Sunday, January 8, 2017

How many people lack access to clean drinking water?

After Flint changed its water source to the Flint River, its drinking water had a water crisis from lead contamination. So, let's not forget that this is a political power issue where those in power were not concerned about the people. Of course this power has to do with "saving" money by switching water sources while also failing to change the pipes in that water source. Thus, between 6,000 to 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead, experiencing a range of serious health problems.
With the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, we must ask ourselves: how many people lack access to clean drinking water?
Because some of us who live in a comfortable home with running water, sometimes we forget that many in the rest of the world does not have the same luxury. According to the WHO based on 2015 findings, 2.6 billion people lack even a simple ‘improved’ latrine and 1.1 billion people has no access to any type of improved drinking source of water. In 2010, that number was 783 million people who did not have access to clean drinking water (37% of those people live in Sub-Saharan Africa). At the time 1 in 9 people world wide did not have access to safe and clean drinking water in 2010.

As a direct consequence, in developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions according to the United Nations--For example, 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera). Of those 1.6 million, 90% of these are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.  Other diseases attributable to lack of access to safe drinking water include,  schistosomiasis, trachoma, and intestinal helminths (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection). This is why half of the world's hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease!
Sadly, over half of the developing world's primary schools don't have access to water and sanitation facilities; and without toilets, girls often drop out at puberty. Thus, when water sanitation interventions are put in place, there will be a reduce in girls dropping out of school, there will be less disease and deaths.

Inventor of the Segway and iBot mobility system, Dean Kamen, created a water purification system called the Slingshot several years ago, to place in developing countries that lack access to clean drinking water. The system is powered by a Stirling engine running on a combustible fuel source. Proposed, the Slingshot is claimed to be able to produce drinking water from almost any source by means of vapor compression distillation, requires no filters, and can operate using cow dung as fuel.
Other characteristics of the machine include:

  • five years of operation without overhaul or maintenance
  • use less than a kilowatt of power (lower than the power consumption of a hair dryer)
  • generate 1000 liters of pure water/day, enough for 100 people for hygiene and cooking
  • meets the U.S. pharmacopoeic standard for water for injections
  • requires no pre-treatment, pipelines, engineers, consumables (osmosis membranes, charcoal, etc.), or installation permits

  • Another water purification system, the Lifestraw, is a plastic tube that draws water up through the straw-- first passing through hollow fibers that filter water particles down. It filters a maximum of 1000 litres of water, enough for one person for one year. It removes almost all of waterborne bacteria and parasites. In addition to the classic LifeStraw, the manufacturer also produces other styles on the LifeStraw product: the LifeStraw Family, a larger unit designed for family use (Lifestraw wiki.) I have reviewed the Lifestraw, which you can watch in the video here: Lifestraw review
    It is also inexpensive. I'm not sure of the distribution of these products. I am aware that they are donated and also given in natural disasters around the world.
    But, this invention is more of a survival and wilderness tool. I am more interested in the water purification systems that are built within the home. Notice in the picture below a cistern which collects rainwater which is connected to a filter for drinkable water and in sinks. The gray water tank flushes waste water which gets distributed to plants non edible plants without a filter, and to the edible plants which will require a peat filter. This intricate system provides you the convenience and luxury of indoor plumbing and running water, while reducing water consumption.
    Once again, water is a political issue because it affects people personally those who do and do not have access to clean drinking water. Water should be a right, not a privilege. The Flint water crisis may be summed up to environmental racism because historically brown and black folks across the world have experienced this, but of course it is much more complex of an issue. So, let's make 2017 THE year that we ALL have access to clean, free, readily-available drinking water for ALL people.

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