HOW CAN WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Ethos water campaign believes that “Every Bottle Makes a Difference.” (www.ethoswater.com) Its campaign entails the contribution of 5 cents per sale towards the organization’s goal to donate $10 million over five years. Like Ethos, organizations around the world are developing ways they can also make a difference and reflect Mahatma Gandhi’s challenge to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Making a difference can range from volunteerism and public service to lobbying for policy changes and development. Individuals, organizations and or corporations can provide monetary contributions, sponsor seminars, workshops and or forums on hygiene education, behavior change and social reconditioning—changing the way citizens think about water. Identifying an organization to join and support or developing personal goals and outreach is the first step in answering the question, “How can we make a difference?” The key is to become educated and informed advocates and resources.
Countless number of organizations on a national and global scale serves as advocates on water issues. Their focus may be access to water supply, land property and protection rights, sustainability and economic growth, freshwater and urbanization, irrigation and agriculture or globalization. They provide a service to help individuals and communities become informed advocates as well.
Perhaps a community is interested in learning how to properly manage local resources or water treatment regulation and engineering or cutting back on domestic water consumption. How would citizens become informed and involved and implement changes in behavior and hygienic practices? Maybe the answers the individual or group is seeking can be found through the World Bank, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Food and Water Watch organization. The answer could be found closer to home through the Commission of Public Works or state legislation. Exploring government, not-for-profit and private resources committed to water advocacy, education and reconditioning affords everyone an opportunity to be a part of a global quest to restore human dignity by securing clean, safe and affordable water for all.
The following sites do not by any means exhaust the abundance of resources that are available to the public. The internet has certainly increased access to information and serves as a good tool to seek out an appropriate organization to aid in a specific advocacy, education and reconditioning need. The sites listed are provided to help steer the concerned citizen in the right direction with hopes that it will inspire one or more to become a glocal (global and local) servant on behalf of water policy matters.
(Photo By: http://www.wateraid.org)
Advocacy, Education and Reconditioning Resources
World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization, as noted on its website, “is the United Nations specialized agency for health. It was established on 7 April 1948. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO's Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The World Health Organization monitors the safety of water conditions around the globe. The research tools its website provides addresses water, sanitation and health. The WHO also outlines its partnership with the Millennium Development Goals. The WHO writes that its work “touches not one specific goal, but several at the same time, for example, WHO’s work on strengthening health systems.” The WHO’s website provides links to the MDGs and a variety of links on clean water and access.
The World Health Organization has outlined six key areas of water sanitation and hygiene. Those key areas also formulate the major functions of WHO. They are:
- Articulating consistent, ethical and evidence-based policy and advocacy positions;
- Managing information by assessing trends and comparing performance; setting the agenda for, and stimulating, research and development;
- Catalysing change through technical and policy support, in ways that stimulate cooperation and action and help to build sustainable national and intercountry capacity;
- Negotiating and sustaining national and global partnerships;
- Setting, validating, monitoring and pursuing the proper implementation of norms and standards;
- stimulating the development and testing of new technologies, tools and guidelines.
WHO, with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, furthers its efforts around the globe with the support of six regional offices in Africa, the Americas, Easter Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.
World Bank Group: The Water Resources Management Group
The World Bank’s Water Resources Management Group (WRMG) was created in March 2000, in response to the growing challenges clients of the bank faced in their respective regions around the world. The bank and its members together invest in “waer and sanitation, hydropower, irrigation and environment.” The World Bank sites as its mandate the “quality of lending and analytic work on water resources; human resource actions with respect to water resources management, working collaboratively with various sector boards; outreach and corporate positions on water resource issues; and knowledge management on water resources.”
Water resource management is too large and diverse to fit into one sector or theme. The World Bank in an “effort to facilitate understanding of the many dimensions of water resources management” created sectors and themes the bank has identified as “aspects of water resources management that deserves and are receiving both constant attention and urgent effective action from stakeholders at all levels.”
Here are the summaries of those sectors and themes as they are specifically outlined on the World Bank Water Resources Management Group’s website:
- Coastal and Marine Management focuses on resources and human activity within the land-water interface along coastal regions of the world. A portfolio analysis indicates rapidly growing World Bank investments in areas within 60 km of the coastal zone, and many projects which currently benefit from an integrated coastal management (ICM) approach (US$330 million of dedicated coastal management activities).
- Dams and Reservoirs can improve water supply for irrigation and households, provide power, mitigate floods, and help manage the complex web of water uses. They can also play an important role in climate change -- as a tool to help countries adapt to evolving hydrologic conditions and to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The World Bank supports investments in dams when they emerge as the priority alternative from strategic planning processes for decisions concerning water and energy. Increasingly, emphasis is placed on multi-purpose benefits, investments that build cooperation across regional and international boundaries, and adaptability. The Bank continues to impose high levels of environmental and social safeguards, while contributing to the growth of knowledge and management capacity for sustainable infrastructure.
- Groundwater is the primary source of water for drinking and irrigation. It is a unique resource, widely available, providing security against droughts and yet closely linked to surface water resources and the hydrological cycle. The World Bank is a partner in The Groundwater Management Advisory Team whose objectives include supporting and strengthening the groundwater components of World Bank projects.
- Irrigation and Drainage: Water for Food has played an important role in global food security and rural development. In many countries, further expansion of irrigated agriculture to new lands is unlikely. The World Bank continues its support to client countries to promote sector sustainability and competitiveness through investments and policy reforms.
- River Basin Management: The development of sustainable, efficient and equitable River Basin Management systems is fundamental to the well-being of people, economic growth, and the environment. The World Bank has promoted several initiatives, contributed to, and facilitated river basin management approaches.
- International Waters: encompasses a range of mechanisms and instruments to support the use of water as a catalyst for regional cooperation rather than a source of potential conflict. The World Bank has worked successfully to foster riparian cooperation and agreements through, for example, the Indus Nile Basin Initiative and other interventions.
- Water and Environment: encompasses aquatic biodiversity, environmental flow requirements, water pollution control, water weeds and hyacinth control, and wetlands management. In each of these areas, the World Bank is actively identifying good practices with a view toward improving the project portfolio.
- Water Economics and Institutions: deals with the economic aspects of water including the economic analysis of water resources and water supply and sanitation projects and examines recent advances in water economics methodology, tools, and applications. The World Bank has been active in supporting water pricing reforms in multiple sectors, economic analysis of costs and benefits of water projects, and the associated knowledge-base, modeling tools and institutional strengthening.
- Water Supply and Sanitation: is directly related to the main themes on the development agenda -- poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, private sector-led growth, participatory development, and good governance. The World Bank Group strives to help its member countries to ensure that everyone has access to efficient, responsive, and sustainable water and sanitation services.
- Watershed Management: is an accepted component of natural resources management and is incorporated in many different kinds of World Bank projects, ranging from sector-specific projects (forestry, irrigation, agriculture, etc.) to integrated area development.
In addition to serving as an advocate of water policy and management issues, the World Bank Group provides educational opportunities and sponsors and co-sponsors projects that are all outlined on its website. For more details, see the World Bank’s Calendar of Learning Events and its sections on Projects and Partnerships.
The Environment division of USAID recognizes that without water, the global ecosystem will fail. It asserts that “Every ecosystem, society, and individual on Earth depends on water.” The universe is interconnected and if one lacks the efficient water supply to survive, we all suffer—global climate, food security, human health, energy supplies, industrial production and human dignity suffers.
One area of focus for USAID Environment is equitable distribution of water resources. USAID reports that “Demand for water outstrips supply in a growing number of countries, and the quality of that supply is rapidly declining. Four hundred and fifty million people in 31 countries already face serious shortages of water. These shortages occur almost exclusively in developing countries, which are ill-equipped to adopt the policy and technology measures needed to address the crisis. By the year 2025, one-third of the world’s population is expected to face severe and chronic water shortages.” USAID positions itself as an advocate for humanity and the environment. It provides resources and recommendations that can help to insure adequate and fair water supply to global citizens while also protecting the natural order of the ecosystem. The key is finding a balance and learning how man and nature can cohabitate with out the sacrifice of one or the other or both.
USAID promotes good water sense by assessing the causal effects of the world’s water crisis. “Human activities often contaminate the world’s limited freshwater resources, making them unavailable for further human use and threatening the health of the lake, river, and wetland ecosystems they support. Likewise, coastal and ocean systems are under threat from the impact of a broad range of human activities. Coastal systems are particularly vulnerable to degradation from land-based activities, climate change, over-fishing, and damage to coral reefs, and they require active intervention to ensure their continued survival.”
USAID proactively investigates how the changes in the world’s ecosystem could also impact natural disasters such as tsunamis. In addition, provides resources on disaster preparedness and environmental compliance. These are key preventive measures to help concerned citizens identify and apply responsible water management practices to their daily rituals and lives.
USAID’s website also provides resources on biodiversity, biotechnology, forestry, land management and pollution prevention.
FOOD & WATER WATCH
Food and Water Watch in its own words is a not-for-profit that works alongside “grassroots organization and other allies around the world to stop the corporate control of food and water.” The organization states that it is “committed to creating an economically and environmentally viable future.” Its website quotes Fortune magazine calling “water the oil of the 21st century” or “the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations.”
Food and Water Watch organization has taken a magnifying glass to the water wars over ownership. The organization condemns those who seek to gain a profit from the water shortage. Water privatization, according to Food and Water Watch, seeks to control water for money instead of insisting on “the right to universal access to clean, affordable water.” Food and Water Watch asserts that “We support local, democratic control of the world’s water resources…we campaign to keep water under public control. We believe water is a human right and a common good.”
The organization distributes perhaps controversial fact sheets that focus on ways to end the exploitation of consumers and global citizens. For example, one fact sheet accuses large corporations of using “extravagant advertising campaigns to convince people to pay exorbitant prices for water that is typically no safer than what pours from a tap at 1/1000th the price.” It asserts that bottling water further depletes the world’s water supply and when the used bottles are not properly recycled, harm is brought to the environment. The fact sheet references the Natural Resources Defense Council’s findings that say “approximately one-third of tested bottled water brands violated, in at least one sample, an enforceable standard or exceeded microbiological-purity guidelines.” One violation, the organization suggests, is selling tap water for bottled water. Food and Water Watch asserts that “approximately 25 percent of bottled water is merely tap water and rules allow manufacturers to call their product spring water even if it has been chemically treated.”
Working with concerned citizens, public officials and private businesses, the non-profit organization hopes to reconstruct possible harmful approaches to managing public water resources. The organization provides resources on the privatization of water and the right to water. It also provides a check and balance system, monitoring the world bank in what it calls the “Bank Watch.”
The Food and Water Watch provides advocacy resources on public action, government participation, leadership and support and corporate involvement. Citizens interested in joining the non-profit’s movement to “take action” can sign up via its website. Registration to receive copies of the organizations various publications can also be completed on-line.
If the world water crisis seems hopeless, Water Advocates use the positive outlooks to empower action and change. The not-for-profit organization, based in Washington, D.C., celebrates what they call “good news.” It asserts that “83% of the world has access to safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water while 60% has access to improved sanitation.” According to Water Advocates, the numbers “indicate that enormous progress is being made to the collective efforts of governments, businesses, foundations and nongovernmental organizations.” The Water Advocates believe they have the answer to continue to move towards progress.
The answer, according to Water Advocates includes:
- Channeling additional financial resources into the sector from various constituencies (e.g. governments, corporations, foundations and individuals, civic and religious organizations);
- Implementing projects which are sustainable and appropriate within the local cultural, technical, financial and management contexts; and
- Generating increasing political will in developed and developing countries.
The three recommended solutions go hand in hand with the organization’s goal to “increase American support for worldwide access to safe, affordable, and sustainable drinking water and adequate sanitation.”
The organization’s website gives an alphabetized listing of organizations that are U.S. based and “working on behalf of the world’s people who lack access to safe, affordable, and sustainable drinking water and basic sanitation facilities.” The links are also listed with the on-line references of this section.
Ethos Water, founded in 2002, believes that a bottle of water can serve as a tool of activism and awareness. Their concept to making a difference is “water for water.” A purchase of bottled water contributes to the aid of children around the world. The company, now owned by Starbucks Coffee Company, contributes “5 cents” of a bottle purchase “toward a target goal of raising at least $10 million over five years.” The company depends on the marketing power of Starbucks and joint-venture partner PepsiCo to help spread the message through the United States and Canada. The company in an effort to get the message out about helping children get clean water, co-sponsors the 2007 World Water Day (March 22) along with non-government organizations in events throughout North America.
To learn more about World Water Day, visit http://www.worldwaterday.net. More information is also available at Ethos Water’s website. Those who are unable to participate in the World Water Day Walk may choose to join its Virtual Walk.
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES
Catholic Relief Services, founded in 1943, is the “official international relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community. It believes that everyone is called to action. The organization is committed to taking action across the globe. In its president’s highlight of the organization’s work around the world, Catholic Relief Services was involved in the 2004/2005 tsunami relief efforts, and famine relief work in Africa. The work completed by CRS was done in partnership with “individuals and communities” and through “grassroots partnership s with church and local organizations.” This allowed the organization to provide food and water to severe drought and locus infested areas including Niger, Senegal and Mali.
Catholic Relief Services provides resources for individual and group involvement through its website. It provides links to help concerned citizens connect with a partnering individual or family, high school, college and university or church, parish or diocese.
The projects and activities developed by CRS include an interactive link through its website that will allow one to compare his or her water consumption to that of another country. The organization, with USAID sponsorship, also provides guidelines for the development of small-scale rural water supply and sanitation projects in East Africa.
More Water Resources
Water Resources that advocate, educate and recondition are international and local. Some resources are faith based while others are private corporations and businesses. Some resources are created through traditional philanthropy, while others are born through natural disasters and grassroots response. The resources are tools to help concerned citizens be readily equipped to address the world’s water crisis and help them become educated, informed and proactive advocates too.
Citizens can begin by contacting their city’s department of water management and requesting a copy of its quality report to learn how his or her community is working to conserve water, educate its public and how its treatment process works.
Before a person may become involved, he or she may seek out facts first. A public radio station or television may have environmental reports that update the public on literature, forums, workshops and discussions in a local area. In addition to these public forums, individuals may contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directly to find general information and resources.
EPA’s Water Resource Center: (800) 832-7828
EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline: (800) 426-4791
Some cities also offer their own information or regional hotlines that could be reached through a 311 or 411 information directory.
A concerned citizen can learn how to take action on his or her own by purchasing water friendly household amenities. Instead of a toilet that uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush, investigate toilets that use 1.3 gallons of water per flush. Contacting a local home improvement stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menard and True Value, to name a few. Also, knowledge is power. Simply checking out resources from a library or investigating facts on-line can help empower wisdom and understanding on this subject matter. Once a concerned citizen is informed they can responsibly choose an advocacy organization to further their own personal mission to serve.