Water pump, Mali
Today is World Water Day and there’s a big meeting in South Africa as hundreds, or maybe thousands, of organizations are putting out their messages aimed at pretty much saying one thing:
We’re heading for a crisis — or more accurately a bigger crisis that will affect many more of us — if things don’t change.
Anywhere from one-sixth to one-third of humanity right now lacks reliable access to safe, clean drinking water (it depends upon whose estimates you use). Even more lack access to proper sanitation, which contributes to the vicious cycle of water degradation.
Due to our growing global population, increased urbanization and pollution, intense use of water for all sorts of industrial, agricultural or other technological processes, the number of people with poor access to safe water is predicted to rise to two-thirds of the global population. That’s if we don’t work to both expand access to safe water in poor countries while reducing waste in the rich world.
There are many organizations working on this problem. In Seattle, PATH has been pioneering a number of inexpensive technical innovations aimed at improving water safety and the Gates Foundation, though it does put some money ($75 million) into water issues, is focused largely ($140 million) on finding solutions to the problem of sanitation in poor countries. Even the Nature Conservancy, its branch in Seattle, works on global water issues.
Marla Smith-Nilson and friends
But one Seattle resident, Marla Smith-Nilson, has been at this longer than most.
Smith-Nilson is founder and executive director of Water 1st International, a local organization that is working on water and sanitation projects in Bangladesh, India, Honduras and Ethiopia. Water 1st is only about six years old.
But Smith-Nilson has been working on water issues in poor countries for 20 years, having helped launch the much-bigger and high-profile organization Water.org — the one that has recruited actor Matt Damon as spokesman for the cause. Continue reading