- from Water
In most parts of the United States, clean water runs freely from faucets and taps.
If you’re thirsty, you can go to the sink, turn a handle, and pour yourself a glass of water. What if you want to bathe, cook, or even water the plants? You can open a tap and water rushes out. An American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water every day. Compare that to families in many parts of the world that have only 10 gallons to share.
▲ Why do some people have so little water, you might ask. The answer is simple. It just isn’t available. Without running water at home or a well nearby, people – usually the women and girls – have to walk for hours just to fill one or two jerry cans with water and return. (A jerry can is a container for storing water and other liquids.) Some jerry cans hold up to five gallons of water. Five gallons weighs about 40 pounds. Just do the math. Two jerry cans weigh over 80 pounds. That’s about the same as a baby rhino! Imagine what it must be like to carry that weight every day, just to have barely enough water. Even then, in many places, the water is so dirty it makes people sick.
▲ What’s the solution to the water problem? A well or other system that brings clean water to the community. This is where organizations like charity: water come in. Like other similar organizations, charity: water is working to get clean water to people in all parts of the world. So far, they’ve helped over 14 million people. Some of their projects serve thousands. Some serve just a few or a few hundred. But each person with good, clean water at hand has a chance at a better life. charity: water works with local experts. The experts decide the best method for bringing water to the people in a particular community. Here are a few of their projects.
▲ This well was built to serve a community of over 300 people in Zambia, Africa. It is deep enough to reach an aquifer belowground. (An aquifer is an underground layer of porous rock, gravel, or sand that holds rainwater, which has seeped down through the soil.) The water in an aquifer is better protected from contamination than surface water. It is also a reliable water source during droughts and dry seasons. Once the aquifer is reached, the well is lined. Then it is cleared of microbes, or bacteria, and tested.
▲ In Sierra Leone, Africa, a hand dug well serves about 250 people at a local school and in the surrounding community. The project involves more than clean water. It includes toilets. It also includes a handwashing station and hygiene training. Before projects like this were completed, students had to walk for as long as two hours to collect water for the school. Because the water is now clean and plentiful, students don’t lose so many school days to illness. Plus, the bathrooms give students privacy.
▲ You know that gravity pulls everything down. You may also know that Bolivia is a mountainous country in South America. The community this project serves is almost two miles high in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. It’s no wonder then that the local experts suggested a gravity flow system to bring in clean water. Many families in this community have benefitted. The town has also set up a water committee. The committee maintains the system, carries out hygiene practices, and collects fees.
▲ This piped water system is in Nepal. It is just south of the Himalaya mountains. The system delivers water through a network of linked pipes. The water flows from a rushing spring to a storage tank. A combination of gravity, electricity, and solar power move it along. From there, with more help from gravity, water flows through pipes to taps below. This particular system brought clean water to seven people. They live in an out-of-the-way valley almost two miles above sea level.
▲ Most rainwater is safe to drink. That’s one reason why local experts chose a rainwater harvesting system to provide a small group of people in India with clean water. This type of project involves a tanka, or catchment. A tanka is a place where rainwater is collected. The tanka is made from plastic sheeting or concrete. (A rooftop can also be a tanka.) Rainwater collected in the tanka flows through a pipe or other outlets to where it can be stored for use.
▲ There was a time when the 600 people in this village in Ethiopia, Africa, had to walk for hours to get clean, safe water. No more. Now, thanks to spring protection, their treks are much, much shorter. A spring forms when natural pressures force groundwater to the surface of the land. Spring protection involves a structure that uses an underground wall. The wall blocks impurities in the spring water. It allows clean water to flow through a pipe. The water flows into a concrete box called a spring box. The spring box has a pipe that allows clean water to flow out. Families in the community contributed to the construction of the spring protection structure. They also contribute to a fund for maintenance and repairs.
◀ Cambodia has over 150 inches of rainfall a year. So there’s plenty of water. But much of it comes from ponds along the edges of rice fields and isn’t safe to drink. That’s why biosand filters were chosen as the solution to the water problem. A family makes its own filter from a tall cement structure. The structure is filled with layers of sand, gravel, and microorganisms. (See below for more details.) Dirty water passes through the filter. It comes out clean and safe to drink or use for any purpose. So far, charity: water and experts in Cambodia have helped build over 110,000 biosand filters. But with over 5 million people who don’t have access to clean water, lots more needs to be done.
▲ This is a diagram of a biosand filter. You can make one (without the biological layer) at school or at home to see how it works. You need a container and a tube that’s open at one end and closed except for a small hole at the other end. You also need sand and gravel. Pour in some dirty water. Then observe the water that comes out the end of the tube.
▲ The sun shines almost every day in Mali, Africa. The heat and harsh rays make it one of the toughest places on Earth to live. But experts working with charity: water have used Mali’s sunshine to help bring clean water to over 27,000 people. How? Solar panels. With sunshine almost every day, solar panels provide an endless source of power for pumps. The pumps draw cool, clean water from deep underground.