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Educate. Empower. Act. The mission of Project WET is to reach children, parents, educators and communities of the world with water education. We invite you to join us in educating children about the most precious resource on the planet — water.
Last week in our newsletter we asked subscribers to tell us how they will be observing World Water Day tomorrow. We've been getting responses from all over and will highlight some of them in this blog post. If you would like to tell us what you or your organization is doing to celebrate World Water Day, please contact the blog editor. Thanks for sharing your festivities with us!
Writing from the capital of Togo, Kossi Loumonvi says that the NGO he works for—Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement (Youth Volunteers for the Environment)—is organizing "a great walk to celebrate this Day." The march will take place in Kara, Togo's second-largest city, to launch an appeal for "Water and toilets for all, even at school!" Kossi notes that the walk is expected to gather students, women and children. The objective of this day "is to appeal to the conscience of authorities so that they ensure the effective implementation of the right to water and sanitation in Togo."
Shamim Arfeen, the executive director of AOSED-An Organization for Socio-Economic Development in Bangladesh, wrote to tell us about the two-day-long "Walk for Water" that AOSED is organizing in honor of World Water Day. "Walk for Water" started on March 20th "from the heart of Khulna City and will be walked to Dacope," Shamim says. Shamim adds that the 25-mile (40-km) route was chosen because "Dapoce is the sub-district of most underprivileged and remote due to geographical isolation with the severe safe water scarcity in southwest coastal region of Bangladesh." The walk is expected to end on March 21 with "a mass people gathering at Dacope Upazilla. It is assumed that around thousand mass people along with peoples' organization, LEBs, NGOs, political parties and civil society representative will join this initiative." In addition to honoring World Water Day, Shamim notes that the walk is also "an initiative for the sensitization on the Khulna Declaration of Coastal Water Week 2011," a joint initiative of some 43 organizations to organize (the) Coastal Water Convention 2011 for providing a way out to solve water crisis in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh."
We will continue to update the observances as they come in. Tell us about your World Water Day celebrations today!
Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 Introduced to Enable Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation for 100 Million of World's Poorest
WASH Advocacy Initiative Applauds Introduction of Bill as One of the Most Effective Steps to Improving Global Health and Alleviating Poverty Worldwide
WASHINGTON DC, (March 18, 2011) - Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) would put the United States in the lead of responding to the worldwide safe drinking water and sanitation crisis. The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 would commit the United States to extending safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and sanitation to 100 million people within six years. This major bipartisan initiative would put the United States at the forefront of addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for drinking water and sanitation.
The WASH Advocacy Initiative commends Senators Durbin and Corker for their leadership on this important issue, and thanks the five other senators who have signed onto the bill as original cosponsors: Harry Reid (D-NV), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
"We applaud the leadership of Senator Durbin, Senator Corker, and their colleagues in working to provide 100 million people in developing countries with sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation," said Gary White, Chairman of the WASH Advocacy Initiative. "This is one of the most effective - and one of the most efficient - actions the United States can take to improve health and alleviate poverty worldwide." Each dollar invested in safe drinking water and sanitation provides an eight dollar (8:1) return on that investment in reduced healthcare costs and time savings.
Patti Simon, wife of the late Senator Paul Simon, said "We shouldn't forget that the global water and sanitation challenge is solvable - we know the solutions today. This new legislation will help make those solutions a reality. Paul would be proud to see this bill being introduced to address an issue that was a priority for him in Congress, and pleased that leaders like Senator Durbin and Senator Corker are taking the challenge seriously."
"Access to safe drinking water is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize," Assistant Senate Majority Leader Durbin said. "Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. The United States needs to do much more to ensure that global water access is protected and expanded."
"As a fiscal conservative, I realize the urgent need to dramatically reduce federal spending and be more efficient with our resources - especially as it relates to our limited foreign aid budget. That means better focusing, targeting and coordinating our efforts to achieve results without authorizing more funding, which is exactly what the Water for the World Act does," Senator Corker said. "A lack of clean water leads to the deaths of 1.8 million people a year - 90 percent of them children. It stifles economic growth, keeps women and girls from going to work and school, and contributes to political unrest that threatens our national security. For many reasons, I believe water is one of the wisest places we can focus our foreign aid."
Almost one billion people currently lack access to safe water, and 2.6 billion people lack a way to dispose of their human waste safely. More than two dozen resulting diseases - including cholera - trigger the world's most serious, and most solvable, public health problems. These diseases kill more children than AIDS, malaria and TB combined. Development experts point out that safe water and sanitation contribute markedly both to global health initiatives and to efforts to keep children in school, alleviate poverty, and empower women. Women and children, as the primary water-haulers across the developing world, bear the brunt of this crisis.
The bill would also strengthen the capacity of USAID - with its newly appointed Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes - and the U.S. Department of State to ramp up U.S. developmental and diplomatic leadership, while further catalyzing initiatives by American citizens to provide safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water and basic sanitation. The bill builds on the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, which at long last made safe drinking water and sanitation a priority of U.S. foreign development assistance. The bill is nearly identical to a bill that passed the Senate by unanimous consent last year.
About the WASH Advocacy Initiative:
The WASH Advocacy Initiative (WAI) is a nonprofit advocacy effort in Washington DC entirely dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge. Our mission is to increase awareness of the global WASH challenge and solutions, and to increase the amount and effectiveness of resources devoted to solving the problem around the developing world. WAI is supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Wallace Genetic Foundation, and four organizations who have detailed staff persons to WAI: Water.org, CARE, Water For People, and Global Water Challenge.
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The tragic events in Japan have reminded all of us how vulnerable we are in a natural disaster. And while none of us can control what happens during a natural disaster, we can all use a little preparation to help us out. Last Wednesday, in honor of Flood Safety Awareness Week, we began offering a free download of our "Take Action!" activity, which helps families create Emergency Action Plans. That free download was supposed to expire this Sunday. Instead, in honor of next week's NOAA Tsunami Awareness Week, we are extending the free download through the end of March. Please take a moment to download the activity and make plans to spend a little time this weekend completing "Take Action!"
Editor's note: For resources on how you can help Japan, please have a look at Charity Navigator's "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: How To Help" post, which offers some guidelines for the most effective ways to support the people of Japan. Project WET has worked in Japan since 2003; we are glad to have received confirmation that our colleagues at Project WET Japan are safe but remain concerned about the ongoing situation. Our thoughts are with them and with all Japanese people.
While our hearts and thoughts are with the Japanese people and everyone who has suffered from the massive earthquake that capped several days of seismic activity off the Pacific coast of Japan last night, we can make contributions to many organizations that will be assisting the Japanese in their relief and recovery efforts. One is UNICEF, to which Japan itself has contributed significantly in recovery from past natural disasters. Though Japan has not yet requested disaster assistance from the UN, workers and volunteers remain ready to help everyone around the Pacific that has been affected by the earthquakes and tsunami. The Red Cross is always a worthwhile contribution as well.
I wanted to provide a quick look at some of the effects of earthquakes and tsunami on freshwater resources in affected regions. Usually these things are not considered until the relief and recovery effort is underway, but they are considerations right from the start of the natural disaster to keep in mind. Specifically, there are four impacts to be aware of:
1. Broken infrastructure: consider the picture of the house at right, included in The Boston Globe's collection of aftermath images. Every water supply and sewer pipe under that road is likely severed. The house and road will need to be demolished before rebuilding, and while that guarantees that new water and sewer infrastructure will come to the neighborhood, it will be a long time before the work is done and the areas is habitable again. There are millions of Japanese in this situation, though many are not even as lucky as the owners of this home; those who live here may be allowed back into the home to retrieve many of their belongings after it is stabilized. With thousands of coastal homes swept away completely by the post-quake tsunami especially in the Sendai area closest to the off-shore epicenter, so many Japanese have no homes to which they can return. Their landscape is forever altered by the tsunami wave. Roads, rails (for which Japan is famous the world over), and municipal services such as water, electricity, and sanitary and storm sewers are all affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Without freshwater supplies and adequate sanitation facilities, the population becomes vulnerable to illnesses and disease, creating a larger and lingering crisis in public health.
2. Tsunami contamination of surface waters is a common but only recently recognized effect. The tsunami itself may finally be more predictable, but its impacts on the stricken coastlines and people are not. Depending on the height of the tsunami wave(s), which were recorded at 4m or more in the area of Sendai following the M8.9 off-shore quake, rivers and reservoirs and canals in the coastal region can be affected profoundly by the inundation of sea water among freshwater supplies. What was once relatively pure freshwater, even drinkable supplies with minimal treatment needs, are rendered useless without full filtration and chemical treatment. For an area that does not already have these services in place, getting freshwater to the citizens while also establishing new treatment facilities for long-term recovery of sustainable freshwater sources will be a considerable logistical and engineering challenge. Even further, as the seawater infiltrates the coastal aquifer, those who depended previously on fresh groundwater will find only brackish supplies that, again, require filtration and treatment at the point of use.
3. Soil liquefaction is an effect that was widespread during the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, in both September 2010 and February 2011. It does not seem to be such a problem in the volcanic soils of Japan, especially with such advanced practices in foundation engineering for earthquake conditions, although those areas in cities with heavily altered soil foundations (e.g. roads and railways) can be affected significantly. Essentially, structures built on a slope such as an alluvial fan, where a river empties out across a valley and continually supplies water to the soils both near to the river and at considerable distances, are vulnerable when the shaking effect of the earthquake jostles that soil, turning it into a slurry-like mud. The result, when there are differential forces at the soil surface and this slurry has an outlet through which it can escape, is the collapse of foundations and whole buildings. This is not a landslide or debris flow effect, as we might see at coastal cliffs in California or elsewhere in coastal valleys around the Pacific. Picture a volume of soil and rock about the size of your home, and which you thought was stable and solid such that your home is built right on top of it. Now picture that soil turned to a coarse but very thin mud, oozing away faster than you can retain it. Where does your home go, with nothing underneath it?
4. Dam failures: according to HydroWorld, "a dam the northeast Fukushima prefecture of Japan broke and homes were washed away, Kyodo News reported" following the largest of the off-shore earthquakes last night. For masonry dams, such as the iconic concrete arch-gravity dams like Hoover and Glen Canyon in the American Southwest, the likelihood of catastrophic failure in an severe earthquake event is high. For such dam types, shaking can cause massive cracks in both the dam face and its abutments, allowing the reservoir water to pour through in massive quantities over a short time and removing the standing remainder of the dam entirely. For rock-fill and earth-fill embankment dams, which are far more common throughout the world, the process of earthquake liquefaction is again a possibility for those soils that are always in contact with the reservoir waters. Not only can the failure of the dam lead to downstream flooding and fatalities, but the reservoir itself is lost in the process, making life far more difficult on the survivors as well. The population's dependable source of freshwater, for domestic and agricultural and industrial uses, disappears entirely, and any flood protection provided by the reservoir and dam are foregone for the time that is taken to engineer and build a replacement structure.
Project WET editor's note: Matthew Garcia is an Independent Consultant specialzing in Hydrology, Atmospheric Sciences, and Water Resources. Thank you, Matthew, for giving us permission to repost "Earthquakes, Tsunami & Freshwater Supplies." Please visit the original post to see the images. To learn more about Matthew, please read more on his blog or follow him on Twitter.