's really a water pump. When kids ride on it, the PlayPump pumps water into a storage tank that's big enough to serve 2,500 people water. So far, 1,000 of there pumps have been installed in Africa. Usually a PlayPump is installed near a school, where there is a ready supply of children! (Adults can spin it too!)

    Each system costs $14,000 to install and get running. Africa needs thousands more of these pumps, so PlayPump is looking for people to help raise money. Become a Water Hero! Sponsor a PlayPump Water System.

  • Water Hero and Peace Jammer: Samuel Wonsover

    Every year, Dr. Johnston, a Professor at Parkland College in Champaign, IL, requires his students to present a persuasive speech on a charity organization. One student, 19 year old Samuel Wonsover, is interested in all things that help the world. A few years ago, he attended the Denver Peace Jam Conference where he learned about Blue Planet Run.

    "I really dig what you guys are doing so I decided to write my speech on it. We are fortunate in America. We have access to water in incredible amounts while some people do not have access at all. I appreciate my sink, water fountain, showers, dishwasher, pool, and water. I wrote the speech to get people to think about how fortunate we are and to help Blue Planet Run." After all the speeches were delivered, Dr. Johnston’s class voted for Blue Planet Run. The class donated $302

  • Getting Water From Sand

    Have you ever gone to the beach and dug into the sand until you hit water? Sand traps water that's easy to get to. Sand is easy to dig. That's how to get water from sand. If only you could do that in a dry place like Africa. You can!

    This video explains what a sand dam is. If you watch to the end, you'll actually see an African community building a dam. Then you'll know how to build one too!

    Many places in Africa have dry river beds. During the rainy season, the river is full. All that water rushes to the ocean. When the water sweeps along, it brings with it sand. During the dry season, water is scarce.

    It's possible to build a dam in such a way that lets water travel to the ocean but traps the sand. After 2 or 3 seasons, the sand builds up behind the dam. When the rainy season comes, a lot of the water gets trapped in the sand. The trapped water remains through the dry season. People can either dig into the sand to harvest the water, or use a pipe that's tapped into the side of the dam.

    It still seems like a lot of work to have to walk to the dam and harvest the water but there are two benefits:

    1. When you get to the dam you are pretty much guaranteed to find water.
    2. The sand acts as a filter, keeping the water clean.
  • Stay Clear of Cyanobacterial Shakes!

    This glass is filled with a type of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) that secrete toxins into water. This stuff can make you—and any animals that drink the water—very sick. It causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, eye irritation, earaches, sore throats, and more. Prolonged exposure can cause liver cancer. (Photo courtesy of Citizendium.)

    If you live in the USA, it's pretty easy to avoid cyanobacteria. Don't swim in, or drink, water that has algae blooming in it. People in a developing country might not be able to avoid contact with blue-green algae. Not everyone is as lucky to have fresh water taps in their homes as we are in the USA.

    See WHO if you want more information on cyanobacteria.

  • Should corporations bottle air and sell it back to us to breathe?

    That sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it? However that is exactly what is happening to another resource that all people must have to survive on this planet—water. Bottled water. It's all over the place—for a fee. Where does it come from?

    Norlex Holdings in Australia plans to bore into the water resources of the small town of Bundanoon. They'll take the water to Sydney by truck, then bottle the water in Sydney, and truck it to stores to sell it for a profit. All this in a country where tap water is readily available and basically the same as what's in the Norlex bottle.

    The town of Bundanoon wants to stop Norlex. Although they have been protesting for quite some time, they recently decided to try a new strategy. They banned bottle water. They are promoting Bundy on Tap. Visitors to the town are encouraged to fill their own container with delicious Bundanoon tap water.

    Here is an excerpt from th Bundanoon website:

    "The Norlex water extraction issue has galvanized our local community like no other issue in recent times. Norlex plans to truck water to Sydney for bottling and sale at great profit to them but no economic or social benefit to Bundanoon. This, along with much recent media coverage, got some us of thinking. Could we make Bundanoon Australia's First Bottled Water Free Town?"

    "One of the Directors of Norlex told me that they wanted to put Bundanoon on the map. On the map for all the wrong reasons. On the map for our part in an industry that, by any measure, represents all that is wrong with consumerism and marketing. An industry that Clean Up Australia has described as a global environmental disaster and that was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘The New Social Poison'. There is even Calm; bottled water for dogs infused with flower essences."

    "Some facts:
    • Some 400,000 barrels of oil annually are used to manufacture the plastic that goes into the bottles that slake Australia's thirst for bottled water
    • Only 30% of these bottles are recycled
    • In 2008 Australians were expected to spend more than $450 million on packaged water
    • The average price of bottled water is $2.53/litre against 1 cent/per litre for tap water
    • The beverage industry loves bottled water because the costs of producing it are minimal. Just think of the ingredients in bottled water!
    • We in Bundanoon have a fine product called Bundanoon Natural Tap Water!"

    "How about we put Bundanoon on the map for some good reasons? How about we make Bundanoon Australia's First Bottled Water Free Town. It would offer so many positives for the town. Showing we care about our local environment and the global environment, reducing the landfill contribution of plastic bottles, reducing littering of our town and very importantly it would add to the positive image of Bundanoon. An image of a friendly place to live or visit, a great place to walk or cycle, a Tidy Town with an active, concerned community."

    Read the recent BBC News article about Bundanoon.

    This blog offers an alternative opinion on the motivation of the townspeople of Bundanoon. Judge for yourself.

    Don't know where Bundanoon is? Check out this map.

  • Running the Sahara: 111 Days; 4,300 Miles

    "On February 20, Charlie, Ray and Kevin touched the Red Sea, just a few hours before sunset. Their quest had lasted 111 days and taken them through 6 countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt. By the team's daily GPS record, they had traveled over 4,300 miles (6,920 kilometers). They fought through injury and extreme fatigue to reach their goal, which changed them forever."

    Charlie Engle meets the children of a local village. (Photograph by Don Holtz.)

    Read the full account of this amazing story!

    Matt Damon narrated the movie about this incredibly physically demanding adventure of three men and their team. Check out the movie trailer on YouTube

  • Change Starts Here

    Change Starts Here is the PeaceJam motto.

    The Dharamshala Water Project sponsored by Peace Jam wants to give equal access to water for people living in the slums of Dharamshala. The project is in its initial phases, having starting this past May. The photo was taken by Penpa, one of the project members. You can see more photos and check on the progress of the project by going to the project page.

    This project is just one example of a Global Call to Action project. If you have an idea, you too can start a project. PeaceJam provides details on how to start a project.

    When you get a project going, you can list it on PeaceJam. Check it out!

  • The Moon, Dolphins, and Kevin Lily

    What do these three images have in common? The beings in each image are smiling! Although that might be true, the commonality I want to point out is water.

    Today is the 40th anniversary of the USA landing on the moon. Where are you going to get drinking water on a trip to the moon? You have to bring it with you. How are you going to make sure that the water doesn't grow nasty things in it during the trip? NASA invented silver ion technology to keep water pure for the astronauts on the 1969 Moon mission. That brings me to the dolphin.

    Dolphins do not tolerate chlorine. It causes their skin to rot. Dolphins in captivity need to be in chlorine-free pools. NASA's invention of silver ion technology for the Moon mission is now used to purify pool water for captive Dolphins. Silver-ion technology kills bacteria and algae. The resulting pool water exceeds the EPA standards for drinking water. Dolphins held captive for research no longer need to worry about chlorine rotting their skin. And that brings me to the third image—Kevin Lily.

    Similar to dolphins, Kevin and two friends (Danielle Katz and Brian Coggan) are mammals who will be spending a lot of time in the water over the next few months. Kevin's group left Bemidji, Minnesota today to travel the length of the Mississippi River. They are raising money for local, national and international charities working to alleviate the global water crisis. Their quest ends on October 10, 2009 at the 11th Annual Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans, LA. Check out their website.

  • What's it like to be a 16 year old in Uganda?

    Sixteen year old Ajemo Catherine has a six month old baby called Acedu-Lawrence and lives with her husband's family in a small compound in Dokoro, Uganda. They have two bulls, five goats and grow millet for bread and cassava as a stable food.

    Ajemo-Catherine gets up at around 6am every day and after a wash she sweeps the house and sets off to the nearby well to make her first collection of water. The well is called Ocor-Irionion and was built by the community with support from WaterAid. She is pleased to have clean water for her baby as she knows without it he wouldn't be healthy.

    After carrying this water home she does some work in the fields tending the crops. Breakfast isn't until around 12am when she eats some cassava or pumpkin. After this she carries on working in the fields with her baby on her back. The next task is to collect firewood before lunch which is about 3pm. She then has a short rest. On Saturdays Catherine does the washing. She also has weekly trips to the market. Evenings are spent having a meal and talking until going to bed.

    This story is from the WaterAid website. Visit them to find out more and to donate

  • What's it like to be a 4 year old in Tanzania?

    Four year old Amina carries five litres of water back to her home in Kibaya Town in Tanzania. The container is very heavy and she has to keep putting it down on the floor as she finds it hard to carry. Fortunately she doesn't have far to walk.

    Carrying water was described as Amina's education as she was learning to be a woman. In Tanzania, as in many developing countries, women and children are responsible for collecting their family's water and children often start this job at a very early age.

    There are three schools in her town but education is not free and many poor families like Amina's can't afford to send their children to school.

    This story is from the WaterAid website. Visit them to find out more and to donate.

  • Week 1: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. One of their stops this week was Cass Lake.

    Cass Lake is not only a lake, but it's a chain of 8 lakes. Cass Lake is 15,596 acres. It has more then 26 miles of shoreline, and is as deep as 120 feet. I hope Kevin has a fishing pole, because this lake is packed with Walley, Perch, and Northern Pike. Interestingly it's second to Leech Lake in the number of Muskies caught annually. Leech Lake is where my brother got married a few years ago! So I know the area. Minnesota lakes are spectacular. In that part of the country it feels as if there is more water than land!

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, an internatoinal chrities working to alleviate teh Global Water Crisis, including conervation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Read Kevin's blog First 5 days, Pizza Night, Camp Unistar & Bemidji State Beavers!.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Blue Gold World Water Wars: Will We Survive?

    I highly recommend the film Blue Gold: World Water Wars. Take a look at the trailer.

    "Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars."

    "We follow numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water, from court cases to violent revolutions to U.N. conventions to revised constitutions to local protests at grade schools. As Maude Barlow proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war”. A line is crossed as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?"

    Audience Choice: 2009 Vancouver International Film Festival
    Best Documentary 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival
    Best Ecology Film 2009 European Independent film Festival
    Best Documentary 2009 Beloit International Film Festival
    Official Selection 2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival

  • Bottle Your Own Water: Save Money and Help Local Communities

    Buy a water bottle. Stick it under the faucet in your kitchen. Turn on the tap. It's that simple. You've just saved money and helped local communities. This bottle is from Save Our Water.

    When you buy bottled water, you are literally taking water from someone else's watershed. You are damaging those local communities and ecosystems. You are putting plastic into landfills. What's more, you are being deceived. Bottle water is expensive, not necessarily filtered, and in most cases, it is just tap water from another location but with a fancy name.

    "Nestle Waters North America ... is now pumping as much as 300 million gallons per day of water from two Michigan sites for bottling."

    Water companies would not be bottling water if people refused to buy it and instead bottled their own.

    Learn more: Will Bottled Water Companies Suck the Great Lakes Dry?

    Watch Flow: The Film (available on iTunes or for purchase through the Flow website.)

  • Article 31: The Right to Clean and Accessible Water

    Sign the petition to adopt Article 31.

    Everyone has the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.

    "Global Family,

    In 1948, the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were ratified by all the nations of the world. These 30 articles guaranteed a broad sweep of human rights across many human endeavors, from Life to Liberty to Freedom of Thought.

    Now, sixty years later, recognizing that over a billion people across the planet lack access to clean and potable water and that millions die each year as a result, it is imperative to add one more article to this historic declaration, the Right to Water.

    We, the undersigned, respectfully call upon the United Nations to add a 31st article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing access to clean and potable water as a fundamental human right.

    We believe the world will be a better place when the Right To Water is acknowledged by all nations as a fundamental human right, and that this addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents a major step toward the goal of water for all.

    Please join us. Water is a right, not a privilege."

  • Live Simply But Take Action

    Slacktivisim: "feel-good measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts also tend to require little personal effort from the slacktivist."

    A good example is an Internet petition that circles around the web doing nothing except making the people who spread the petition feel good. What about taking shorter showers to help solve the world water crisis? Surely that's got to be good.

    Taking shorter showers is good on a local and personal level. However, it does absolutely nothing at all for people in developing countries who don't have access to water. In fact, 90% of the water used on the earth is used by agriculture and industry. If everyone on the plant stopped showering, we'd save 10%. Ten percent is great savings, but if you really want to help solve the world water crisis, you'll need to take action that causes industry and agriculture to reduce their use of water.

    See:

    Taking Shorter Showers Doesn't Cut It: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change

  • Water Footprints

    A water footprint is the amount of water it takes to grow or produce a product.

    • 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) of beef has a water footprint of 16,000 liters (4,226.8 gallons)
    • 1 sheet of paper has a water footprint of 10 liters (2.6 gallons)
    • 1 cup of tea has a water footprint of 35 liters (9.2 gallons)
    • 1 microchip has a water footprint of 32 liters (8.5 gallons).

    For more water facts, see Ten Things You Should Know About Water.

  • Week 2: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007. (LINK) on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. Their GPS tracker shows that yesterday they were just past Palisades, Michigan and heading towards Hassman. Yup. They are in the middle of nowhere!

    The Bimidji Pioneer newspaper featured him in an article last week "What if Forrest Gump had Facebook?" and revealed that Kevin was neither a kayaker nor a camper until recently. WOW! And he's kayaking in mosquito country! That shows how dedicated Kevin and his friends are to raising money!

    As of this morning, Kevin has not updated his blog since July 29. Let's hope the mosquitoes have not eaten him alive!!!!

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, and internatoinal charities working to alleviate the Global Water Crisis, including conservation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Read Kevin's blog.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • The One Cup Washing Machine

    Xeros, Ltd. is working on a commercial washing machine that uses an incredibly small amount of water—90% less than conventional washers.

    How do they accomplish this feat?

    Professor Stephen Burkinshaw of Leeds University in the UK is a polymer chemist whose specialty is improving the uptake of dye on fabrics. He recognized that removing dirt from fabrics is the reverse process of getting dyes to stick to fabric. He uses fabric polymers to remove stains.

    Nylon polymer works well in a humid environment. In a humid environment, the polymer becomes highly absorbent. It attracts dirt to its surface and the absorbs the dirt.

    The Xeros washer uses a cup or so of water and lots of nylon polymer beads. After tumbling with the damp, dirty clothes, the beads are separated and removed from the washer.

    The invention is still in the prototype stage. Find out more by going to the Xeros website.

  • Support the Maine Water Warriors

    Nestle's is grabbing the State of Maine's water supply to ship elsewhere. Real people in Maine speak out against this draining of Maine's natural resource. Water for people, not for profit.

    Nestle's bottles these brands: Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, Poland Spring, Zephyrhills, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, Acqua Panna, Contrex, Nestlé Pure Life.

    Find out more, help out the people of Maine: Defending Water for Life in Maine.

    Remember, if you don't drink bottled water, Nestle's and other corporations will not have anyone to sell it to.

  • Aquafina is Tap Water

    It's been public knowledge for some time that Pepsi-Cola bottles tap water under the Aquafina brand. The "technical" term is P.W.S., which means public water source. That's a water source that you and I pay for with taxes. Pepsi gets to take that free water, put it in a bottle, and sell it to you. So why not just bottle and drink your own?

    Buy a water bottle from a great organization like SOH2O. You'll help them out, help out the environment, and save money.

  • Unquenchable: Robert Glennon

    Check out University of Arizona's law professor new book—Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It.

    "Author Robert Glennon connects the dots between our water woes and climate change, energy, growth, the environment, and agriculture. He makes a compelling case that we need to re-think how we use this prized resource and provides a number of thought-provoking solutions. Informative, insightful, and very interesting." (U.S. Senator Mark Udall, Colorado )

    Watch Jon Stewart interview Mr. Glennon about the book.

  • Week 3: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007. (LINK) on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis.

    Here's what they've been up to:

    • Paddling 25 or more miles each paddling day
    • Eating mac and cheese with extra butter and Doritos.
    • Sitting in a tent to get out of the cold rain.
    • Missing family and friends
    • Visiting a family in Brainerd

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, an internatoinal chrities working to alleviate the Global Water Crisis, including conervation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Kevin has a blog, but he hasn't been posting to it.
    Perhaps he is too buy paddling! But his team is tweeting regularly: @whataboutblue on Twitter.
    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • A Recently Developed Cholera Vaccine

    Dukoral is a newly developed vaccine for cholera. Will those who need it be able to get the vaccine? Cost and logistics pose obstacles. The vaccine won't address the underlying cause of the lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation.

    Cholera is a disease you get from contaminated water and food. Although it is practically gone in the USA, it is prevalent in developing countries. It's treatable, but people can't get the treatment for many reasons.

  • What's it like to be a 9 year old in Ethiopia

    Densa Gatenah lives in Gond—a small village in Ethopia. WaterAid recently constructed a water supply for the village.

    Densa says:

    "Both men and women are responsible for collecting water here. Before the new supply was constructed we were using dirty water and so there was diarrhoea in the area. During the epidemic there were sick people in our home, but now they are cured."

    Densa Gatenah helps her father—a blacksmith and farmer—stoke the fire. (Photo courtesy of  WaterAid /Jenny Mathews.)

  • Ecards with a Conscience

    WASH (Water Sanitation Hygience) ecards help raise awareness of lack of clean water and sanitation in the world. You can send these free e-cards to your friends and family or even to politicians who might be able to make a difference. Some of these may seem outrageous to you, but each card highlights a different dire issue.

    The WASH campaign wants everyone to know about these issues in developing countries: health, human dignity, the plight of women, the high numbers of avoidable child deaths, and the economic benefits of improved sanitation.

  • Raising Malawi

    Malawi, like Niger, is a land-locked country. Unlike Niger, more than 20% of Malawi is water—Lake Malawi. Most people do not have electricity. Most people have a pit toilet; 18% of rural household don't have a toilet. Forty-two percent of the women in rural areas can't read. You get the idea. It's a poor country. There are 2 million orphans and vulnerable children.

    Raising Malawi's goal is to end extreme poverty in Malawi. Started by Madonna and Michael Berg, they support many community-based organizations. Check them out and see how you can get involved. (Photo courtesy of Raising Malawi.)

  • Madagascar: Not Just a Movie

    Madagascar is a country located off the southeastern coast of Africa. It's the fourth largest island in the world. The animated film of the same name doesn't tell you that most schools in Madagascar don't have running water. Children get ill all the time because of poor sanitation. When they get sick, they can't attend school. Then they don't do well in school.

    There is a big initiative now to provide enough materials to enable children to wash their hands at least once a day. How many times a day do you get to wash your hands? Imagine not having the water to wash them even once.

    For more details, see: Madagascar: Education Hampered By Lack of Clean Water.

  • The Cost of Bottled Water

    Every year over $100 Billion dollars is spent on bottled water world-wide.  The United Nations estimates that if given just 1/6th of that money for one year, $15 billion, they could cut in half the number of people without access to clean water.

    "The cost of just one case of bottled water water could supply a person in Kenya with clean, safe drinking water for the next 5 years!"

    Take the Water Challenge. Just give up all drinks EXCEPT water for two weeks. Drink tap water. Take all the beverage money you save and donate to the Water Project to help fund a project that will build wells for schools in developing countries.

  • What's it like to be a 14 year old in Nepal?

    Fourteen year old Devi Kumari lives in Satu Pasal, Nepal with her family. The women of the village worked with WaterAid's partner NEWAH to build a water supply close to their homes while the village men were fighting with the army. Before they had their safe water supply they used to have to collect water from a dirty river at the bottom of the hill. When the men returned they were so inspired by the women's work that they decided to build a path from the village to the new water point. (Photo courtesy WaterAid / Caroline Penn.)

    Devi's grandmother Devaka Kahtri explains the difference that water has brought to her family's life.

    "We used to get water from the stream, it was very dirty. The children would get sick with diarrhoea at least once a month. Now that hardly ever happens. A neighbours son died four years ago from diarrhoea and it is still happening in villages further up the hill where they don't have safe water."

    Donate to WaterAid.

  • Help Solve the Global Water Crisis

    Digging wells, providing people with water filters, and installing pumps mark the success of any water project. But that's actually where success begins. Water quality has to be maintained. Pumps require maintenance. People need to learn to use the pump correctly, without modifying the way it works. (Photo is of Ahmadiyaa School Girls, Sierra Leone. Safer Future Youth Development Project.)

    The Peer Water Exchange (PMX) need volunteers to visit projects to see whether the project is still effective. PMX needs to know whether water systems are still operating and that the local community is using it. Find out how you can visit a project and report back. They need volunteers who are willing to talk with locals in the community and take photos or video. By volunteering, you'll be part of the solution for the global water crisis.

    Find out more.

  • Water Wiki: Check it out and contribute an article

    The Water Wiki needs more articles and editing help. Check it out and contribute. It has articles on water resources, water use, the science and technology of water, decision making, education, and issues. The coverage is pretty thin in areas, which is why your help is needed.

    Here's a sample of an articles on Water Pollution:

    "The New River flows at 200 cfs as it enters California. The water at this point is three colors: dark green, white (foam), and milky brown/green. The septic stench is pungent, particularly during the summer season when temperatures can reach up to 120º. The contaminated soil along the riverbanks is black."

    "A layer of foam frequently forms on the surface of the New River near the International Boundary. This foam is often blown by the wind to areas near the river, including parking lots and a shopping center. In particular, foam often blows into the parking lot of a grocery store located near the International Boundary."

    "Fecal coliforms and fecal streptococci have been consistently detected in the New River at the International Boundary. The presence of fecal coliforms and fecal streptococci in the New River indicates that fecal contamination of the river has occurred."

    Raw sewage and industrial waste flows into the U.S. from Mexico as the New River passes from Mexicali, Baja California to Calexico, California.

  • Who Owns Water? Water Rights in the Age of Scarcity

    In 2008, Wired Magazine named Peter Glieck “one of 15 people the next President should listen to." He wrote a great article on water rights.

    Here are the first few paragraphs.

    Who “owns” what water? Or, if water belongs to the public, who has the right to use it?

    This question is perhaps the thorniest question in the world of water. The answer is critical to California’s growing water crisis. It is critical to water in the western U.S. It is critical to the spat between Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system (say that three times fast). It is critical to Egypt and the nine other nations that share the Nile. It is critical to the Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians who share the tiny Jordan River. It is critical to disputes among users of water around the world.

    And feelings run high. Just last week, Governor Sonny Purdue of Georgia said that Georgia has a right to all the water that originates in the state and that falls in the state and will fight to keep it. “The state of Georgia is due the use of that water, and we will make use of that water,” the governor said. He was responding to a recent major court ruling that said that Georgia is using more water than it should under current law and agreements, depriving Florida and Alabama of its equitable share. I wrote about this in my July 17 post.

    This is an old idea — the water falls here or runs through here, so why can’t I use all of it? At the grandest scale, this idea is called “The Harmon Doctrine,” which says that upstream water users have the right to do whatever they want with the water in their own “territory” no matter what harm it causes to downstream users. It was named after a U.S. Attorney General in the 1890s who said that Mexico had no right to any water that originates in the U.S., even if the river flows into Mexico. The only problem for Governor Purdue, and Georgia, is that the Harmon Doctrine has been universally repudiated: in international law, in U.S. law, and in any ethical or moral set of rules.

    Read the rest of Peter Gleick's article . . .

  • What's it like to be a 10 year old in Bangladesh?

    Ten year old Yasmin Akhtar takes part in this hygiene education lesson in Bhaterkhil, Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of WaterAid /Jim Holmes.)

    In this lesson children play a game where blue powder is sprinkled on to a football. The children then pass the football to one another and the blue powder is spread from child to child. This game shows how diseases and germs can be easily passed form one person to another.

    Games like these are just one of the many ways that WaterAid teaches children about safe hygiene practises. Other methods include puppet shows, plays, picture cards and books.

  • KickStart: Seedlings to Trees with the MoneyMaker Pump

    The Kickstart MoneyMaker Pump, like its oilseed press, helps entrepreneurial farmers in Kenya to increase their crop yields. Farmers can manually pump water from a hand-dug well, river, stream, or pond.

    Njenga and Mary Kimani started a small tree nursery so they could earn more money to support their 3 children. At first they used buckets to get water from a stream for the seedlings. After buying the MoneyMaker Pump, they became more efficient. They tripled the size of their nursery and were also able to diversify their business.

  • Week 5: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. It looks like they are in Spring Lake, just south of Minneapolis. It's not really a lake, just a wide spot in the Mississippi River.

    According to Twitter (whataboutblue), they had a successful fundraiser in St. Paul, ate great sushi at SEVEN, and were hosted at the St. Paul Yacht club all week. Check out the daily report on their activities.

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, an internatoinal chrities working to alleviate teh Global Water Crisis, including conervation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Soda is Flavored Tap Water: Why Not Make Your Own?

    Drinking tap water instead of buying bottled water is better for the environment. You aren't throwing away bottles. You aren't draining the water from someone else's community. And your own tap water doesn't require fuel to get to you. Tap water is earth-friendly!

    Soda presents the same issue. It's basically flavored tap water. It uses a lot of energy to transport. It takes water from someone else's community. It creates a lot of waste from bottles. So why not make your own?

    It's pretty easy to carbonate your own tap water using a seltzer maker. SodaStream has great kits that are easy—and fun—to use. You can buy their flavors or make your own. Or just drink the carbonated water straight. It's refreshing!

  • Water and Economic Growth

    Do you work? How much do you make per hour? What if you needed to spend part of your day fetching water to drink instead of going to work? How much money would you lose?

    • More than 40 billion work hours are lost each year in Africa because people need to fetch drinking water.
    • Workers in India lose 73 million working days per year due to illness from water.

    Find out more. (Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Run Foundation.)

  • Poverty and Water

    If it takes only $30 to supply clean and safe drinking water to one person for their entire life, why is it that so many people don't have access to clean drinking water? Because they are poor. Unfortunately many people in the world do not view poor people as worthy of assistance. Listen to what a few poor people have to say:

    "Poverty is pain; it feels like a disease. It attacks a person not only materially but also morally. It eats away one's dignity and drives one into total despair."—Woman from Moldova

    "The authorities don't seem to see poor people. Everything about the poor is despised, and above all poverty is despised."—Man from Brazil

    "I am illiterate. I am like a blind person."—Woman from Pakistan

    What's $30 to a latté drinker or cigarette smoker or bottled water drinker? Two weeks of some people's pleasure could provide a lifetime of water to a person in poverty. So why doesn't the world pitch in to help those in need?

    You can! Donate to Blue Planet Run Foundation or make some kayakers happy at the same time you help solve the world water crisis by donating to WhatAboutBlue?

  • How Many Gallons of Water a Day Do You Need?

    Most people in the USA use over 100 gallons of water per day. Most people in developing countries use 3 gallons or less per day. If Americans had to walk more then 4 miles to day to fetch water, they'd use a lot less of it. But having a tap in your house doesn't mean you can't conserve.

    Here are a few ways to save water and protect the Earth's water resources:

    • Take a 5 minute shower instead of a 15 minute shower. Set a timer! You'll save 15 gallons.
    • Don't let the water run constantly when washing or rinsing dishes.
    • Fix faucets that drip.
    • Use cooking water for the garden or cleaning instead of just throwing it down the drain.
    • Only turn on the clothes or dishwasher when it's full.
    • Don't keep the water running when you brush your teeth.
  • Break the Bottled Water Habit

    Have you kicked the bottled water habit? You might think that you can reuse a disposable plastic bottle, but they aren't good for multiple uses. They grow bacteria and leach chemicals. All those disposable bottles are just piling up in dumps and even out in the ocean. Find out how to break the habit. 

  • How to Lie with Numbers: Peter Gleick

    This is a section from and article by Peter Gleick posted on Circle of Blue Waternews. He describes how some of the numbers we've heard in the news lately are political calculations. This sort of misuse of numbers hides very real problems.

    Dr. Gleick says:

    "Water Number: 0.019% or something much larger.

    What is the fraction of groundwater used for bottled water? A substantial amount of the bottled water sold in the United States—around 60 percent—comes from groundwater. This water is typically labeled “spring” water according to regulations set by the FDA. In recent years, there has been growing public opposition to the construction of large spring water bottling plants in small rural communities in Maine, Michigan, California, Colorado and elsewhere because of fear, and some direct physical evidence, that such large plants adversely affect local groundwater levels, flowing springs and local wetlands. In response, the bottled water industry, led by the International Bottled Water Association, launched a campaign (including testimony to state and federal legislators) arguing that there was no problem because “ground water withdrawals for bottled water production represent only 0.019 percent of the total fresh ground water withdrawals in the U.S.” Ah, here rears the ugly head of the denominator problem. This number is probably very close to true. It is also completely irrelevant and misleading. The proper denominator should not be total U.S. groundwater withdrawals, it should be some measure of local groundwater availability, or use, or yield — a much smaller denominator. In this case, a bottled water withdrawal may be a very significant fraction of local groundwater. But by choosing a big denominator, the industry was attempting to disguise a problem."

    Read the complete article: The Denominator Problem; Misleading Use of Water Numbers.

  • 3 Krazy Kayakers: Kevin, Katz, & Coggan

    Would you kayak 2,500 miles for $25? I bet not. Yet Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan are asking people to give them $25 to do just that. This is week six of their journey from Bimidji, MN to New Orleans.

    They've endured cold, rain, bugs, sun, and long days of paddling. They are getting an up-close look at the Mississippi River. They see the beautiful parts and also the parts that are marred by trash. Whenever possible, they pick up trash from the water —stuff like discarded water bottles, plastic bags, and soda cans.

    One of their challenges is not to get burnt to a crisp on the many sunny days. Watch this video to listen to Danielle explain what they wear, including "melanoma mittens."

    They could really use your help. Consider donating them $25.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Damn Good Jerky

    Have you ever backpacked? Hiked more than 10 miles at a time? Kayaked all day long? There is something about heavy physical activity that makes food taste great. After one week-long backpack that I did, I ate Grandma's frosted animal cookies and washed them down with a cold beer. At the time, I swore this was the best meal ever!

    The WhatAboutBlue kayakers—Kevin, Danielle, and Brian—are mid-way through their journey from Minnesota to New Orleans. They are using lots of energy each day paddling. They shot this video to extoll the virtues of Damn Good Jerky (which is made by Damn Good Foods in Stillwater, NY). Is the jerky really that good? Or is it because these kayakers are ravenous and delusional? You'll never know until you try it yourself!

    The kayakers like the jerky so much that they are seeking sponsorship from this company. If you like beef jerky, check out the jerky from Damn Good Foods. Encourage the company to help the WhatAboutBlue kayakers.

  • What About Blue Kayakers?

    More than 50 days on the Mississippi River, Kevin Lilly  of What About Blue? tweeted:

    "I am struggling... Body is aching, mind is tired and the river is only getting bigger and tougher."

    Is he ready to quit? Of course not! Neither are his team mates. Kevin, Danielle, and Brian are almost halfway to New Orleans.

    Listen to the daily river report. Help them raise money to help end the global water crisis.

  • Riverkeeper and the Hudson River Sloop Group

    Decades ago the Hudson River in New York State was a toxic mess. The last thing anyone wanted to do was get near it because it smelled like a cesspool. Pete Seeger brought public attention to the Hudson through the Clearwater sloop. Riverkeeper had the political clout to get polluters to stop messing up the river.

    Both great organizations are still around and still working to keep rivers clean. Check out the Clearwater. You can sail on it through the public or educational program or volunteer to work on it. Riverkeepers is now worldwide working to clean up polluted rivers everywhere.

    This is the Clearwater sailing south on the Hudson River, past Manhattan's Grant's Tomb and Riverside Church. Photo courtesy of WorldIslandInfo.com 

  • Cholera: The Quick Change Artist

    One way for criminals to evade capture is to change clothes and take on a new identity. Scientists recently discovered that the cholera bug is doing just that. it's constantly exchanging and mixing genes to avoid "capture." The bacteria Vibrio cholerae. Looks pretty, but it can be deadly.

    Find out more about cholera's quick change tactics: Cholera's survival tactics revealed.

    Find out more about this deadly waterborne disease:
    Cholera: If it’s preventable, why are people dying from it?

    Kirstyn E's Weblog has a wonderful article on the pathology and treatment of this killer.
    If You’ve Never Heard of Cholera, Be Thankful that you have Clean Water

  • Eisha's Story: Thanks from Kalembo Secondary School

    Eisha Shaban, Head Girl from Kalembo Secondary School in Tanzania, sends her thanks to Blue Planet Run Foundation for getting clean water to her school:

    "We students of Kalembo Secondary school, we send our greetings of thanks to Blue Planet Run Foundation (BPRF), all our fellow Schools from USA, and all others who in one way or another have made us accessing Clean and safe water in our school. The bore hole you have build for us has reduced several problems we have been facing for more than 6 years now. Among the problems we have been facing include:

    * Loosing several periods due to long distance moving to collect some water
    * Drinking unsafe water for our health as we were fetching from local dug wells
    * School building construction was also tough as we traveled the same distance in order to get water for the work
    * The same wells we used to collect some water we were sharing with animals like pigs and dogs

    Your assistance has made us free from above problems. We are now ensured with good health and improving our academic performance as most of our time will be used in academic issues.
    Thank you very much for considering our need."

    This is the new pump at Kalembo Secondary School in Tanzania, East Africa.

  • Voices from the Waters

    Voices from the Waters is an international film festival on water. This year's festival marks its fourth year. It features more than 300 films on such topics as sanitation, harvesting, ecology, and water's importance to livelihood and migration. The festival is in Bangalore, India but you can read about the key films on their website.

    Watch Abigail interview Mr. George Kutty of the Bangalore Film Society about the film festival. Abigail is a student at Oregon State University who is currently in India on an internship. You can read about her adventures on her Water for the Ages blog.

    “Voices from the Waters are the Voices of people who are deeply committed to water issues. The festival takes you to the waters: to see and listen to her manifold stories…”

  • Solar Disinfection: Does it Work?

    Fill a clear plastic bottle with contaminated water. Leave it in sunlight for six hours. Then you have clean water! Or do you?

    Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) is widely promoted as one way to lower the incidence of diarrheal disease in developing countries that have limited access to clean water. The UV-A radiation of the sun and increase in the water temperature are supposed to inactivate microorganisms.

    Recent studies report that SODIS isn't as effective as claimed. SODIS is not reducing diarrhea as it should if the water is disinfected. It could be that people are disinfecting only some of their water. Or it could be that SODIS just isn't that effective.

    Imagine if before you could use any water, that you needed to fill a bottle and leave it in the sun for six hours? What happens when it is cloudy? Not so good for people who live in places like Seattle.

    Read the SODIS pamphlet to find out more.

  • Water Stars See Shooting Stars

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. One of their stops this week Fort Madison Iowa. Kevin tweeted from camp:

    "FT Madison, IA: have a campfire on an island on the Mississippi River. Saw 4 shooting stars. Time for bed."

    Kevin Jones, a new kayaker, heard about WhatAboutBlue and tracked them down in Muscatine Iowa. Kevin was so impressed by the project that he paddles a few days with the group to show his support.

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, and internatoinal chrities working to end the Global Water Crisis, including conservation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Track their location.

  • Women Helping Themselves

    Water.org, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, is a nonprofit organization that has transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Its microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative is pioneering sustainable giving in the sector. These women formed a self-help group to obtain financing for a pump in their community of  Mettupatti, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India. (Photo courtesy of Water.org.)

  • Chinese Villagers Protest Dirty Water

    The Yellow River in Huijihe carries effluent from the paper mills and fertilizer factories lined on its banks and along its tributaries in this heavily industrialized region of China. Like others, a Chinese boy fishes with his family on the shores of the river. (Photo copyright Greg Girard/Contact Press Images for Circle of Blue.)


    This article from Circle of Blue explains:  

    China’s Dirty Water Leads to Protests, Some Reform —More than two weeks after demonstrators peacefully protested pollution in China’s Fujian province, 10,000 villagers and some 2,000 riot police in the area violently clashed over the rancid effluent and foul smells from a wastewater treatment plant. The protest this month is the latest confrontation in a wave of social unrest over industrial practices that has drawn attention to some of the world’s dirtiest rivers and lakes and led to public calls for China to dramatically strengthen environmental safeguards.

    Protests over water quality in China are now occurring with such frequency, say China specialists and environmental advocates, that they signal an awakening of public and government conscience about the environment. They have also led to improvements last year in Chinese water quality statutes.

    Read the complete article.

  • How to Make Children Happy

    Toys? Video games? Think more basic. Give them water. These children are celebrating at their new school handpump in Keelakarthigaipatti, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India. Another success store from Water.org

  • Stockholm Water Prize Awarded to Dr. Pathak

    Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, is the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. His Sulabh toilet saves trillions of liters of water each year. (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.)

    From the Stockholm International Water Institute:

    As the founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in India and other countries. His accomplishments span the fields of sanitation technology, social enterprise, and healthcare education for millions of people in his native country, serving as a model for NGO agencies and public health initiatives around the world.

    Since he established the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in 1970, Dr. Pathak has worked to change social attitudes toward traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages, and dense urban districts, and developed cost effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people. He has also waged an ongoing campaign to abolish the traditional practice of manual “scavenging” of human waste from bucket latrines in India while championing the rights of former scavengers and their families to economic opportunity, decent standards of living, and social dignity. 

    “The results of Dr. Pathak’s endeavors constitute one of the most amazing examples of how one person can impact the well being of millions,” noted the Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee in its citation. “Dr. Pathak’s leadership in attaining these remarkable socio-environmental results has been universally recognised, and not least by those who have secured the freedom of human dignity as a consequence of his efforts.”

    Read more about this remarkable man . . . .

  • Tapped: An Expose on Bottled Water

    Watch the Tapped movie trailer. Then watch the movie. (You can host a screening if you want.) Then start drinking your own tap water. The plastic bottles are made from petrochemicals that can leech into the water in the bottle. The plastic bottles are polluting our environment. It takes a lot of energy to transport bottled water. Why are you drinking it? Bottle water takes water from a small community's water table. Boycott bottle water.

  • Canadian Water Use

    The David Suzuki Foundation in Canada explains how water is used in Canada:

    64% to power production operations: Power plants use water as a cooling agent to dissipate heat. In many cases, the water is returned to its source at higher temperatures, where it can have harmful impacts on the environment.

    14% to the manufacturing sector: Water is so important to most industrial operations that the proximity to a water source is a determining factor in their location decisions. Unfortunately, in most cases, water withdrawn is returned in a polluted or otherwise altered state.

    12% to municipalities: Water in municipal systems is generally treated so as to be of drinking water quality but obviously it is used for much more in our homes, by business and for fighting fires. While some water is lost due to evaporation or leaks, most water brought into the city flows out in the form of wastewater and sewage. The extent of sewage treatment varies significantly across Canada.

    9% to agriculture: Water is primarily used for irrigation and the rearing of livestock. Due to high levels of evaporation, water used in agriculture isn’t returned to surface or groundwater sources. But farming and livestock operations are a significant source of water pollution.

    1% to mining: Water is used in a variety of ways in mining activities. In most operations polluted water is returned to its source.

  • An Inconvenient Truth About Solar Energy

    Some of the best places for a solar energy plant are in dry areas. Like Amargosa Valley in Nevada. I didn't realize until recently that solar power plants use a lot of water. The proposed solar plant for Amargosa Valley will need 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, which is 20 percent of that area's available water. That's a lot of water! The water wars are beginning in Nevada.

    Read "Alternative Energy Projects Stumble On a Need for Water." Find out more about Solar Millennium, the German company who wants to build the Amargosa Valley plant.

    Read Amargosa Desert: Worthless Habitat? to get the perspective of US citizens who live in the valley and want to protect the desert habitat.

    A blog nod to Glen Gould for this news.

  • Why Doesn't Kevin Have Pants?

    Kevin Lily and his friends Danielle and Brian have been paddling down the Mississippi River for over 2 months to raise money and awareness for the Global water crisis. (Donate here.) I've been following their adventures on Twitter. A few days ago, I saw this Tweet:

    "Chester, IL: its 50 degrees on our mississippi river sandbar, i have no pants, and im very cold as a result."

    Why doesn't Kevin have pants? Is this a temporary state? Or did he lose his clothes on the river? If you live near the Mississippi, please check where Kevin is and bring him some pants. (You can find his whereabouts on this GPS tracking site.) He still has a long way to go to get to the end of the Mississippi and the celebration in New Orleans!

  • Impact! Water on the Moon?

    I dragged myself out of bed at 4:00 AM PST to await the impact of the LCROSS spacecraft on the moon. It was a beautiful night—not too cool with very clear skies. Despite the brightness of the moon, I saw Orion, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, and more. I also saw my own shadow in the moonlight. (Infrared image of moon as LCROSS spacecraft approaches. Image from NASA TV.)

    I watched a live feed of NASA TV on my laptop out in the field. Shortly after impact, I looked through my 12.5 inch telescope. No plume. It was a long shot to see it, but I had to try. (Image of moon from the LCROSS spacecraft. Taken from NASA TV.)

    NASA will be analyzing the data for the next few days, with the earliest results coming within hours. They are looking for water and hydroxyls (oxygen-hydrogen with a covalent bond). The spacecraft crashed into the polar region where it is permanently shadowed and incredibly cold. If water is there, it would be permanently present as ice. Stay tuned! Water on the moon will not solve our global water crisis, but it will inform theories about the formation of the earth and moon.

  • Kevin's Kayak Sank

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey to call attention to the world’s global water crisis and raise money to help solve it. They planned to end their journey in New Orleans in time for the 11th Annual Voodoo Music Experience. Like many adventurers, the three kayakers are discovering that their adventure is not following the plan. They arrived in Memphis, TN on Sunday, 70 miles behind schedule.

    I've been following them on Twitter (@whataboutblue). Things seemed to go badly starting on October 6, when Kevin's kayak sank in New Madrid, Missouri. Fortunately he managed to salvage it. Lots of rain there, coast guard warnings, and on top of that, Kevin almost got hit by lightning. The three made it to civilization in Memphis, but the weather prediction for the week is for lots of rain—thunderstorms most of the week.

    Driving, the last leg of their journey—Memphis to New Orleans—is 395 miles. By river it must be much longer. ( The Mississippi snakes its way southwest from Memphis, meanders to Baton Rouge, and then heads south east to New Orleans. )

    Let's hope the What About Blue paddlers can stay ahead of the bad weather and make up a few miles! Help lift the team's spirits by donating to their cause.

  • A Glass of Beer = 75 Liters of Water

    There has been a lot of attention on the carbon footprint, but the water footprint is perhaps an even more critical concept. A product's water footprint is the amount of water needed to create a beverage, including the water to produce the ingredients. Beer has a footprint of 75 liters of water per glass. Wine takes 120 liters of water per glass. Coffee takes 140 liters per cup. Tap water takes one cup per cup. A liter of soda takes about 132 gallons of water. (Image from Art Action: Turning the Tide on Climate Change.)

    Find out more about footprints and how to calculate them from the Global Footprint Network

    An interesting article on this issue: Water Wars - the Beverage Industry as a Canary or Future Innovation Leader?

  • A Gigantic Bag of Water

    Imagine a bag that has a 25 foot diameter, is 230-ft. long, and contains 770,000 gallons (2,916m3) of water. That's a lot of water! In 1990, Terry G. Spragg & Associates demonstrated the technology. Since then, they'e been developing and testing this technology. A Spragg Bag has a gigantic zipper that can connect more then one bag.

    Spragg see the bag as an economical way to deliver fresh water, more economical than building a reservoir, reclaiming water or desalination. Peter Gleick, international water expert, suggests using the Spragg Bag to deliver water to disaster areas. He points out that now we "load heavy pallets of plastic bottles filled with water onto cargo planes and fly them over to disaster areas."

    Empty Spragg Bags can be stored on military ships or in large cities around the world. They would be faster to get to a disaster than bottled water. You can fill the bag from any working water source, the closer to the disaster the more efficient.

    See: Safe Water During Disasters: Preparing Better for the Inevitable.

    Watch this You Tube video of two Spragg Bags taking water between Port Angeles and Seattle in Washington State.

  • Lewis Black on Bottled Water

    Remember the day when you could quench your thirst instead of getting hydrated? Does Aquafina mean the end of water as we know it? Does the deer on the label of Deer Park water pee in the water before it's bottled? Lewis Black expounds on these and other water-related questions. If you don't mind explicit language, watch it on You Tube: Lewis Black on bottled water.  (Photo from Wikicommons.)

  • Help Get Running Water to a School in Guyana

    Shulinab Nursery School is located in a small village of 500 people. The school can't get enough water from rainwater, so they need to set up a system that will let them get water pumped from a nearby windmill. The community will build and maintain the system, but it needs $500 to purchase materials.

    Peace Corps volunteer Shannon McGarry is directing the project. Help her complete this project. You can donate any amount. Pay for it all and adopt the project!

    Students from Shulinab Nursery School.

    Shannon McGarry and a local resident in Guyana.

  • Watergeeks: Canadian Company Takes on the Bottled Water Industry

    Watergeeks is a business that sells water bottles, water filters, and other products aimed at helping alleviate the global water crisis. Their main products are personal water bottles. Their mission is to eliminate the waste of bottles used for bottled water. Many people think that because bottled water bottles are recyclable, that the bottles actually get recycled. But of the 10 billion bottles of water sold each year, only 10% are recycled. The other 9 billion bottles end up in landfills. Watch this video to get an idea of how many bottles that is. Then, get yourself a personal water bottle, fill it with tap water, and stop buying bottled water. Watergeeks isn't the only place that sells good personal water bottles, but they do have an interesting website with lots of facts about water, the world water crisis, contamination, and more.

  • Sand Dam Changes Muendo Mdambuki's Life

    “This sand dam has changed everything for us. My three children are back in school. My wife no longer has to trek kilometres for water. I am able to help others."

    Getting Water From Sand explains how you can trap water during the rainy season and use it during dry periods. Excellent Development helped build the sand dam that Mr. Mdambuki now uses.

    His story . . .

    Standing in his nursery, Muendo Mdambuki proudly surveys the lush tomato plants and kale which have changed not only his, but many of the lives of the villagers in Kangemi.

    “I am now the new Muendo, the old Muendo is no more. . .” he says, describing how his life has changed over the last twelve months.

    Muendo has lived all his life in Kangemi, an arid region of south eastern Kenya, where he has had to sustain his family from the fruits of a small farm plot. When the rains failed to come four years in a row and his crops failed, Muendo found it very hard to support his family. During the hard times that followed Muendo, his wife and three children subsisted on one simple meal of ugali – a thick corn meal mash - per day.

    “Our children were forced to withdraw from school because they were too hungry to study” he reflects. After being asked what he did then, in the light of severe food shortage, with good humoured stoicism he noted, “I adjusted my stomach…”

    With little food and no rain, their lives were determined by the daily journey to get water. “We had to walk 10 kilometres every day to get water. The trek took almost the entire day and my wife had to leave the children at home alone”.

    Find out how successful Mr. Mdambuki is today by reading the rest of his story on the Excellent Development website. Donate towards their cause.

  • What About Blue Makes it to New Orleans

    On July 20, Kevin Lily and two friends (Danielle Katz and Brian Coggan) left Bemidji, Minnesota to travel the length of the Mississippi River. They are raising money for local, national and international charities working to alleviate the global water crisis. Their quest was supposed to end on October 10, 2009 in New Orleans, LA. If you've been following this blog, you'll know that late in the trip the fearsome three met with cold, rainy weather that caused delay. Today they are finally getting to their destination.

    On the evening of Octoboer 27, they were within striking distance of the end of the Mississippi. The Coast Guard was preventing them from completing the distance because of high river traffic. Not sure whether they made it to the end by kayak or by car, but it doesn't matter. They went the distance in my book. They are amazing. You can extend them your congratulations by making a final donation to their cause.

  • Oil and Water

    Can you imagine swimming in or drinking the water in the photo? Newtown Creek is in the USA—New York to be exact—and it has oil floting on it. Riverkeeper is fighting to get the pollution cleaned up and further pollution stopped. (Photo courtesy of Riverkeeper.)

    They say: "In 2004, Riverkeeper filed a federal lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for its failure to stop the pollution of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Newtown Creek caused by a historic, 17 million gallon oil spill which resulted in a plume of contaminated groundwater under Greenpoint and Newtown Creek.

    Residents of the area have some of the highest rates of asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema in the city. Riverkeeper's efforts have brought the matter not only into the courts, but to the attention of the government, which owes its citizens the basic right of clean air and water."

    If you live near the creek, you can help patrol. If not, you can take other action. Visit their website.

  • Losing Wetlands on the Louisiana Coast

    Kevin Lily of What About Blue fame is calling attention to the loss of coastal wetlands in Louisiana. The goal of the Gulf Restoration Network is to restore the Gulf of Mexico to a sustainable condition. This is an important issue, so I am reposting an article that Kevin recently posted. Please take time to read it or to visit the Gulf Restoration Network website. Here it is:

    "The loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands is one of the most serious environmental problems facing the country today. Louisiana boasts more than 4 million acres of wetlands, representing 40% of the nation’s total. These wetlands are among the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems.

    Presently, Louisiana's wetlands are in a state of rapid degradation. 80% of the nation’s coastal land loss occurs in Louisiana. The state loses 25-35 square miles, or 25,000 acres, per year, the equivalent of one football field every 15 minutes. These losses are not only environmental and aesthetic, but commercial. Projected losses to the fishing industry by the year 2050 as a result of coastal land loss are a staggering $37 billion.

    Natural Deltaic Cycles

    The natural processes of coastal land formation are based on the sedimentary load delivered by the Mississippi River. Deposits of sand, silt, and clay made at the mouth of the river form the basis of coastal land and marshes. The sediments accumulate through flood overtopping and overbank sedimentation. These natural forces, known as accretion, lead to a net gain of 1-2 square miles per year in coastal land area.

    There are many forms of natural disturbance that contribute to coastal land loss. Catastrophic disturbance from hurricanes erode marshes and introduce excess saltwater into the system. Natural rises in sea level, mostly associated with the advance and retreat of glaciers, are also responsible for dramatic decreases in wetland area. During the last major glacial retreat 15,000 years ago, 40-50% of the existing wetlands were lost. The natural processes of the deltaic life cycle also include the breakdown of abandoned deltas and the subsequent loss of coastal land. Another form of natural disturbance to wetlands is subsidence. This is the general term for the gradual sinking of coastal land into the ocean. Subsidence is primarily due to the geological movement of deposits along tectonic fault lines and the compaction of loosely deposited sediments. Subsidence is one of the largest causes of coastal land loss, but cannot even begin to rival the human impact in either the amount of coastal land destroyed or the rate of its destruction.

    Human Disturbance

    Human disturbance has had a massive impact on the balance of wetland growth and decline. Since the colonization of America, over half of the original wetlands have been lost. In modern times and with the increase in available technology, this loss has accelerated geometrically. In the past 100 years, Louisiana has lost 20% of its wetlands, representing an acceleration of 10 times the natural rate.

    The main forms of human disturbance are the river-control structures such as dams and levees, the dredging of canals, and draining and filling. Beginning in the 1920’s, large scale river-control structures, such as the Old River Control Structure, which diverts 30% of the Mississippi Rover water into the Atchafalaya River system, were built to ease flooding problems along the banks. These control structures led to a dramatic decrease in the sedimentary load which reached the mouth of the river and formed the basis of new coastal land.

    The construction of levees similarly affected coastal land. A large part of the sediment gathered by existing marshes is accumulated during seasonal flooding. Flood overtopping and overbank sedimentation, both vital to the survival of existing marshes, were dramatically reduced as large areas ceased to be flooded. River water also helped to reduce marsh salinity and provide nutrients, and its loss has resulted in the breakup and dispersal of large amounts of nutrient-starved marshlands.

    Canal dredging has had one of the most dramatic effects on wetland growth and regeneration. In addition to directly destroying marshes in the path of the canal, the plants are unable to recolonize, and thus the marsh is unable to regenerate itself. Once canals are dredged, most grow larger as the sustainable areas of marsh subsequently decrease. The largest and most destructive example of this dredging is the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). Created in the 1960’s to facilitate the passage of ships to the Gulf of Mexico, the canal destroyed over 23,000 acres of wetland. The MRGO has now grown to 2 ½ times its original size and costs the government $7.6 million a year to maintain. Experts say that canals now account for 6.8% of Louisiana’s wetland area.

    Eutrophication is another major problem facing Louisiana’s wetlands. Caused by chemical and industrial pollutants, human waste and agricultural runoff, eutrophication literally means “overnourishing.” The excess chemicals present cause the wetland plants to die, breaking the marsh apart. In addition to these more indirect effects, human effect the wetlands by draining and filling them, destroying them for commercial use, and dumping pollutants directly into them.

    Proposed Solutions

    Fortunately, many have realized the plight of the wetlands and have mobilized against further destruction. Many preventative measures and replacement strategies have been conceived and implemented. One idea that has been put to extensive use in wetland restoration is that of river diversions. These function by pumping river water into ailing marshes, increasing sediment load and reducing salinity. Many of these diversion structures are currently in use, and an even larger structure has been proposed. The Bohemia Diversion would divert 30% of the Mississippi River into Breton Sound, creating 89,000 acres of new marshes over the next 50 years. Another proposed solution is the closing of the MRGO. An alternative canal would be formed through the Plaquemines Parish marsh and all sediment retention structures along the river would be removed. This solution would allow the mouth of the river to silt up and new wetlands to form. More creative solutions have also been proposed. One of the most practical proposals is vegetative planting, which places native plants in threatened systems, and allows the root systems to form a more solid basis for soil.

    In response to the problem of coastal land loss, both the federal and Louisiana state governments have met to propose legislation. The Breaux Act, passed in 1990, was designed to increase public awareness of the problem, and created a committee to investigate and recommend solutions to Congress. The state legislature has identified oil production as a major threat to coastal wetlands, with the dredging of canals for ships and pipelines and direct pollution posing problems. Many steps have been taken to limit the industry’s toll on the environment. According to current Louisiana law, if an action threatens even ½ acre of wetland an alternative solution must be investigated.

    Coast 2050 Plan

    The state government met in 1998 to devise a comprehensive plan for coastal land rehabilitation and conservation. The result of the session was the Coast 2050 plan, which addresses the culture, industry, and environment of coastal Louisiana. The plans operates by soliciting public opinion and recommendations and attempting to resolve conflicts between restoration goals and coastal zone development and infrastructure. It seeks to develop a scientifically and technically sound plan with special attention to ecological and economic resources.

    One facet of the plan already in effect is the Caernarvon Diversion project, which pumps river water into the marshes of Breton Sound and will preserve 16,000 acres of wetlands per year. So far, the effected area has experienced a net yearly increase of 5.9%. The plan also includes other projects such as the Davis Pond diversion, while promoting legislation to close MRGO and reverse other such harmful trends.

    Despite these efforts, coastal land loss in Louisiana remains a major problem. Losses due to human activity might soon become irreplaceable. One harrowing estimate projects that the projected land loss by the year 2050 would form a one-foot-wide strip of land that would reach from the earth to the moon and back 11 times. Louisiana’s wetlands are vanishing. Without significant action, they could soon disappear forever."

  • Hawa's Story: Collecting Water in Malawi

    From Water Aid:

    Eighteen year old Hawa Salimua is newly married. She lives in Mzalule, Malawi where a WaterAid well was installed in 2001. (Photo courtesy of WaterAid / Jon Spaull.)

    "I collect water from the handpump three times a day, in the morning, afternoon, and late afternoon," she says. "I use the water to wash my clothes, bathe, cook and clean. The water is much sweeter than it used to be when it was an open well. It was dirty then, but now it's clean."

    "We used to have a bucket on a string that we pulled up from the well and debris used to fall in which caused people to have terrible stomach pains. I was always getting diarrhoea with extremely painful stomachache and sometimes I remember seeing blood in my faeces. Now those stomach pains have vanished and it feels so hygienic to be drinking this water. I feel that my children will be born into a much better future because of this clean water."

  • Mrs. Flores' Story: In Search of Water

    Mrs. Maria Antonia Mendez Flores lives in Boaco Viejo, in the sector of July 19th. She is the mother of 7 children, three boys, all single and 4 girls, 2 of whom are married. She has lived in Boaco Viejo for 14 years. Before the water project, there was water close by to the house, but it was on private land owned by one of the land owners, and this man did not like to let them take this vital liquid, since he had cattle and that was his priority. What he did was to reduce the amount of water they could take. Normally, they carried 6 buckets of water on their heads over a distance of 1km. They used this water exclusively for drinking. For washing clothes, she had to go in search of water in the streams of the community, and sometimes walked up to 3km, since in the dry season, the streams dried up and it was not easy to encounter water. The children were left alone in the house, and the majority of the people had the same problem, and had no one to look after their kids. She only brought the newborn with her to carry water, since he needed more care and attention. (Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Run Foundation.)

    The activity of carrying water on one's head was carried out every day devotedly and the labour to leave the home to wash clothes was carried out every three days. In order to be able to go out to wash the family clothes, the day began at 4am, to prepare the food so that her husband could leave for work with some food in his belly and with a lunch in a container wrapped in some cloth, since she would not return from washing clothes until 5pm. The children were fed before she left, but the lunch was eaten cold. According to Maria Antonia, these small activities took a lot of time since just looking for the vital liquid consumed time to be able to carry out the other activities that she learned as a young single woman.

    Maria Antonia reflected that now with the construction of the water project that was completed with the help of El Porvenir in her sector, as well as the construction of the sanitary units (washing and bathing station), everything has changed. Now she can get up a little later without worrying if they will allow her to have the vital liquid, it is now just 80 meters away from her home. Now they take advantage of the time saved to do other activities. A year and a half ago, she installed a small store in her home to be able to help with the economic expenses in the home and in her free time, she takes care of the roses in her house. This is one of her favorite activitie because she loves the gardens when the roses are blooming and as well she invests time in making embroidered pieces like hankerchiefs or pillow cases. Most importantly, she considers that she has more time for her family, especially the care of her mother who is still full of life although she has osteoporosis. But in spite of all this, she considers that she has a more relaxed life, since she does not get up in the morning with the worry of going out to the river to wash clothes with the fear of being surprised by some animal or being a victim of lightning in the rainy season and now her husband and children eat their three hot meals a day when they have them (food).

  • Mrs. Vega's Story

    Mrs. Margarita Maria Treminio Vega tells her story. (Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Run Foundation.)

    In the beginning, when I was young, I came from Casas Viejas (a nearby community) and came to La Ceibita to marry. I had to carry water from the well about 3-4 hours each day.

    At that time, the well as small and uncovered with a wooden and rock wall to hold the water. We came to get water in our sandals, and we were often contaminating the water with our dirty feet. The women, we carried the water in clay pots, one on our head and another on our waist. One day, carrying back the clay pots full of water down a hill, and one of the young children scared a dog behind me and the dog ran between my legs and it knocked me over. The clay pots shattered, but luckily I only hurt my knees.  

    I was not the only one to suffer this kind of fall. An older woman slipped and the clay pot fell on her feet. She suffered a great injury and was rushed to the doctor immediately. She needed 11 stitches. All this because of the long and uncomfortable trail that we used to obtain a little contaminated water.

    In the rainy season, the roads were so bad that we could hardly get down to get the water and these problems were compounded by the fights for water, pregnancies, having small children with you because there was no one to leave them with, the tiring trip to bring water, the gossipers, the delay in doing our household chores, sometimes leaving us without time to send them to school.

    But as time has gone on, some NGOs appeared like El Porvenir that have come to help us and resolve problems. We have improved little by little. CARE helped with the well, digging it, constructing it with a rope pump and chlorine for the water all through our community effort. This was great, but the trail continued to be difficult. We built some latrines with great effoty and some donations of other latrines, and in this way, our health started to improve.

    Six years ago, we benefitted from the installation of Electrical Energy thanks to our work with the mayor’s office. The road to the community was improved as well, and our husbands helped us carry the water. When our children were getting bigger, we sent them to help carry water as well. In that time, we stopped using clay pots and started using plastic buckets to carry more water for the bath, washing clothes and all the household chores. In this way, our community has been continually improving. We are happy, thanks to these organizations that have come to help, good and generous people. Because of them, we can live as Christians with more time to improve and we can pray more. You won’t believe this, but I have converted my father and I have taught him to read the Bible. He now talks to the family more, he helps to care for the children and sends them to school. We know we are poor communities that without the help of these nations and organizations that come to Nicaragua, we wouldn’t ever be able to lift ourselves out of misery, but thanks to them, the communities have improved a lot.

    We have always dreamed of trying to improve our community more. When we saw a similar project in Casas Viejas and Las Mesas, we searched for ways that took us to Managua since we needed and wanted potable water so much. We wanted to make this dream a reality and we found people with such great hearts that made our dream come true, thanks be to God and thanks to the donors. We feel very thankful since now we no longer have to dedicate 3 hours daily to carry water and now we have free time to dedicate to the children, to our household chores, to pray for tomorrow that we will have less problems. We are in the present and heading to the future, we ask God Almighty that He keeps helping the Nicaraguan people. I hope we can understand and be very careful in the maintenance of this potable water system that El Porvenir has brought us and will be improving our families’ health. This seed we plant today will continue to grow and we can be an example to future generations that they only need to organize themselves and be united to find the solution to their needs.

  • Drink Up and Pollute the Air

    Bottled water companies like to claim how environmentally responsible they are by using recyclable bottles, using thinner plastic, reclaiming water used in processing, and so on.  So think about the following the next time your are compelled to purchase bottled water:

    After Nestle rolled into McCloud, California to extract water (they have a 100 year contract), 250-300 trucks per day started rolling into town 24/7/ all year)McCloud has noise and air pollution now that they never had before. When you drink bottled water, think of McCloud. If the water in the bottle isn't coming from McCloud, it's coming from some other small town's aquifer—like Chaffee County, Colorado or Fryeburg, Maine or Mecosta County, Michigan.

    Why don't you just buy a water bottle, fill it with water from your own tap, and carry that bottle with you? Then you can drink up and know that you are not causing grief for some small town.

    See: Stop Nestle's Waters.

  • Cholera outbreaks depend on river flow, say scientists

    This article is frome SciDev Net:

    "The severity of cholera outbreaks can be linked to the rate at which rivers flow, scientists have found.

    Cholera, caused by the aquatic bug Vibrio cholerae, spreads through contaminated food and water.

    It has re-emerged as a major killer in recent decades, with the number of cases up ten per cent between 2007 and 2008, at 200,000, and the number of deaths up by more than a quarter at 5,000.

    The team, from Tufts University, United States, analysed Bangladesh's two seasonal cholera outbreaks — one around March and a second in September–October — using cholera data from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDR,B) between 1980 and 2000, and water records from the country's hydrology department.

    They found a link between the severity of the two outbreaks and the volume of water flowing in the deltas of Bangladesh's three major rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna.

    The March outbreak coincides with low water levels in the rivers. The lower the water level, the more seawater seeps in from the Bay of Bengal, carrying the microscopic plants and animals that harbour Vibrio cholerae, spreading infection, they suggest.

    Severe October outbreaks are linked to high flood years, when faecal contamination in the rivers enters drinking-water sources.

    The team says its findings can be used to develop an early warning system for cholera.

    Shafiqul Islam, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the university and lead author, says it is unlikely that cholera will ever be eradicated because the germs thrive in sea water — where they cannot be controlled — and newer types continually emerge.

    "We need a cholera warning system to control outbreaks and minimise their impact by prior planning and implementing effective interventions," he told SciDev.Net.

    Environmental indicators provide advanced warning and can be applied to any region, he says.

    Recent research by the ICDDR,B has also linked cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh to hours of sunshine and temperature in spring and autumn.

    Increases in sea surface temperature and river height also influence outbreaks in Vietnam, says Mohammad Yunus, senior scientist at the ICDDR,B's public health sciences division.

    Yunus points out such insights will be meaningful only if scientists monitoring environmental indicators inform public health scientists dealing with outbreaks on the ground.

    Some cholera outbreaks have more to do with public health infrastructure breakdown, he adds — as in Zimbabwe, where the ICDDR,B scientists are helping build local capacity in clinical examination and detection.

    Even in coastal countries such as Nigeria, where outbreaks can be linked with climate and water variables, collecting environmental data well in advance will be a challenge, he says.

    The research was published last month (October) in Geophysical Research Letters."

  • Will someone fix my arsenic water?

    Article from SciDev Net:

    "Many new technologies have promised to remove arsenic from drinking water but little has changed on the ground, finds T. V. Padma.

    [MATLAB] Razia Begum has been asking the same question for two years now: "Please will someone fix my arsenic filter?"

    She lives in Nagda, a village in one of the areas of Bangladesh most severely contaminated by arsenic in drinking water — although at first glance there is nothing about the village's lush paddy fields to suggest anything dangerous.

    Razia's family, like many thousands of others in such areas, was given an 'alcan' filter — a simple unit containing a material called activated alumina that absorbs arsenic from water — under a UN project in 2006. Two years later, the filter stopped working as it became clogged up and needed specialist attention that was no longer available.

    Ever since, Razia has been searching in vain for a well with a green tube, an indicator of arsenic-free water. She finally settled for pond water, which is contaminated with village waste and used for bathing, and which is a source of diarrhoeal infections. (Photo shows symptoms of arsenic poisoning.)

    Straightforward solutions to the arsenic problem that affects hundreds of millions of people have, so far, been hard to come by.

    "I am not aware of any research that has led to a widespread application for providing arsenic-safe water to people in the affected areas," says Mohammad Yunus, senior scientist at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, which is based in Dhaka and works in Nagda and neighbouring villages.

    This is despite the fact that scientists have made great progress in understanding how, where and why arsenic ends up in soil and water, and have designed promising tests and filters. But for such inventions to survive, they must overcome basic, yet hard-to-resolve issues that lie far beyond the laboratories."

    Read the rest of the article . . .

  • Lifesaver Bottles: A 2-for-1 Holiday Gift Idea

    Do you have an avid hiker or military person on your gift list? Someone who spends time in the wilds and usually carries water with them? The consider the LIFESAVER "Buy one, gift one" program. Your gift recipient will not only receive a fine gift, but will be super-impressed that you also gifted a Lifesaver bottle to someone around the world who doesn't have access to safe drinking water.

    The bottle is equipped with filtration membranes and an activated carbon filer that removes bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi, and all other waterborne nasty bugs. No iodine or chlorine! You fill the bottom with water from any source, including scavenged water. Then drink out of the bottle. It's clean water!

    Your hiking friends won't have to carry water. Just the bottle. Your military friends will be able to drink scavenged water if they get into a dire situation. And your gift bottle will go to the Typhoon Ketsana Aid appeal.


  • Pretty Pictures and Alarming Facts Make Great Gifts at a Bargain Price!

    The avid readers on your holiday gift list are sure to be impressed by the book Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World. Some time ago, I provided a link to the PDF version of this book which you can get for free. But the print version is far more impressive. Amazon recently repriced it so the book it practically free. It is only $14.04 USD, down from $45.00. Your friends will think you spent far more than you did.

    To convince you how great this book is, read this excerpt from an Amazon reviewer:

    "Awesome, simply awesome. Not only do you learn about "water," its' characteristics and challenges to people all over the world, some one billion having little access to clean water, but the photography is magnificent. The scenes are realistic, yet compassionate and communicate deeply. The people shots become you, me.... Buy this book, you'll learn from it, delight in the photographs, you'll find sadness, joy, hope in it. And, you'll be inspired to action."

    Don't waste anytime. Snatch up this bargain book now!

    Then visit the Blue Planet Run website.

  • Great Gifts for the Thirsty on Your List: Bottled Water Makers

    Got some people on your holiday gift list who are always slurping bottled water? Give them something to wean them from the bottled water habit. You'll not only help your friends save money on future purchases of bottled water, but you'll help stop corporate water giants from sucking down the water tables of rural communities. You'll reduce the waste created by all those "recyclable" water bottles too.

    To make bottled water, you need two things: a water tap and a bottle. Sounds simple? Chances are that your gift recipient already has a water tap at home. All you need to buy is the bottle.

    Here's are two places where you can purchase reusable bottles:

    If your gift recipient prefers carbonated water, then consider giving them something like the SodaStream.

  • Give the Gift of Making History

    Guinea worm is a parasitic disease contracted by drinking water contaminated with larvae. Inside the human body, the larvae mature into long, spaghetti-like worms that eventually exit the body through painful blisters in the skin. The crippling pain leaves victims unable to work or attend school, sometimes for months, until the worms completely emerge from the body. (Photo by Louise Gubb of the Carter Center.)

    History buffs on your holiday gift list will be flattered when you donate in their name to help the Carter Foundation make history by eradicating the Guinea Worm.

    The foundation is very close to eliminating this alien monstrosity. There are only 6 countries left with the disease, reporting 4,600 cases. That's down from 3.5 million cases in 1986. Help them finish up quickly.

    Eradication requires two things:

    1. Getting people to drink filtered water so they don't get the parasite to begin with.
    2. Containing the infected person during the time the worm crawls through their skin.

    Having a worm crawl through your skin is excruciating.

    If you are not convinced this gift is worthwhile, read Sadia's Story, provided by the Carter Foundation:

    Triumph Over Guinea Worm (2008)

    In 2007, Sadia Mesuna—a young girl from Savelugu town in Northern Ghana—spent two agonizing months in a Carter Center Guinea worm containment center with 20 other children suffering from the disease. Today, Sadia, 7, is Guinea worm-free and has returned to school. This is her story of triumph and a new life without fear.

    Sadia Mesuna, 6, was in agony in February 2007 as three Guinea worms emerged from her feet, forcing her to spend two months at the containment center. "It was very painful, especially when they were dressing my wounds," Sadia said. "It feels more painful than stepping on fire coals or being cut. And you don't feel like eating anything."

    After treatment, Sadia recovers in a quiet corner, also rediscovering her sense of humor as she dons a volunteer's sunglasses, worn upside down.

    Sadia returns some days to her school, but after her two-month absence with Guinea worm disease in 2007, she struggles to cope and catch up.

    "I'll only drink filtered water from now on," vowed Sadia.

  • The Anatomy of a Private Water System

    That's my water tank. When I moved out here from the city, I had no idea how a water system worked. Then one day a contractor hit a water pipe and I had to get on the fast track to learn how to take down, and then bring up, an entire water system. With that knowledge, I can say that I'm head of my own private water department. I think it's helpful to understand how water systems, and the water in general, work when trying to come to grips with issues like bottled water and industrial uses of water.

    Here's how a private water system works . . . .

    Elsewhere on the property—far from this tank— there is an underground water pump that takes water from the water table (300 feet below) and fills this gigantic tank. There is a floating switch in the tank that turns on the underground pump whenever the level in the tank lowers to a certain point. (I think it's around 8,000 gallons.)

    I got water, but the problem is how to get it out of the tank. There is a giant outlet at the bottom. I doubt I could turn it, but if I did, the pressure of all that water would cause it to burst out. That outlet is reserved for the Fire Department. There is actually a hookup for a fire hose. One reason for this quantity of water in the tank is for fire fighting.

    The water tank has to serve 12 outdoor taps scattered on the property and a few outbuildings. The pressure in the tank is not enough to push the water throughout the property, so that brings me to pump number 2.

    There is another pump, in a pump house, that is connected to a pressurization tank. The pump automatically maintains the pressure in the pressurization tank so that it's between 40 and 60 p.s.i. (pounds per square inch). It's the pressure in this tank that causes water to flow from each tap smoothly. It all works great unless there is a power failure. Without power to the pressure pump, water won't flow.

    Water treatment? Not much really. The water comes from 300 feet below the earth to the water tank. On it's way to a tap, the water travels through a "whole-house" filter. The cold water for the kitchen tap first goes through an under-the-sink filtration system.

    The result is delicious, safe, pure water.

  • Maintaining Water Balance

    There are many things that upset the water balance, like irrigating dry areas for crops. But bottled water is one completely avoidable imbalance. It's a waste of energy. It's a waste of money. It's unfair to the local communities that rely on the water table.

    Let's take a look at a balanced water system and then see how to imbalance it with bottled water. I'll use my water system (which I described yesterday) as an example.

    First take a look at the soil and ground water layers in this USGS diagram. The "unsaturated zone" has small empty spaces between the grains of dirt that are filled with air or water. But because it's all mixed in together, it is impossible to pump any water out. Plants do a pretty good job extracting water from this layer with their roots.

    If you go down deep enough, you arrive at the saturated zone where water dominates. I actually have two wells on my property. One is an Artesian well, where the ground water is really near the surface. It's not trapped below like what you see in the diagram. The other well is tapping into ground water similar to what you see in the image.

    The ground water gets refilled by water seeping down through the layers, although in some cases there could be an underground river recharging the ground water. In a dry place like parts of Texas, it could take centuries to refill. In wet areas, like the Panama canal zone that I just visited, ground water will get replenished fast. I have no idea how long it takes for my ground water to replenish.

    Not all rainwater makes it back to the groundwater layer. As you might imagine, evaporation and plants use up a bit.

    After I extract the water from the ground, it either gets drunk, used to wash something (dishes or me or laundry), or flushes a toilet. Used water goes into a septic tank or directly on the ground. In either case, it ends up seeping into the ground and some of it will end up recharging the ground water. The main point is that this is a balanced system. Whatever I takes stays right on the property.

    If I were an entrepreneur, I might look at my 10,000 gallon water tank as a money maker. That comes out to 40,000 16 oz bottles. At a conservative $1 a bottle, even if costs were 0.50 to produce, I can make $20,000 a tank. I'm told that the flow rate from my groundwater is pretty good. I haven't done the math, but I do know I can pump quite a bit of water, quite fast out of the ground in my area. Pure, clean, mountain water.

    What would happen if I did that?

    As soon as the water gets transported off property, I lose that amazing balanced system I had going. What's more, I'm using gasoline to bring the water to someone who is too lazy to fill their own reusable bottle. I'm also sucking down the same groundwater that my neighbors are tapping into. Oh yeah, then there is the energy I have to expend to fabricate the bottles, the gasoline to bring them to my bottling plant, and the inevitable waste the bottle creates.

  • Is Bottled Water Green?

    No, bottled water is not green. Yet the marketeers of bottled water companies are working hard to convince you that drinking it actually helps the environment. Save your money and don't fall for it.

    Green Planet is one of the more recent bottled water vendors on the market. I'll analyze the hype on the bottle:

    Green Planet: The environmentally friendly bottle.
    Digital Rabbit: It burns great because it was made from plants, not oil. They still have to use up energy to fabricate the bottle, make the inks, and so on. The most environmentally friendly container is a reusable one, like a glass.

    Green Planet: Quench your thirst and your desire to help the environment.
    Digital Rabbit: You can just as easily quench your thirst by turning on your own tap. Then take the money your were going to spend on the bottled water and donate it to a true environmental cause.

    Green Planet: Pure Handcrafted Water.
    Digital Rabbit: What does that mean? Did someone take hydrogen and mix it with oxygen? I think not. This is pure B.S. I described my water system a few days ago. There is nothing to "handcrafted water." Turn on the pump, extract the water from the ground. It probably doesn't even need treatment.

    Green Planet: By choosing our water you're helping reduce global warming, carbon emissions and our dependency on oil.
    Digital Rabbit: Pure B.S. You are actually contributing to global climate change and increasing dependency on oil. The bottle takes energy to manufacture. The bottled water takes gasoline to transport. (Water is heavy, too.) Manufacturing and transportation emit carbon.

    My advice. Drink tap water.

  • It's all about the bottle and where it ends up...

    That's"It's all about the bottle and where it ends up" is  the first sentence on the back label of Green Planet water. Where are bottles ending up? I took these photos a few weeks ago, when I was hiking in the rainforest of Panama, near Gamboa.

    How many reusable water bottles do you find on the ground? I've never found any. People tend to hang onto those. Bottled water promotes carelessness. No message on any bottle will change that.


    Yes, these look like they are soda bottles. The issue is the same for soda (colored, sweetened tap water) as it is for plain bottled water and carbonated bottled water.

  • Felton: The Town That Took Back Its Water

    Felton is a small town in Northern California, not too far from the Santa Cruz Coast, but enough inland to have lots of big trees. I ran a foot race through the woods there once; the area is gorgeous.

    In 2002, American Water Works Company purchased the Felton Water District for 67% over book value. The local citizens were upset. Maintenance and upkeep of the water system was no longer local. Jobs were lost and citizens had no say in the operations.

    California American Water ended up running their water district. As FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water) says:

    "California American Water is a subsidiary of New Jersey-based American Water. Despite the patriotic-sounding names, Cal-Am and American Water are both subsidiaries of the German company Rheinisch-Westfsches Elektrizitwerk Aktiengesellschaft (RWE) - the third largest water supplier in the world. RWE's business model calls for purchasing small water districts, consolidating them to reduce costs and applying for rate increases to boost profits."

    After many years of fighting, Felton purchased back its water. They are a model for local control. They celebrate their independence each year with an event they call "Felton Remembers."

    The FLOW commemorative t-shirt sports two quotes:

    "Felton & San Lorenzo Valley Water District, Together We Did It !!"

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world" - Margaret Mead

    Water pulled the town together. It even inspired a poetry contest -- Poems About Water. I'll feature those tomorrow.

  • WOW: Celebrate Water!

    WOW (Without Water)
    By Greg Jansen

    Without water life would change
    So very different, so very strange.

    Without water no roses blush
    Without water no toilets flush.

    Without water ice is not,
    Without water no boiling pot.

    Without water no dew, no rain,
    Without water much eyeball pain.

    Without water no shower or tub,
    Without water no Vapo-Rub.

    Without water my plants would die,
    Without water I could not cry.

    Without water no coffee, no tea.
    Without water there'd be no me.


    The Friends of Locally Owned Water in Felton, California started a poetry contest to recognize the importance of water in their community. This is one of the winning poems.

  • Enjoy These Poems: Stillness, Water is Blue, Water Otter

    Stillness
    By Mariah Miles

    A slender water drop,
    Falls into the puddle of silence.
    Returning to the background,
    A girl splashes around.

    Another drop falls from the weeping tree,
    As tear drops just like you and me,
    You wouldn't think, something could be so delicate
    That no one could see beyond the form it has taken;
    But water is a clear beauty, even a tree can see.

    A slender water drop falls.

    Water is Blue

    By Jeremy Yanowitz

    Water is blue
    Swimming is fun,
    Belly-flops hurt,
    So stay alert!

    Water Otter
    By Steve Hinze

    An otter went out in the water,
    Many things would have liked to have caught her,
    from a wave that was foamy,
    She spied abalone,
    So she picked one off for her daughter


    The Friends of Locally Owned Water in Felton, California started a poetry contest to recognize the importance of water in their community. These are a few of the winning poems.

  • Mulande Says Thank You!

    Mulande , a Kenyan boy, rises before dawn to fetch water for his family before walking to school. He leaves school at noon to fetch more water. The water he hauls back across a dry, rocky trail may make him sick, but it's better than dying of thirst.

    Blue Planet Run's year-end campaign is helping children like Mulande around the world will receive safe drinking water for life.  Mulande and the other children in his village will be able to go back to school full time, avoid waterborne diseases that can kill them…and have the chance to be children with a lifetime of possibilities in front of them.?

    For only $30, you can give Mulande a lifetime of safe drinking water.

    Please donate today, make a gift on behalf of family, friends and colleagues, and help us spread the word.  Through December 31st, all donations to Blue Planet Run will be matched 100% up to $15,000.

  • Innovate or Die Winner: Aquaduct

    The Aquaduct is pedal powered vehicle that transports, filters, and stores water for the developing world. A peristaltic pump attached to the pedal crank draws water from a large tank, through a filter, to a smaller clean tank. The clean tank is removable and closed for contamination-free home storage and use. A clutch engages and disengages the drive belt from the pedal crank, enabling the rider to filter the water while traveling or while stationary.

    In 2008, the Aquaduct won the Innovate or Die contest put on by Google and Specialized. The contest challenge was to build a pedal powered machine that has environmental impact. For more information see: The Aquaduct Blog.

  • A Poem: Water Becoming

    Water Becoming
    By Beth Benjamin

    Water is only change
    Still depth in a mountain pool, now a tumble of light and movement
    Slips over the granite edge
    Crashing downward, blown sideways, making its own weather

    Water becoming music
    A spring seeps from a canyon wall
    To lilt and trickle and giggle down a hillside
    Finding stillness again

    Water becoming lupine
    Begins as February rain and mist
    Emerging again as amethyst and lapis
    Brilliant flower mouths sing praise of spring and sky

    Water becoming magic
    California deserts laugh in colors
    Seeds are born from centuries of silence
    And replenish their supply


    The Friends of Locally Owned Water in Felton, California started a poetry contest to recognize the importance of water in their community. This is one of the winning poems.

  • How Clean is Your Water?

    The New York Times recently published an article stating that "More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, …"

    See Millions in U.S. Drink Dirty Water, Records Show.

    When you live in a city it seems reasonable to rely on water department officials to test and maintain the quality of your water. So it's disheartening to read that 1 out of 5 US treatment systems are out of compliance. It is especially disturbing because water contaminants contribute to illness. The Times says contaminants are "linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year."

    I have my own well, so it's up to me to get it tested. You can test a municipal water supply too if you want to make sure your water company is doing its job. The process requires you to send off a quart of water to a testing lab. It costs from $100 to $250 depending on the suite of tests you require. If you are in a city, you might organize your neighbors to contribute. If you are concerned at all about water quality, it's worth the money.

    Control Laboratories is one facility that tests water. You can find many others by searching on the Internet.

  • Rowing from Africa to South America

    Katie Spotz is rowing from Africa to South America to raise awareness of the need for safe drinking water and money to do something about it. You can follow her progress on her Row for Water website. She's rowing a custom 19 foot boat that's designed for the ocean. It holds months of provisions, gear, freshwater, and has solar power for desalination, satellite phone, radio and radar. The boat is supposed to be seaworthy in 30 foot waves.

    Endurance events are well known to Katie. She was the first person to swim the 325 mile long Allegheny River. She's also cycled 3,300 miles across the USA, ran 150 miles across the Mojave and Colorado desert, and complete a 62-mile ultramarathon in Australia.

    Sabrina Walasek of Blue Planet Run Foundation says this of Katie:

    “I met Katie last spring at the Blue Planet Run 24-hour trail relay. Throughout the last several months, I have had the pleasure of getting to know her better and I continue to be awed by her abilities and endurance. Not only is she a tremendous athlete, she is such a thoughtful human being. We are fortunate to have her support in providing safe drinking water to people worldwide.

    I hope that many other athletes and young people are inspired by her compassion and commitment to improving the world. She never gives up and she never forgets the billion plus people who wake up each day without safe drinking water.”

    Read more about her cause and donate.

  • Pedal-Powered Washer: Get Fit and Clean Your Clothes

    This machine looks pretty sophisticated, doesn't it? If you are a do-it-yourself person, you can make a less-elegant version in two days. Or so claims a person in Oakland. (Photo courtesy of Cyclean.)

    Check out this implementation of a pedal-powered washer on Graywater Action. It's made from a 55 gallon drum and other scrap materials. (Photo courtesy of Grey Water Action.)

  • Katie: 300 miles down; 2,200 to go

    Katie Spotz has been rowing for over 9 days. Her quest is to be the youngest person to row across the Atlantic Ocean.  Cayenne, French Guiana is getting closer every day! Help her raise money for the Blue Planet Run Foundation.

    One of the latest posts on her site explains exactly how she is managing to get across the ocean. Here is an excerpt:

    "It’s no secret that, along with the odd bit of water, you’ll find wind, waves and, to a certain extent, currents in the ocean. And these are all factors that Katie had to take into careful consideration when planning this row. The ocean is a very powerful place, capable of causing problems for even the biggest boats – in fact, the ship carrying “Liv” from USA to Senegal was delayed by nearly a week due to the ocean conditions – so attempting to battle against it in a little rowboat would be futile, at best.

    Instead, you have to pick a time of year and route that will lead to as little obstruction from the weather as possible. That’s why Katie left from Dakar, Senegal in January.

    The currents in the North Atlantic Ocean are sort of laid out in a clockwise direction, flowing from USA to Europe and then Africa to South America. But it’s not quite that straightforward. On the route from Dakar to Cayenne, Katie has to contend with the North Equatorial Counter Current, an area where, to be honest, the ocean seems to do absolutely whatever it wants! Katie will come across large areas where she is battling the ocean pushing her north, south or east; sometimes she may get lucky and get a bit of help to the west.

    But the current isn’t the only factor to worry about. There’s also the not inconsiderable obstacle of a wave or two, sometimes towering over 30-feet high. If going the right direction, these can be pretty helpful as “Liv” surfs down them; that is if they’re not breaking on top of her, soaking Katie to the bone and capsizing the boat over and over again (don’t worry – it’s designed to cope with that). However, while there’s very little that you can rely on when it comes to oceans, one thing is for certain: it won’t do what you want! And so far the Atlantic has been living up to expectations, delivering waves from the north-west ever since Katie set off, attempting to push her back down the African coastline."

  • Rainwater is blue gold: You can mine it!

    Why is rainwater harvesting on my mind? I've been sitting in Northern California being battered by one rain storm after another. I'm watching all that water run down the hills. Of course, the rainwater here will recharge the underground aquifer that I pump my water out of. But people who don't have a good aquifer for a well, or who live in a city and want to stop using city water, can set up a rainwater harvesting system. Most people think about using rainwater for landscaping. But you can also use it for drinking. Check out the video to find out how one couple is using rainwater for drinking. if you want more information, see http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

  • Help! My Water is Glowing!

    I've never seen the ocean glow, but Katie Spotz did this week. She has been rowing in the Atlantic Ocean for 3 weeks now, getting closer to South America each day. A recent tweet from her:

    "Can anyone explain what these glowing specks in the water are? Every night I see them and have no clue what they are"

    Bioluminescence in the water has puzzled people for thousands of years, starting with Aniximenes in 500 B.C. Many have guessed over the years.

    Are they spirits? In 1688 Pere Guy Tachard, during a cruise to Siam, said:

    "We attribute the cause to the heat of the sun, which has, as it were, impregnated and filled the sea during the day with an infinity of fiery and luminous spirits. There spirits after dark reunite to pass out in a violent state..."

    Are the glowing specks the spawn or seed of whales? Father Bourzes, a Jesuit missionary in the East Indies said in 1713:

    "...in sailing over some Places of the Sea, we find a Matter or Substance of different Colours, sometimes red, sometines yellow. In looking at it, one would think it was Saw-dust: Our Sailors say it is the Spawn or Seed of Whales. What it is, is not certain; but when we draw up Water in passing over these Places, it is always viscous and glutinous...."

    Nope. The glow is likely from bioluminescent dinoflagellates—that is, marine plankton that light up. The plankton light up when they sense a predator. The purpose is to attract a bigger predator that will eat the plankton's predator!

    For more historical ideas on bioluminescence, see A History of Marine Bioluminescence According to E.N. Harvey.

    This video will give you an idea of what bioluminescence looks like. Video footage courtesy OceanLab, University of Aberdeen.

    Bioluminescent emissions from a range of zooplankton recorded by the ICDeep ultra low light camera as it travels 15m down through the water column, at a depth of 450m. The bioluminescence is stimulated as the animals impact on a mesh placed 50cm in front of the camera. This video was taken in the Strait of Sicily.

  • Engineers Without Borders

    The 12,000 plus members of Engineers Without Borders have worked on more than 300 projects in over 45 developing countries. Their mission is to "help create a more stable and prosperous world by addressing people's basic human needs by providing necessities such as clean water, power, sanitation and education."

    EWB takes on projects that are proposed by a community. It's a grassroots approach that ensures projects are needed by a community and have commitment from community members.

    Engineers Bring Better Health to Rural Communities describes a project they took on recently in Honduras to bring clean water to a rural village. Their website describes many more projects.

    If you are an engineer, you can get involved with their projects. If you are not, you can donate to help fund projects.

  • Sink-Toilet Combo Saves Money

    Think of how much money (and water) you could save if you used the gray water from your sink to flush the toilet. The Cisternlink Aquasaver people claim that you'll save a swimming pool's worth of water per year. Check it out! (Image from OZAquasaver.)

  • Food Coloring in Your Toilet Bowl

    If food coloring seeps into the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Fixing it can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

    That's just one of the more than 100 water-saving tips you can get by going to the Water, Use it Wisely website.

    Here are two more from them:

    • Drop your tissue in the trash instead of flushing it and save water every time.
    • Washing dark clothes in cold water saves both on water and energy while it helps your clothes to keep their colors.

    Water, Use it Wisely also has online games that can help you learn those tips, like the Play the Tip Tank Game.

    Save water and save money too!

  • Join Canada in Bucking Bottled Water

    More than 70 municipalities, 6 school boards, and several campuses no long provide or sell bottled water in Canada. The Canadian Federation of Students, the Polaris Institute, and the Sierra Youth Coalition are sponsoring a Bottled Water Free Day on March 11, 2010. You don't have to be Canadian to pledge to give up bottled water.

    They say:

    "The bottled water industry is less regulated than municipal water systems, consumes more energy and releases more harmful toxins into the environment than tap water."

    Their website provides many facts that you might want to check out, like this one:

    "For soft drink giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, revenues from bottled water per unit outstrip soft drinks."

  • Greenwashing = Green Whitewash

    Did you ever stay in a hotel that places cards in your room that encourage you to reuse the towels and sheets during your stay? It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling that your stay is helping the environment. You are saving water! When I walk around such a hotel and see an extraordinary number of lights on—and kept on all night—I wonder whether the hotel is really all that committed to saving the environment. Or is the hotel just trying to attract green customers?

    In the 1980's the term greenwashing was invented to refer to the practice of hotels that promoted linen reuse but did not also have other strategies for recycling. Green is good. Don't get me wrong. But it is deceptive to spend more money promoting products as green than actually making sure the company is green or that the product itself is green.

    That's one of the reasons why I posted Is Bottled Water Green? some time back. Focusing on whether the bottle itself is better than some other bottle totally misses the point that bottling water is not an environmentally friendly practice to begin with.

    Do you have any examples of greenwashing?

  • Give up a hair cut; Get someone a water filter

    Filter Pure issued a challenge to women to give up a hair cut and use that money to purchase a life-saving water filter for someone in Haiti. Lisa Ballantine, the Executive Director of FilterPure figures that the average cost of a haircut for a woman is $30. I actually think that's a low estimate, at least for the Bay area in California. She is in Port-au-Prince helping out with disaster relief. Overwhelmed by the scope of the tragedy, she issued this statement:

    "I am calling on the women of American for help! Consider this fact: the average women in the U.S. will spend $30 at minimum on a haircut. $30 will provide a Haitian family with a water filter that will provide them with safe clean water for 5 years!! I am calling on all American women to consider donating $30, the cost of a haircut to provide a lifesaving water filter to a family affected by the tragic earthquake. I am calling on all American women to help me to bring attention to this message and help me to raise awareness. As a demonstration of my love, commitment and devotion to this project, I will be shaving my head Saturday on the street in Port-au-Prince. Please consider making a donation and asking others to do the same. When my head is shaved, I will be wearing my special bandana hoping to draw attention to the cause. You can also purchase a bandana for $3 of promote this effort of bringing safe clean water to the families and children of Haiti. Please watch my head shaving ceremony on the video section of the website www.filterpurefilters.org on Saturday for the ceremony."

    Lisa already shaved her head. You can see the results on the FilterPure website.

  • Shigellosis on the Rise in Haiti

    Shigella is a bacteria that thrives where basic sanitation and clean drinking water are not. Right now, that's Haiti. People who lost their homes are living in tent cities. Waste is accumulating. Water is hard to find. (Photo from Defending Food Safety.)

    The New York Times reports:

    "The problem has become impossible to overlook in many districts of Port-au-Prince, with the stench of decomposing bodies replaced by that of excrement. Children in some camps that are still lacking latrines and portable toilets play in open areas scattered with the waste. The light rains here this week caused some donated latrines in the camps to overflow, illustrating how the problem would grow more acute as the rainy season intensified in the months ahead."

    The earthquakes may be over, but Haiti still needs help. In fact, the place was in need of severe help before the earthquake. Stand With Haiti, donate to Partners in Health. They've been on the scene for many years and are still there.

  • Clay Filters: Simple and Effective for Yemen

    More than 40% of the people who live in Yemen don't have access to clean drinking water. People often use scarves to filter out large pieces of debris, without realizing that the real dangers in the water slip right through. Those are the microbes that cause debilitating diarrhea.

    The Silver Filter Company recently introduced silver-clay filters that kill microbes. The filters sort of look like clay pots you'd use for planting. They are that simple. Yet the silver kills the microbes in the water on contact. (Small amounts of silver are used; they don't affect health.) These filters are improving lives for children and adults alike. For the complete story, see Silver Filters: Providing Clean Water to All. Photo courtesy of Yemen Today.

  • Canada Students are Kicking the Bottle

    This story, from Inside the Bottle, highlights action taken by students on campuses in Ontario, Canada.

    "February 22, 2010, OTTAWA –Campus organizers from across Ontario are racing to see whose campus can go bottled water free first. The Ontario Bottled Water Free Campus Challenge is a challenge initiated by more than 20 Ontario campuses that are actively working to restrict bottled water while promoting accessible public water infrastructure on campus.

    Over the last 12 months three Canadian campuses—The University of Winnipeg (Manitoba), Memorial University (Newfoundland & Labrador) and Brandon University (Manitoba)—all signed water declarations to end the sale and distribution of bottled water and promote public water on campus. To date no Ontario campus has banned bottled water."

    For the rest of the story, go to the Inside the Bottle website.

  • Confused by plastics?

    If you drink bottled water, you might be concerned with the composition of the plastic bottle that the water comes in. The Straight Dope has a great article you should read: What's up with compostable plastics?

    An excerpt from the article:

    "So what's compostable plastic good for? It's made from a renewable resource, namely corn, but that doesn't necessarily make it environmentally friendly. Writing in Scientific American in 2000, Tillman Gerngross and Steven Slater pointed out that manufacturing PLA required more fossil fuels than it takes to make most plastics, canceling out the environmental benefit.

    They weren't completely down on the stuff, though, and pointed out two benefits you might not suspect. First, much of the energy needed to turn corn into plastic could be obtained by burning the stalks and leaves, known as stover, which are normally discarded. Second, they argue, we don't reallywant PLA to biodegrade — just the opposite. The big push these days is on figuring out ways to sequester carbon so it doesn't enter the atmosphere as CO2, one of the major greenhouse gases. What better way to do that than grow corn, which sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere, then use the corn to make plastic, which can be buried underground after use?

    Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying this is accepted scientific advice. But it's not out of the question that years from now the environmentally responsible thing may be to use all the plant-derived plastic packaging you can and then throw the stuff away."

    If you are really concerned, you'll give up drinking bottled water. Then you won't have to worry about the origin and future of the plastic bottle.

    Thanks to The Wanderer for the pointer to The Straight Dope.

  • Toxic Waters: Is this happening in your area?

    Some people make a business out of getting around the law, regardless of the affect it has on you or your health. The intent of the Clean Water Act is to protect water from getting contaminated. Unfortunately, the act mentions "navigable waterways" which leaves a loophole. That means that companies can dump whatever toxins they want into "non-navigable" waterways, like the Avondale Creek in Alabama. At one time in its history, the creek was probably a great place to swim on a hot southern day. But no more. The McWane Company of Alabama took advantage of the loophole and dumped lead and zinc into this little creek. And because the creek isn't a "navigable waterway," the company can truthfully claim on their website that it has:

    "implemented environmental practices that in many instances exceed U.S. standards, producing performance that is among the best of the industries in which we operate. McWane strives to improve our performance every day, so that we are part of protecting our environment for generations to come."

    But McWane isn't the only company. I'm not singling them out. It's just that they were mentioned in the New York Times today. There are lots others, do you know of any in your area.

    The Clean Water Act needs to be fixed to eliminate the loopholes. The act confuses the Supreme Court as to what water is protected exactly. You or I could probably figure this out, even without a law degree. But the law is all about wording!

    Read Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Foiling E.P.A. from the New York Times. Then take action to get your representatives to fix the act.

  • I'll take my water with Strontium

    I've posted a lot of blogs about bottled water vs. tap water. The cost of bottled water is ridiculously high. But there are many companies that produce outrageously expensive bottled water. I mean OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive water. Like $45 for a 750 ml bottle. You got it right. A wine bottle's worth of water for forty-five dollars USD. Hey, you can get a couple of decent bottles of wine for that price. That's Elsenham Water.

    Why so expensive? Their website explains the exceptional quality of this water:

    Elsenham Still Artesian Spring Water is rich in minerals particularly calcium, iron, low in sodium and rich in strontium, which is good for bone density. The water is decades old and bottled at source from a deep underground chalk confined aquifer, and due to its depth absolutely pure.

    But there is more. If you are not convinced about the water, consider the bottle, which is the essence of high-end design:

    Elsenham Still Artesian Spring Water is positioning itself at the luxury premium end of the market, with a highly exclusive distribution approach. The bottle and the cap are like architecture and unique, with both having been registered with full copy right design rights. It has been designed to reflect the purity of the water and is unlike any other bottle.

    What do you know about Strontium?

    Wikipedia says:

    The human body absorbs strontium as if it were calcium. Due to the elements being sufficiently similar chemically, the stable forms of strontium might not pose a significant health threat—in fact, the levels found naturally may actually be beneficial (see below) -- but the radioactive 90Sr can lead to various bone disorders and diseases, including bone cancer. The strontium unit is used in measuring radioactivity from absorbed 90Sr.

    How do you know which form you are getting?

  • Are we really in a recession?

    When I discovered Bling H2O, I realized all the doom and gloom about the economy must be made up. We live in a country where people will pay $50 for a 750 ml. bottle of Bling H2O. Do you think it's the fact the bottle on the Bing H2O website is positioned between the heel and buttocks of some almost-nude model? Or is it the corked, reusable, frosted glass bottles with the crystals on it that sells it? Perhaps the cost is worth the impression you make when you carry around Bling H2O in Hollywood.

    The water is from Tennessee. Does that state really have water that tastes that good? I guess you'll have to buy a bottle and try it. Let me know if you do. If you have that kind of money to throw around, consider donating the money to fund a water project in a developing country. $50 USD will get someone 2,000 days of fresh water.

  • Don't Flush Without a "Solid" Reason!

    "Consider not flushing without a "solid reason." If your bathroom gets some ventilation, simply close the toilet lid and wait to flush until you really need to."

    That's advice from Jerry Peek's Off-the-Wall (but really simple) Water-Saving Ideas. This guy doesn't waste a drop of water. If he turns on the faucet, he either uses the water or catches it in pitchers so he can use it later. You know what I'm talking about. You want hot water. You run the tap and wait until the water feels warm. In the meantime, lots of cold water runs down the drain. Following Jerry's suggestion, you would catch that water and then use it to soak dirty dishes.

    His site has energy-saving ideas too. He uses only the pilot light for his well-insulated hot water heater. He claims it gets the water warm enough for normal uses. Once in awhile he'll turn on the main burner. I wonder what his showers are like?

  • Peecycling saves water and nourishes plants

    Liquid Gold: The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants provides all the details you need to get started peecylcing. You can either pee directly on the plants or into a container tu then use to "water" plants, wood chips, and compost piles. You really should dilute the urine, otherwise you might burn your lawn.

    Peecycling saves water; you'll flush your toilet fewer times.

  • Celebrate World Water Day—TODAY!

    Every year, 1,500 cubic kilometres of wastewater are produced globally. While waste and wastewater can be reused productively for energy and irrigation, it usually is not. In developing countries 80 percent of all waste is being discharged untreated, because of lack of regulations and resources. And population and industrial growth add new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water to the equation. Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake, still water pollution rarely warrants mention as a pressing issue.

    To do something about that UN-Water has chosen Clean Water for a Healthy World as theme for World Water Day 2010. The overall goal of the World Water Day on 22 March 2010 campaign is to raise the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity.

    For information about today's and past World Water Days, see the U.N. World Water Day website.

  • A Success Story: Clean Water in Niger

    This article and video from UNICEF TV tell a success story about villagers in Niger who can now get tap water in minutes. Over a year ago, the residents had to walk hours for fetch clean water. Find out more about UNICEF and Niger.

    Under the theme, Clean Water for a Healthy Word, this years World Water Day, 22 March, aims to spur action on improving water quality worldwide. Here is a related story on UNICEF's safe-water efforts in Niger.

    CHINWAGHARI VILLAGE, Niger, 22 March 2010 Surrounded by a throng of other children, each carrying empty containers, Fatima Hamouma, 8, walked to the new, modern water taps in her village. In just a few minutes, she had filled all six of her containers. Just a year ago, fetching water from the old traditional well would have required at least three hours of hard work.

    Its easy, Fatima said. Before, we had to queue for a long time to get the water. And most of the time, it was dirty.

    The new water taps, which were installed a year ago, provide direct access to potable water for the 1,100 inhabitants of Chinwaghari village. Theyre part of a state-of-the-art, mini water distribution system set up by UNICEF, the Government of Niger and other partners. The aim is to increase sustainable access to drinking water and sanitation in the community, thereby reducing the prevalence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea among children.

  • Drink Gas, It's Cheaper than Water

    MaHaLo Hawaiian Deep Sea Water is $15 a gallon. Gas in California is only $3.

    The latest in the bottled water industry is desalinated sea water. Hey, isn't that just water? No, MaHaLo explains:

    "The Deep Sea Water used for MaHaLo bottled drinking water is very old. It takes between 1,200 and 2,000 years for the water to travel from the North Atlantic Ocean through the freezing Arctic currents, under the vast glaciers of Greenland, where it gathers ancient minerals that leach down from the ice. Then it flows around and back down toward the deep channels of the Pacific Ocean. It is there, at the Water Rejuvenation Zone just off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, that the water is at its very purest. "

    I'm not sure how they know that the water molecules they pull from Hawaii have actually taken that route over that time period. One thing I do know is that the water from the tap in my kitchen is delicious, fresh, clean, contains trace minerals and is FREE!!! That's right, absolutely free. No cost. What's more, it doesn't require transportation in trucks and it doesn't create pollution with plastic bottles. Tap water is ecological. Bottled water, no matter what the cost, is not.

  • Watering the Desert

    I spent last weekend in the Palm Springs area to dry out from the unusually wet and cold weather in Northern California. The desert received a decent amount of rain this year, causing an outstanding wildflower bloom. Heidi, a local guide, took me out to the desert in a Jeep, along 4-wheel drive roads, to see rarely blooming flowers and famously twisted rock formations

    On the way out of town, we past field after field of vegetables—peppers, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, and corn—and acres and acres of date palms. This is the desert. I wondered where all the water was coming from

    The Coachella Valley Water District is fortunate enough to be sitting on top of a huge aquifer. It can hold more than 39 million acre feet. But aquifers need to be recharged. There isn't enough rainfall to recharge this one. At the rate the valley uses water for residential and commercial purposes, the aquifer would have gone dry long ago.

    Heidi, my guide, told me that the water district has many conversation practices in place. All recent golf courses must be built to reclaim the water used to water the course. With more than 120 golf courses in the area, water conservation becomes immensely important.

    The lush fields are irrigated mostly using Colorado River water that's delivered to local farms by the 122-mile Coachella Canal. The biggest source of water to recharge the aquifer comes from the Colorado river and from rain and nearby mountain snow.

  • Moringa Tree Seeds Pull Nasty Stuff From Water

    Michael Lea's paper "Bioremediation of Turbid Surface Water Using Seed Extract from Moringa oleifera Lam. (Drumstick) Tree" may have a daunting title, but it boils down to this: Harvest seeds from a tree that's found in many places where clean water is an issue—North India, Indonesia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Crush the seeds. Put them in dirty water. Wait an hour. The crushed seed produce a substance that gathers up particles in the water—dirt and microbes. The dirty lumps settle out in about an hour. If left on its own, the dirt wouldn't settle for a day. Using the seeds, people can drink water more quickly. And they are more apt to wait the hour instead of drinking dirty water. Whereas now, if you don't plan ahead, a day is an awfully long time to wait for a drink.

    Moringa Tree Seeds don't offer a complete solution to ending waterborne disease, but using them can improve the situation.

    If you don't want to read Michael Lea's paper, go to SciDev for an detailed, but easy-to-understand digest of his article: Poor missing out on moringa seeds' water-purifying powers.

  • Children Sing for Water

    Richard Stilgoe, is a British composer and lyricist. If you saw the musical Starlight Express or The Phantom of the Opera, you've heard his lyrics. A few years ago, he wrote set of songs for children about water and the problems children in developing countries face getting clean water. The songs are a great way to give grade schoolers a bigger perspective on the world. And the songs are fun to sing.

    You can get the sheet music and download recordings from Water Aid.

    Listen to Richard's Water song, sung by British children.

  • Potters for Peace Purification Project

    Ceramic water filters are low-cost, low tech, easy to use, and easy to produce. They can get rid of almost 100% of waterborne nasty organisms. Potters for Peace works with artisans around the world to create ceramic water filters. The group is based in the U.S., but actually started in Nicaragua almost 25 years ago. This is what they say about the CWP (colloidal silver-enhanced ceramic water purifier):

    "It is a simple, pressed bucket shape 11” wide by 10” deep, made with a mix of local terra-cotta clay and sawdust or other combustible, such as rice husks. The simplest press utilizes a hand-operated hydraulic truck jack and two-piece aluminum mold.
    After firing to about 860 deg. C. the filter is coated with colloidal silver. The combination of fine pore size, resulting from milled, screened materials, and the bactericidal properties of colloidal silver produce an effective filter.

    A 1.5 to 2.5 liter per hour rate of filtration is determined by the combination of clay/combustible mix and firing temperature.

    For use the fired, treated filter element is placed in a five gallon plastic or ceramic receptacle with a lid and faucet. Pricing for ready to use filter units is determined by local production costs and is usually between $15-25 with the basic plastic receptacle. Replacement filter elements will cost $4 to $6. A basic production facility with three or four workers can produce about fifty filters a day."

    Visit their website to find out more about the filter, its inventor (Dr. Fernando Mazariegos of the Central American Industrial Research Institute in Guatemala), and how you can help.

  • A Creative Approach to the Clean-Water Issue

    Check out the Seed Magazine's interview with Ranjiv Khush (microbiologist) and Jeff Alberts (hydrologist) about how to bring clean water to developing countries. The Mom-and-Pop Water Shop discusses the water-refill industry, which purifies water on-site for local business.

    Khush and Alberts are the driving forces behind the Aquaya Insitute which was started in 2005 . .

    "... by scientists intent on bridging the divide between academic research and field implementation of measures to expand access to safe drinking water in the developing world. We help design new products and services, build and improve upon successful delivery models, and measure the health and socioeconomic impacts of water and sanitation programs using rigorous techniques."

    Thanks to Greg Laden for this lead.

  • Ice Shelves Disappearing on Antarctic Peninsula

    Ice-front retreat in part of the southern Antarctic Peninsula from 1947 to 2009. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

    This article appears courtesy of the USGS. Thanks to Elizabeth Laden of Island Park News for the tip.

    "Ice shelves are retreating in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula due to climate change. This could result in glacier retreat and sea-level rise if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide.

    Research by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first to document that every ice front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990. The USGS previously documented that the majority of ice fronts on the entire Peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.

    The ice shelves are attached to the continent and already floating, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it is easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. The transition of that ice from land to the ocean is what raises sea level.

    This research is part of a larger ongoing USGS project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline in detail, and this is important because the Antarctic ice sheet contains 91 percent of Earth’s glacier ice,” said USGS scientist Jane Ferrigno. “The loss of ice shelves is evidence of the effects of global warming. We need to be alert and continually understand and observe how our climate system is changing.”

    The Peninsula is one of Antarctica’s most rapidly changing areas because it is farthest away from the South Pole, and its ice shelf loss may be a forecast of changes in other parts of Antarctica and the world if warming continues.

    Retreat along the southern part of the Peninsula is of particular interest because that area has the Peninsula’s coolest temperatures, demonstrating that global warming is affecting the entire length of the Peninsula.

    The Antarctic Peninsula’s southern section as described in this study contains five major ice shelves: Wilkins, George VI, Bach, Stange and the southern portion of Larsen Ice Shelf. The ice lost since 1998 from the Wilkins Ice Shelf alone totals more than 4,000 square kilometers, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

    The USGS is working collaboratively on this project with the British Antarctic Survey, with the assistance of the Scott Polar Research Institute and Germany’s Bundesamt f?r Kartographie und Geodäsie. The research is also part of the USGS Glacier Studies Project, which is monitoring and describing glacier extent and change over the whole planet using satellite imagery."

    The report, “Coastal-Change and Glaciological Map of the Palmer Land Area, Antarctica: 1947—2009” and its accompanying map is available online.

    The other completed reports in the Coastal Change and Glaciological Maps of Antarctica series can be viewed online.

  • Protecting the Waters of Mt. Shasta

    As the bottled water industry grows, communities must be more and ore vigilant about protecting their water. Otherwise that water might end up going elsewhere instead of back into the watershed, where it belongs. Protect Our Waters watches over the waters that originate from magnificent Mt. Shasta in Northern California—the Shasta, the Upper Sacramento and the McCloud rivers.

    At one point, Nestle tried to get McCloud water for bottling. Fortunately for McCloud, Nestle dropped its pursuit.

    Protect Our Waters has a cartoon that sums up some of the issues with exporting water from a community.

  • Orland, CA Loses Water Rights to Crystal Geyser

    Crystal Geyser won the right to build a bottling plant, take water from Orland, CA, and sell it all over the world. Save Our Water Resources, a citizens' group, was unsuccessful in blocking the effort.

    If you drink Crystal Geyser—or any other bottled water—consider stopping. You are taking water from another community. Not only are you robbing a community of its water, but you are paying an outrageous amount for something that every member of that community gets for free out of the tap. If you can afford bottled water, you most likely live in a community that has perfectly good tap water.

    For details, see:

  • Why Do Humans Need Water?

    I've been blogging about water for almost a year, saying how important it is for people to have clean, disease-free water. Why?

    Water makes up most of the human body. The brain alone is about 70% water, so we need water to think. Water is responsible for cushioning our joints, removing waster, and regulating our body temperature through sweating.

    Without water, we dehydrate. The core body temperature rises. Your muscles lose their ability to contract. The blood volume decreases. Blood gets thicker. Heart rate increases, as does blood pressure.

    If you want to get an idea of what it is like to be without water—to be dying of thirst—read Death Valley in '49. These pioneers got lost in Death Valley and suffered greatly. Their quest for food and water is no different from millions of people in developing countries today.

    Death Valley in '49, by William Lewis Manley is available through Project Gutenberg. This is an excerpt.

    " ...our mouths became so dry we had to put a bullet or a small smooth stone in and chew it and turn it around with the tongue to induce a flow of saliva. If we saw a spear of green grass on the north side of a rock, it was quickly pulled and eaten to obtain the little moisture it contained.

    Thus we traveled along for hours, never speaking, for we found it much better for our thirst to keep our mouths closed as much as possible, and prevent the evaporation. The dry air of that region took up water as a sponge does. "

  • Sign the Earth Day Climate Declaration but Also Take Action


    It's been 40 years since the first Earth Day. It was a fringe movement back then, fueled by citizens concerned with saving the environment. Considering that 40 years have past, it seems not much has been done. It's true that many polluting operations were cleaned up in the USA, but as a whole, is the Earth better off?

    The USA pushed a lot of its manufacturing off shore to countries where pollution is tolerated. Corporations now see "green" as the latest buzz word; it's a way to make more money. Take the bottled water industry, for example. Where was it 40 years ago? Practically non-existent. Now think of all the pollution and water imbalances that it causes.

    Drive around California, and you can get the impression that cars don't pollute. Take a trip to Ecuador or Peru. Watch the thick, black smoke billow out of the tail pipes in these countries. They often get discarded polluter cars from first world countries or, to save money, use inferior fuel.

    The Earth needs a lot more than to have US citizens signing a petition. Although I urge you to sign the petition, I recommend that you do something more for our only planet. Do something that affects not just the USA, but the entire Earth. Don't depend on someone else -- like Congress -- to do it for you.

  • Sewage Wasting World Waterways

    SIck Water: The Central Role of Wastewater Management in Sustainable Development is a report from the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. It's an alarming report that starts like this:

    "The statistics are stark: Globally, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s waterways and at least 1.8 million children under five years-old die every year from water related disease, or one every 20 seconds.

    Over half of the world’s hospitals beds are occupied with people suffering from illnesses linked with contaminated water and more people die as a result of polluted water than are killed by all forms of violence including wars.

    The impact on the wider environment is no less striking. An estimated 90 per cent of all wastewater in developing countries is discharged untreated directly into rivers, lakes or the oceans. Such discharges are part of the reason why de-oxygenated dead zones are growing rapidly in the seas and oceans. Currently an estimated 245 000 km2 of marine ecosystems are affected with impacts on fisheries, livelihoods and the food chain."

    Find out more by downloading the entire report.

  • Water: Only $31 a Cup

    At $7 for 1.76 oz., Avéne Thermal Spring Water is one of the most expensive water products on the planet. It's water in a spray bottle that, when sprayed on the skin, "calms, soothes, and softens."

    Guess what else? It's advertised as preservative-free!

    Instructions for use: Spray on skin, leave on for a few minutes, then pat dry. Use as often as needed.

    The bottled water industry seems more outrageous every day. But someone must be falling for this marketing. Peter Glieck just released a book that provides some insight. Check it out: Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.

  • BP Demonstrates that Water and Oil Don’t Mix

    As I watch the BP oil environmental disaster unfold each day, my heart goes out to the people in the Gulf states, especially Louisiana. Like most multinational corporations, BP is concerned primarily with profits. Safety is a concern to them only in that a bad record reduces profit and makes them a bad risk should they propose to drill elsewhere. So what do they say about safety?

    "Safe and reliable operations are integral to BP’s success, and we strive continuously to improve our safety performance." BP Oil Safety

    Here's what BP says about oil spills:

    "BP recognizes the risk posed to the environment from spills and takes a range of measures to prevent any loss of hydrocarbons.

    Our strategy to address spills has three components:

    Prevention: we seek to assure the integrity of vessels and pipelines used to transport oil and other hydrocarbons.

    Preparation: we seek to ensure an infrastructure is in place to deal effectively with spills and their impacts. Our operating facilities have the capacity and resources to respond to spill incidents and we participate in industry and international forums to coordinate contingency planning and emergency response.

    Performance: we record incidents, learn lessons and aim to reduce the number of losses from primary containment."

    And their safety record, which is out-of date now:

    "There were 234 oil spills of one barrel (159 litres) or more in 2009, a significant reduction on the 335 spills that occurred in 2008. This marked a continuation of the downward trend in the number of spills since 1999."