The Key to Improving Water Sustainability
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) reiterates the Brundtland Commission’s Our Common Future definition of sustainable development as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (UN, 1987). It focuses on three pillars of human well-being: economic, socio-political and ecological/environmental conditions. Along with adopting strong measures to enhance economic and social development for those in developing countries; it emphasizes the importance of ensuring environmental integrity is sustained for future generations.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 Report 2022 (SDG 6) shows approximately 2 billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water, and roughly half of the world’s population is experiencing severe water scarcity for at least part of the year (IPCC). Additional reporting states:
- These numbers are expected to increase – exacerbated by climate change and population growth (WMO).
- Only 0.5% of water on Earth is usable and available freshwater – and climate change is dangerously affecting that supply. Over the past 20 years, terrestrial water storage – including soil moisture, snow and ice – has dropped at a rate of 1 cm per year, with major ramifications for water security (WMO).
- Since 2000, flood-related disasters have risen by 134% compared with the two previous decades. Most flood-related deaths and economic losses were recorded in Asia (WMO).
- The number and duration of droughts also increased by 29% over this same period. Most drought-related deaths occurred in Africa (WMO).
Recently, the 2023 World Water Day released a report from UNESCO stating international cooperation is “key to access to water for all” and calls for increased international cooperation over how water is used and managed; including environmental services for pollution control and biodiversity. The UN reports the progress of the SDG 6 is dangerously behind and partnerships and cooperation is critical to accelerating progress and realizing the human right for water and sanitation.
It stresses water usage and management must include collectively investing in upstream habitat protection as well as agricultural land management with the goal to “improve overall water quality and/or quantity.” Determining shared objects and outcomes as well as taking into account differing perspectives is needed in order to provide real, long-term solutions.
Safe water is essential for people in rural areas to grow crops and raise animals, and often, communities must rely on shared irrigation systems. Safe water is also essential for urban areas to thrive and grow, and they are often the end-users of the water flow. This is why it is critical to encourage cities to invest in upstream habitat protection as well as agricultural land management.
To ensure water sources are kept free of contaminants, both water systems and sanitation systems must be responsibly managed through cooperation among countries and should include the needs of both urban and rural communities. Moreover, as many of the world’s rivers and aquifers cross international borders, it means the creation of formal cooperative agreements is vital. The UN says currently only 6 of the world’s 468 internationally shared aquifers are subject to formal cooperative agreements.
Experts say improving water sources need to include things like reducing flooding, improving infiltration, and rehabilitating natural habitats. If end-users are part of the planning and implementation of water systems, it typically better serves the needs of poor communities as well as increases public acceptance and ownership down the line. Fostering accountability and transparency allows all shareholders to be part of the solution.
Lifewater International is working to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions for the people we serve – now and for generations to come. Currently our work is focused on bringing transformative change to the lives of people in some of the most affected countries in the world including Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Cambodia.
To enable us to build sustainable, safe water sources that will last for generations, each and every Lifewater project is meticulously vetted beforehand and includes customized engineering based on the hydrogeology in the community, population size, and locally-available materials. Since we don’t just plan and build for the present, every Lifewater project includes establishing local solutions for long-term, ongoing maintenance and repair.
Our work reflects the realities of the places we work, taking into account a region’s unique natural environment, cultural priorities, and technical challenges. Some of the ways we provide safe water is done with hand-dug wells, drilled wells, or in some cases, rehabilitating an existing well. We also use methods such as capturing and redirecting naturally-flowing spring water to a tap or piped system, and then protecting it from contamination. When there is not an available or safe water source, we occasionally implement a system for rainwater harvesting. This is generally done at schools with large buildings and enough surface areas to capture the rain.
In addition to our trained health promoters, we have local staff monitor water points and provide maintenance for five years following a project’s completion. For long-term monitoring, Lifewater’s Water Works maintenance program was started in 2019 and collects monthly payments from every participating village. The program is currently being piloted in two districts in Uganda.
Your donations to Lifewater International will be used to provide access to clean water and improved health as we work toward transforming villages and schools for good. We are a top-rated charity in the United States and endorsed by independent reporting organizations, including Guidestar, ECFA, and Charity Navigator. Lifewater is honored to serve all people regardless of religion, listening first and walking alongside community members as neighbors. We invite you to pray with us and give safe water to help us eradicate this crisis, one village at a time.
Lifewater International is a top-rated charity in the United States and is endorsed by independent reporting organizations, including Guidestar, ECFA, and Charity Navigator. We are honored to serve all people regardless of religion, listening first and walking alongside community members as neighbors. Please give safe water today and help us eradicate this crisis village by village.
Source: United Nations, 1987. Our Common Future, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development.