Earlier this year, my company WaterFilters.NET posed a challenging question to students nationwide:
“With an increasing global population, particularly in developing countries, what would you create to help reduce water shortages, and ensure all people had nearby access to clean drinking water?”
The best response would be awarded our $500 Future of Water scholarship, while two runners-up would be awarded a WaterFilters.NET Back To School Care Package.
Today, I am proud to announce the winner and runners-up for this challenge – and to share their responses with you.
A water shortage solution from our second runner-up, Jason Miller, may be found below. Pictured to the left with his daughter Robyn, Jason is studying for his Master’s in Transportation Management at San Jose State University, is a professional engineer, science fair judge, stand-up comedian and up-and-coming acrylic artist.
Today, particularly in developing countries, there is a lack of clean drinking water for the people that live there. In fact, more than 780 million people lack access to clean drinking water worldwide – that’s more than 2.5 times the United States population. To put this in perspective, nearly ninety-nine percent of the 3.4 million deaths annually happen in developing countries. It has been said that ‘[The water and sanitation crisis] claims more lived through disease than any war through guns.’ To put it another way, ‘An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses in an entire day.’ Now that we have put some perspective on this situation, it can be understood why a solution has to be developed to solve the problem of unsafe drinking water.
One of the solutions I would put in place would be to make it a global agenda to invest in projects that enhance the availability of clean drinking water. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that ‘Investment in safe drinking water and sanitation contributes to economic growth. For each one dollar invested, the WHO estimates returns of three to four dollars, depending on the region and available technology.’ According to the WHO, only 62 percent of Africa is covered by clean water supplies and 60 percent is considered to be in sanitary condition. Compare that to North America, which is 100 percent on both counts.
Who would fund these projects, such as water filtration and desalinization facilities? The public sector cannot bear these costs alone. There would have to be Public-Private Partnerships [P-3’s], where some of the risk in financing and operating these facilities would be transferred to private companies. In building and operating these facilities, jobs would be created. These jobs would boost the local economies and, by default, improve such unsanitary conditions. These companies can only operate when they make a profit and well-maintained and constructed facilities require less capital improvements. They also have an incentive to attract and maintain a qualified workforce.
This not only applies to the initial facilities, but also to the water distribution systems as well. Right now, over 200 million hour are spent by women collecting water at local rivers and lakes carrying 40 pound jerry cans on their backs to their families. There has to be a better way! Various networks of pumping facilities and modern pipes need to be installed in all these developing countries.
In my profession, I have designed storm water mitigation projects in the Lake Tahoe basin of California since 1999. These projects intend on improving the clarity of the lake by reducing roadway pollutants running into it. As a Registered Civil Engineer who designs and oversees the construction of multi-million dollar infrastructure construction projects, I know the importance of a clean water supply. Public-Private partnerships need to be established to create new facilities and distribution networks so that everyone can have access to clean drinking water. This will not improve the water, but also the lives and economies of the affected populations.
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 Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvement at the Global Level; Guy Hutton and Laurence Haller; 2004; http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wsh0404.pdf