On Wednesday, the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. We were joined by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation to discuss the current state of water and NTD programs within the Latin America and Caribbean region. In the blog post below, Ann Kelly, representative of the Howard G. Buffett Foundations Global Water Initiative and co-founder and Partner at Global Philanthropy Group provides an overview of the event, and her experience at Wednesday’s event at the 2011 World Water Week.
By Ann Kelly, representative of the Howard G. Buffett Foundations Global Water Initiative and co-founder of Partner at Global Philanthropy Group
As another World Water Week comes to an end here in Stockholm, we are reminded how central water is to so many of the worlds development issues. The other night I had the honor to sit on a panel entitled Pan-American Health Organization, and the government of Chiapas to eliminate trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. This collaboration illustrates three things: (1) it is impossible to work on water without also working on health; (2) it takes creative partnerships to do things that are as transformational and sustainable like eliminating trachoma and other NTDs; (3) all of this is achievable relatively easily and inexpensively it just requires focus and determination as illustrated by the efforts in Chiapas.
As a representative of the Howard G. Buffett Foundations Global Water Initiative (GWI), a 10-year, $150 million investment to create an enabling environment for clean water access and security in 13 countries in Africa and Central America, I can say the Foundation did not set out to fund a health intervention. GWI Central Americas mission was to empower communities to manage their own water resources. Our partners in GWI found that the only way to achieve that mission was by focusing on (1) protecting and restoring water sources; (2) promoting equitable and affordable access to water; and (3) reducing water-borne illnesses, especially in young children. In other words, we cannot empower communities burdened by preventable, treatable water-borne diseases. Continue reading
Below is the second installment of Alanna Shaikhs two-part series on the cost of water:
By: Alanna Shaikh
If we want people to take water conservation seriously, we’re going to have to make them pay for water. How can we do that in a way that’s fair to poor and vulnerable populations?
So, you’ve got a country with a water system that can be metered. You also believe that water is a human right. What do you do?
You find a middle ground. Our options don’t actually have to consist of Central-Asia style water waste or some kind of grim future where poor people die of thirst, like Dickens where H20 replaces the porridge.
The option I like best goes like this: you get a certain amount of water for free a reasonable amount per household, based on household size. Everything you use beyond that amount, you pay for; you would set that additional fee high so that the extra fees cover the cost of maintaining the water system. Yes, it makes things like swimming pools or long showers as luxuries, but that seems right to me. A swimming pool is not a human right. Drinking water and good health are.
Kofi Annan framed water and sanitation as a human right during his tenure as UN secretary general, Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right. And I agree, but access to unlimited water just hurts your community, your environment, and eventually yourself. Enough water and unlimited water are two very different creatures. Continue reading
For World Water Week, our regular guest blogger Alanna Shaikh has provided us a two-part series on the cost of water. Take a look:
By: Alanna Shaikh
It’s hard to think about paying for water, but it’s also hard to provide it for free. What’s the middle ground?
As this week makes extremely clear, we can’t rely on water as a free resource any more. Clean water is scarce in many places, and it is going to get scarcer. Growing human populations combined with climate change radically increase the demand for water as it becomes more polluted. We need more safe water even as it becomes increasingly harder to get.
Is increasing water costs the answer? I’d argue yes, and I have personal experience to back it up. I’ve lived in Central Asia for the last ten years. This region is extremely water scarce. In fact, many people think that the first major war over water is going to break out here. There are competing demands of water for irrigation, hydroelectric power, household and industrial use, in a region that is essentially a desert full of mountains. Most of the water comes from snow melt.
And yet people treat water like it’s nothing at all. They leave the taps running in their homes and yards at all times. They water the streets outside their houses to keep the dust down. They wash their cars daily, grow water-intense plants for fun, and pretty much never bother to fix leaky taps or faucets. Some faucets don’t even have taps, so you actually cannot turn them off. Oh, and every big house has a fountain, and not the kind that recirculates. In fact, my very first published piece of writing was an article decrying wasteful water use in this region.
Today kicks off the first day of 2011 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden! Check back hourly for livestreaming straight from the event: