Fair Water, Safe Water

NAIROBI, Kenya — Living in the United States it’s easy to take for granted access to clean, safe drinking water. After all, when we need water we simply go to a faucet, turn it on and are confident that fresh water will appear.

This reality is actually a luxury for the close to 800 million people worldwide that lack access to clean water. According to a Bloomberg article on UN World Water Day, “there are 6 billion mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunication Union, while 1.2 billion of the planet’s 7 billion people lack clean drinking water and 2.4 billion aren’t connected to waste water systems.”

The United Nations Development Program reported in 2006 “an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.” In the seven years since that report was released the world population has increased by half a billion people and access to water has decreased.

In developing countries where water is scarce the most vulnerable populations, women and girls, are often burdened with the responsibility of gathering water for their families. Surveys administered by WHO/UNICEF from 45 developing countries show that women and children bear the primary responsibility for water collection in the vast majority (76%) of households. Gary White, co-founder of Water.org, stated “the lost productivity of people collecting water is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at Wal-Mart, United Parcel Service, McDonald’s, IBM, Target, and Kroger.”

So what can be done to ease the burden of collecting and accessing clean and safe drinking water? Columbia Global Centers in partnership with the Earth Institute has a headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya and is in the prototype phase of development for a new water dispensing system called QUENCH.

We recently featured Quench
on our weekly Bloomberg West segment.

This system acts as a “smart water dispensing solution that ensures all-day access to safe drinking water and transparency.” Addressing the Millennium Development Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability this system provides reliable, 24/7 service to customers while the kiosks are easy to install and maintain for local governments and operators. The system also allows customers to use their cell phones add credit to their QUENCH card and if a cellular or wireless network is available, operators can access the machine for real-time metering and system monitoring.

Currently QUENCH requires electricity to operate and is still in development but for communities struggling to find clean and safe drinking water, this type of technology is priceless.

Check out our video for more on QUENCH method, then join in on our discussion. Now that you know how the rest of the world struggles for water, might you rethink your own use?

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.