Water: A Women's Crisis

Jennifer Baljko
Posted August 23, 2011 from Spain

We all know how precious water is. My boyfriend, a Catalan with his Western European sensibilities, calls its liquid gold. I agree, but still my American upbringing sometimes shades out the severity of the global water situation.

This tweet posted by water.org set me straight: @Water In 1 day, women spend 200 MILLION hrs collecting water. That's = to constructing 28 Empire State Bldgs http://bit.ly/h94EYh #wwweek Here's the full water.org link, if the bit.ly one doesn't work. http://power.water.org/?s=ut_427&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm...

Of course, I clicked on the link and read the brief story. Again, another eye-opening nudge. I had two jolting reactions. First, I thought how incredibly fortunate I am to have a sink with water flowing at will and with a quick turn of a faucet. At about the same, I felt my own stress levels rise. The worldwide lack of water is largely a women's crisis, and women must dutifully make this their daily quest to survive. And, I'm fretting about how many Twitter followers I have, something so trivial in the face of a deepening issue that lacks clear solutions.

The next thought was a question. How can this be changed? Many people are trying, folks like Ari Olmos, for instance. Back in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, an industry conference thats attracts 60,000 or so telecommunications executives, I met Olmos, a departmental fellow in the Masters program at the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley. He and his colleagues started NextDrop [http://nextdrop.org/]. The organization, working primarily in India right now, provides households with timely information about local piped water delivery and intermittent water supply via cell phones. I distinctly remember thinking, "That's brilliant. Couldn't other folks do that too, given the proliferation of cell phones throughout the developing world?"

I don't have the answer, but the question stands: How can we better use existing technology and tweak it to create a low-cost water-finding model that could easily be replicated in many places simultaneously?

Any other ideas about how we can lessen this burden, not just for women, but for the world?

Comments 7

  • Omid
    Aug 24, 2011
    Aug 24, 2011

    I do believe that they are some solutions out there and they are quite a few models that have been done cross the world. And some of them are even low-cost. If you review the water edition of national geography it does mention several of them. ex: "high marks for clean water retrieve a discarded water bottle. tear off the label and fill with any water that is not too murky for a creek, standpipe, or puddle. place the bottle on a piece of metal in full sun. in 6 hours the uva radiation will kill viruses, bacteria and parasites in the water making it safe to drink"

    Therefore the actual question might be? why they are not being implanted?

    There are many parts for answering this question: 1. most often government in those countries cannot take over the regulation of the implanted system 2. the solution might be suitable for the small scale population, but not suitable for larger scale population 3. the living condition of people will not allow this solution to be implanted. For example, the way that slams are set up makes it almost impossible 4. not matter how low cost a project is, it requires a sustainable budget for a long run.


  • Jennifer Baljko
    Aug 30, 2011
    Aug 30, 2011

    Hi You're right. The ability of a local population or government to sustain a project over time is key. However, solutions developed and used on a small scale may often be the only immediate choice, and that's not necessarily a bad strategy. We can't realistically expect solve the water crisis with costly, large-scale projects that require many levels of bureaucratic approval and many years to implement. Better to bite at in smaller pieces, no? Maybe if the right kind of temporary band-aid was tested in smaller communities, best practices would emerge and could be tweaked in a way that makes sense to repeat them more broadly. Perhaps a grassroots, word-of-mouth alternative is the best way to create momentum and sustainability. Seems that it would have more traction than slow-moving government programs.

    Loved your water bottle idea. Keep me posted if you come across other suggestions that others may want to know about. I will check out the Natl Geo issue you mentioned (here's the link if others are looking for it: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/04/table-of-contents).

    Thanks for sharing, Jenn

  • Nusrat Ara
    Aug 25, 2011
    Aug 25, 2011

    Water is such a critical issue for all of us and unfortunately we are so casual about it.


  • Rumbidzai Dube
    Aug 31, 2011
    Aug 31, 2011

    Indeed water is a precious resource. If I did not know it better, last night proved it to me because I believe if you take away the Nile then you will not have an Egypt anymore. I went for a ride on a felucca (sail boat) on the Nile and it seemed as if the whole of Cairo was camping on the banks of the Nile. It is their life, source of entertainment, and the ultimate source of all their clean water.

  • Vaishalli Chandra
    Sep 18, 2011
    Sep 18, 2011

    That tops my list of "how to" on water issues.

    In societies, across the globe, that are "hyper on consumption" this would act as a self check. If each of us, who has access to water uses water judiciously, the least we would be doing is not over consuming. And that is huge, that's less 'potable' water down the drain. This will hopefully in the long run 'reduce the stress' slightly.

    And having recently 'discovered' Rain water harvesting - I do feel that could well be the answer to met the 'ever growing water demands'. However, it needs a lot of tweaking on how town planners 'plan cities'. But, then again this involves an initial investment, but it is a sure way to revive depleting ground water.

    One person who inspires is Zenrainman - do check out http://www.rainwaterclub.org/ (Zenrainman is based out of Bangalore)

  • Jennifer Baljko
    Sep 20, 2011
    Sep 20, 2011

    Thanks for the link. Definitely will check it out.

  • Joya Comeaux
    Oct 02, 2011
    Oct 02, 2011

    Just thinking out loud.....

    I believe that all things happen for a reason beyond my understanding.

    Therefore, it is true that I do not understand living in a world where we must pay for the air we breath.

    I also, do not understand living in a world where those that cannot afford to, must pay for water.

    Water is being capitalized on by those that are able to capture it and sell it to others.

    The wars that we are fighting for oil, are really being fought for water.

    We will see in the future that those in control of it, will be creating gold for themselves, and lives will be lost.

    What to do?

    Is it a shortage of water?

    Or is it just one more way to control the world?

    Just food for thought.

    I do not have the solution.

    The only solution I would have is to look into the future and find a way for the world to work together for all mankind to have water, food, peace, and less greed.

    love, joya

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