U.S. Falling Short Of Its Goals To Improve Access To Clean Water, Sanitation Worldwide, Report Says – Kaiser Global Health

U.S. Falling Short Of Its Goals To Improve Access To Clean Water, Sanitation Worldwide, Report Says – Kaiser Global Health.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The U.S. is falling short on its goal of improving conditions for the 2.6 billion people worldwide without access to clean water and sanitation despite the fact the Water for the Poor Act became law in 2005, according to a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), WaterAid, CARE and 11 other organization, Food Safety News reports (11/19).

“A lack of strategic planning; inadequate political prioritization of safe water, sanitation and hygiene issues; and limited programming capacity at the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) and the State Department are just some of the reasons the government has fallen behind on the implementation of the law, the groups say,” according to a NRDC press release. In the report, the advocate groups outline several recommendations for the Obama administration to take “immediately” to help “address the global sanitation crisis,” the press release states. The report also urges the U.S. Congress to pass the Water for the World Act, which they argue “can help build the capacity within the government to implement the Water for the Poor Act … and would set a target for reaching 100 million people worldwide with safe water and sanitation,” according to the press release.

“In order to ensure that the U.S. government and U.S. taxpayers are getting the most possible out of this investment, it is crucial that the administration release a real strategy by which its efforts can be judged,” Peter Lochery, director of the Water Team at CARE, said in the press release (11/18).

“Approximately 4,000 children under 5 years old in the developing world die each day from diarrheal diseases. Diarrhea caused by unsafe water and sanitation kills more children under 5 every year than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and measles combined,” Food Safety News reports. The release of the report coincided with World Toilet Day on Friday, Nov. 19 (11/18).

Also reporting on World Toilet Day, IRIN examines the business behind efforts to bring toilets to some of the billions worldwide without them, writing, ” Entrepreneur turned toilet crusader Jack Sim from Singapore wants to turn the toilet into the new gold standard of status in Asia, which would signify ‘making it.'” However, “for this to happen, aid groups, which have long promoted the health and hygiene benefits of safe toilets for the world’s estimated 2.6 billion people who do not have a toilet, need to step aside and let the market take over, said Sim,” according to the news service.

According to the article, the World Toilet Organization (WTO), which Sim founded in 2001, “wants … to mass market toilets (in countries lacking them) through SaniShops ‘social franchises’ which will provide marketing and sales training, branding, and maintenance support,” the news service writes. “Starting in Cambodia, where diarrhoea linked to open defecation kills 11,000 people every year – more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, combined – Sim wants to ‘tap into people’s dreams rather than fears,'” IRIN writes. “If you tell someone they may die of diarrhoea, it is not much of an incentive to build a toilet. But if toilets become a sign of wealth, jealousy over their neighbours’ latrines will drive them to build their own.”

“With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, WTO piloted the production and sales of toilets designed by the NGO International Development Enterprises Cambodia … Retailing at US$32, $6 profit goes to the manufacturer and $1 goes to the seller. Villagers have produced and sold 2,000 pour-flush latrines thus far, and WTO wants to create more factories, which cost $400 each to set up” (11/19).

USA Today Examines How Haiti’s Water, Sanitation Issues Exacerbate Cholera Outbreak

Saying that the Haitian government has done little to improve the country’s water and sanitation systems since the Jan. 12 earthquake, aid groups worry the cholera outbreak that struck the country, killing more than 1,100 will only grow worse, USA Today reports. While installing permanent water systems is less expensive than delivering emergency aid, without a plan from the Haitian government, aid groups on the ground continue to deliver emergency supplies, according to Oxfam spokeswoman Julie Schindall.

“The U.N.’s water and sanitation group had planned water and sewer projects to expand the piped water system and move Haitians away from emergency water. They await government approval,” the newspaper writes. Mark Henderson, chief of the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program in Haiti, noting how all attention is focused on stopping the cholera outbreak, suggested the outbreak may eventually lead to increased pressure on the Haitian government to improve water and sanitation conditions.

Even before the earthquake, “more than a third of Haitians lacked access to clean water,” USA Today writes, and now “[l]ess than one-fifth of the population has access to a simple latrine or toilet, Henderson says. … In the Artibonite area, where the cholera epidemic began, most people use the Artibonite River for bathing, drinking and going to the toilet, and do not have access to chlorinated water that could kill the cholera bacteria. Many of Port-au-Prince’s slums have no running water or sewer systems.”

Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and Henry Gray, emergency water and sanitation coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, are also quoted in the article (Leiwand, 11/19).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Looks At Coca-Cola’s Efforts To Conserve Water, Criticisms Company Is Causing Water Problems In Some Regions

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contrasts Coca-Cola’s efforts to conserve water globally and improve their company’s water efficiency to criticisms by some that the volume of water Coca-Cola uses is behind some of the problems facing water stressed regions throughout the world.

“From southern Europe to parts of India and China, Mexico and the U.S., many of Coca-Cola’s territories are facing or could face water stress. According to the United Nations, almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water. In a decade, two-thirds of the projected population of 8 billion could live in water-stressed areas,” the newspaper writes. The article details an ongoing debate in India over Coca-Cola’s impact on the environment and water conditions, including an argument by some that the company is to blame for exacerbating the water stress in an Indian village.

Still, as the article notes, Coca-Cola has committed to several efforts to improving water usage around the world, including water recycling and educational outreach efforts to farmers. “In addition to its work around freshwater basins, the company has committed to spending $30 million by 2015 to provide access to safe drinking water in Africa. The Replenish Africa Initiative aims to provide at least two million Africans with clean water and sanitation,” the newspaper writes. “According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water, and millions die each year from waterborne illnesses. Coca-Cola’s cash will go toward technology such as rainwater harvesting, hand pumps, pipe systems and chlorine treatment systems,” the newspaper writes (McWilliams, 11/18).

 

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The Story of Bottled Water

The Story of Bottled Water by Madeline Ostrander, senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Worried about what’s in your tap?

That’s exactly what the water bottling industry hoped when it developed brands like Dasani, Perrier, and Poland Springs, which promise to be “natural,” “pure,” “clean,” even “sexy” alternatives to tap water.

But the very companies that market those brands, like Nestlé and Coca Cola, are putting public water supplies in jeopardy in communities both in the United States and overseas. They’re selling us a product that is often not any cleaner than tap water, and is a lot pricier.

Bottled water is a scam. The simplest way to understand why is to watch a new, short film released today by the creators of The Story of Stuff. Like its predecessor, The Story of Bottled Water uses simple language and surprisingly charming stick figures to walk you through the perils of the bottled water economy. “Bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water,” says Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and director. “Can you imagine paying 2,000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?”

The Story of Bottled Water film still

Bottled water often comes straight from the tap, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not. It is not necessarily safer. For instance, in 2004, the Coca-Cola company had to recall all of its Dasani water from the United Kingdom, after officials discovered the water exceeded the legal limit for bromate, a carcinogen. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water—on average, they contained eight chemical pollutants, no better than tap water.

But there’s something even more insidious about the way that the bottled water industry preys on our public water systems and tap water. Water is both the most basic of human needs and a product of nature. It can’t actually be manufactured, so bottling it up and selling it always means removing water from a public source. As the bottled water market has taken off, we’ve seen public water fountains begin to disappear. Meanwhile, citizens in rural towns have begun to take notice that water-bottling companies are trying to sell off water that actually belongs to them. Communities like Barnstead, New Hampshire have fought hard to keep Nestle from bottling and shipping away their local water.

China’s Living Water Garden
Photo essay: Chengdu’s most popular public park is is a 5.9 acre inner-city natural water treatment system.

We’ve gotten used to thinking we have more than enough water to go around in this country, but it’s not true. According to experts like Peter Gleick, the United States is facing a water crisis that will only get worse in coming years. Already major water supplies like the Ogallala Aquifer and Lake Mead, which together supply water for millions across the Southwest and Great Plains, are in big danger of running dry. Climate change is going to alter everything we know about water—how much stays in our reservoirs, how much snow falls in the Sierras, how our rivers flow, and how much we have available to drink, irrigate our crops, and water our lawns. When we let a private company control, bottle, or sell our water—whether it’s Coca-Cola or the private water operator Thames—we’re giving up some measure of control over our health, environment, lives, and futures.

In May, YES! Magazine will unveil a full issue about how to protect our water and keep it clean and accessible. You’ll read about radical breakthroughs in contentious Western water wars, about a community that bought its water back from private control, about farms that are learning how save water by taking care of soil, and about ways to get all the water you need, even if you live in the heart of the desert.

In the meantime, you can celebrate World Water Day by watching The Story of Bottled Water, and read more about campaigns to protect water in our online and magazine coverage.


Madeline Ostrander

Madeline Ostrander is senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Interested?
Life, Liberty, Water by Maude Barlow
A global water justice movement is demanding a change in international law to ensure the universal right to clean water for all.