Why we should stop drinking bottled water; solving the Californian water crisis; flash flood in Colombia: today’s water news


“Clean, safe drinking water that flows freely out of our faucets is a feat of engineering that humans have been been perfecting for two millennia. It is a cornerstone of civilization. It is what our cities are built upon.”

Alissa Walker at Gizmodo has written an impassioned piece about why we should stop drinking bottled water. As the Californian water crisis worsens, people’s attention has been drawn to the big corporations – like Nestle – which make a huge profit from selling bottled water.

“Anderson and Miller argue that a water tax on organic products would be a much better idea than mandating water use.”

On the subject of the crisis in California, economists have come up with an interesting solution to it. The Daily Caller reports that by taxing organic products, it encourages organic farms to be more water-efficient. Currently, they waste much more water than conventional farms, and as the crisis continues, ways of solving it will need to be found – and fast.

“Residents were stirred from bed in the dead of the night by a loud rumble and neighbors’ shouts of “The river! The river!” as modestly built homes and bridges plunged into the Libordiana ravine. Survivors barely had enough time to gather their loved ones.”

A devastating flash flood in western Colombia has killed 52 people, according to Star Tribune. Mud, debris and water came down from the nearby river into the alpine town, which is situated in one of Colombia’s most disaster-prone areas.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby via Gizmodo

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Drastic drought measures, fluoride teeth and Ghana: today’s news round-up

water news

The Guardian reports that the Governor of California has ordered “unprecedented and mandatory water restrictions in the state” in reaction to the news that there will be no snowfall this year to replenish the state’s dwindling reservoirs. The State Water Resources Control Board have been told to reduce water use throughout the state by 25%, which is predicted to save 1.5m acre-feet of water by the year’s end.

It may not all be bad news; NBC report that Santa Cruz is an example of how water restrictions can work – they actually took on the same 25% restriction last year, and have been successful thanks to measures like offering rebates to those who make their lawns drought-friendly, and one day “water schools” to show people how to easily cut down their usage.

A point of contention for activists, as raised by Newsweek, is that Nestle has continued it’s massive bottled water operation in California throughout the drought. It’s also come to light that their permit to transfer water has been expire since 1988.

Fluoride has been proven to reduce cavities in young children, but The New York Times report that a study in Ireland has revealed that it can also help older people to keep their teeth. Researchers at the dentistry school of Trinity College Dublin studied almost 5,000 adults older than 50, and discovered that those in areas with fluoridated water were more likely to report that they still had all their teeth. However, even though fluoride has been shown to increase bone mass, it was revealed to have no effect on overall bone density in the elderly.

Gizmodo have written a piece about the water problem in Ghana, where there is plenty of water but people still choose to buy it from street vendors in plastic pouches.

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World Water Day, California in Crisis and Ancient Martian Lakes: today’s news roundup


Photo: UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie

This year’s World Water Day saw the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki Moon call for “cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies – internationally, regionally and globally” and “a spirit of urgent co-operation” in his address, because of “the onset of climate change, growing demand on finite water resources from agriculture, industry and cities, and increasing pollution in many areas” that are “hastening a water crisis.”

As reported by UN News Centre, he added that women and children are often at huge risk thanks to the currently “unproductive and sometimes dangerous business of collecting water, and that statistics for sanitation are still “even less encouraging” – 2.5 billion people around the world still live with unimproved sanitation.

PR Web reported that, in honour of World Water Day, Philanthropedia revealed the new rankings of the top sixteen  international non-profits supporting efforts towards improving water, sanitation and hygiene quality (according to UNICEF).

The list is as follows:

1) WaterAid
2) Water for People
3) IRC
5) Water.org
6) Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)
7) Rural Water Supply Network
8) SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
9) Millennium Water Alliance
10) World Vision International (WVI)
11) Plan
12) CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere)
13) Oxfam
14) Rotary International
15) PATH
16) iDE (International Development Enterprises)

Jasmine Marrow, the director of nonprofit strategy for Guidestar (parent company to Philanthropedia) said “the United Nations’ World Water Day is a day to celebrate the life-saving value of clean water and prepare for how we sustainably manage water in the future. Philanthropedia’s newest rankings can help donors best identify the highest-performing nonprofits in the field of water, sanitation and hygiene, which are worthy of their charitable donation.”

Forbes also marked World Water Day with a long piece explaining that water is the key to health and sustainable development, and that technology must play a part in this. We’re inclined to agree!

California’s drought crisis continues, as unpleasant tasting water may become “the new normal” as reported by SF Gate. Residents of the East Bay have said, for example, that the water is “very metallic … almost minerally.” Luckily the taste is caused by algae in the Pardee Reservoir, which, according to an EBMUD spokeswoman is safe to drink. The problem is that, as long as the Southern California drought persists, the taste is likely to remain.

And, according to The Desert Sun, that could be a while yet. At a conference in Indian Wells, local and national water leaders that the billions of dollars proposed to fix California’s water infrastructure won’t be enough, and that it’s “a quick fix” rather than a proper addressing of the issue.

In lighter news, Astronomy report that researchers at Brown University have analysed an ancient Martian lake system and discovered “at least two separate periods of water activity.” The project leader says that the discovery “tells us something really interesting about how early Mars operated.”

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“Water, water, everywhere, nor a drop to drink”

by Kavya Menon

Those famous words in S. T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is very much relevant and appropriate in large parts all over the world, thanks to over-exploitation of our environment: global warming, de-forestation, polluting and over-use of water sources, lack of ground water recharge options and many more.

As part of my one year on attempting to contribute in rural development as a fellow with the Youth For India, sponsored by SBI, I am working on health and hygiene aspects of salt pan workers in Vedaranyam, a prime salt producing centre. Extreme harsh conditions of heat, salt concentrations, long working hours and hard manual labour has created Chronic Dehydration for the salt pan labourers.


RO plant and water cans built with funds and training from USAID in Arcottuthurai village; Currently abandoned as no one is interested to take part in maintenance

Excess of salt in ground water and lack of rains has made it very difficult for local populations to access good drinking water at homes too. The primary source of drinking water, from the Kollidam river, is both insufficient (4 pots/family; up to 2-3 times a week) and often not clean enough. Other sources are the hand pumps/wells/bore wells having mildly saline to extremely saline water; and bore wells of tobacco farms (though not saline, have high nicotine content).

On the event of the International World Water Day, I’m posting a collection of issues related to water unavailability that I found in this beautiful Vedararnyam.


The only functional RO plant; thanks to dedicated villagers of Seruthalaikadu village who follow the training given and call up the maintenance team regularly

Overall, it is a sad picture of water unavailability. In my stint here, a lot of support from the NGO MSSRF’s staff at Vedaranyam has been very instrumental for me to understand the ground realities. A lot of work for providing good drinking water has been happening in all the 14 adopted villages with MSSRF’s involvement. Last week, a well was constructed in a non-saline land by MSSRF to supplement the water from Kollidam dam that is provided by the government for the drinking purpose to Kovilthavu village.




Inauguration of well constructed by MSSRF, after assessing the need with the participation of villagers of Kovilthavu village


A typical sight of water collection at a tap that caters to 3-5 households. Water comes maximum for an hour, up to 2 or 3 times in a week


Kids were posing for me before their late afternoon dip in the salty village pond. Swimming is their ultimate fun after coming home from school

N.B. – I am also striving to provide good drinking water in salt pans. I am being supported by Desolenator, a service from Innovation eXperience where I was working before joining SBI YFI. More on it in a later post.


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Things To Do On World Water Day

Happy World Water Day! You’ll be unsurprised to hear that it’s an event that we feel very strongly about, so we thought we’d let you know about a few ways that you can get involved – it’s easier than you’d think!


Learn About Water

How much do you know about the water that you come into contact with every day? We guarantee is not as much as you think you do. Why not take some time to do a little reading today? There’s a ton of useful information over on the UN Water website, and it’s well worth taking a look.

Support Sustainability

The theme of World Water Day 2015 is “Water and Sustainable Development” – in other words, the role played by water in all forms of sustainable development; food, industry, you name it! There are plenty of ways to get involved; why not sign this pledge to urge the UK government to support a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation?

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Sign Up For An Event

There are tons of water-focused events going on around the world throughout the year; why not learn about them here, and sign up for a few?

Watch Water Aid’s sH2Ort Films

Hundreds of directors from around the world have submitted short films about water to Water Aid’s “sH2Ort Films” competition (see what they did there?), and they’ve now released the winner and the runners up. Congratulations to Sven Harding from South Africa who’s film “Moonwalk” was chosen as the winner: you can watch it, as long as the twenty other films that made the shortlist, here.

Help to Fund Desolenator

We’ve made it our goal to help as many as a billion people have access to fresh water with our state-of-the-art, solar-powered water purification technology. You can help us to reach our target by donating to our Indie GoGo campaign.

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The global denial of water shortage and water privatisation failures and successes: today’s news roundup


“Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned,’ IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri told participants at a conference on water security.”

According to a report from Reuters about a recent UN meeting of the world’s top climate scientists, many countries are still not facing up to the harsh realities of water shortages, including conflict and widespread health epidemics.

“About 80% of Lagos’s piped water supplies are thought to be stolen, only 5% of people receive it in their houses, taps are often dry, sanitation is non-existent across much of the metropolis and the hospitals are full of people suffering diarrheal and other water-borne diseases. All that has changed since the IFC’s abortive 1999 plan is that the demand for water has grown due to the arrival of millions more people in the city.”

The ongoing debate about water privatisation continues in The Guardian this week with an in-depth exploration of the failures and successes across the globe, from Guayaquil in Ecuador to Bucharest in Romania.

Pic from Wikipedia

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