Hurricane season is upon us, and we know that this time of extreme winds, heavy rainfall and massive flooding can be devastating. Hurricanes destroy infrastructure and homes as well as create dangerous situations for those living there. In addition to these effects, there are some hidden issues that might not surface until the rains and wind stop. One of these issues is the lack of clean and safe water.
Three Effects of Hurricanes
There are a few ways that hurricanes affect freshwater supplies. First, we need to think of the water that is being pulled into the hurricane. As hurricanes churn over the ocean, they can bring rain that contains chemicals and undrinkable salt water. This rain then falls in rural areas where fertilizers and pesticides can quickly contaminate private wells.
In the urban areas, city fresh water sources can also become contaminated, making the water not safe to use or drink. This contamination is a result of the heavy rains and flooding. As the flood waters move, they bring with them enormous amounts of contaminants like chemicals, sewage, and other debris. Flooding waters can breach water reservoirs causing contamination that water treatment systems cannot keep up with. These waters will also contaminate surrounding lakes, streams and well water supply, meaning there is potential for overgrowth of bacteria.
In addition to the floods, high winds can result in falling trees and other infrastructure damage. This can cause water pipes to be broken, allowing for the water to be exposed to contaminants. The broken pipes will then take the contaminated water directly into water mains and lines into individual homes. This contaminated water poses great health risks to communities as it can carry diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, e. Coli and dysentery. The repairs on the water systems can be very costly and the contamination issues can last for years to come.
Historic Water Quality After Hurricanes
In 2012 as a result of Hurricane Sandy, more than 690 wastewater and drinking water utilities in 11 states were compromised. Within a few days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that more than 1,220 drinking water systems and more than 200 wastewater treatment facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had been affected. This caused a large outbreak of gastrointestinal diseases triggered by e. Coli due to the lack of safe water.
How to Be Prepared
If you find yourself in the aftermath of a hurricane, avoid using your well water or tap water. It is important to get your water tested to ensure you are drinking safe water. If you are unsure of the safety of your water, be sure to boil the water or use a filter that will remove the contaminants. Check out Business Connect, one of our partners, to learn more about various water filtration and treatment options. Stay safe!
At Connect for Water, we often ask ourselves how we can bring clean water to those in need in a sustainable way. One of the ways our partners, Ekisinga Ministries, are doing just that is through water kiosks in Jinja Town, Uganda.
Most of the Ugandan urban population get their water from the Uganda National Water and Sewage Corporation (NWSC). Because most families do not have water running to their homes, water comes from community standpipes. Water is collected in jerry cans and brought back to the homes for consumption. Water testing has proven that the water quality is not consistent and contains microbiological contamination that leads to sickness and death.
It is well known by Ugandans that the water that comes from the NWSC standpipes must be boiled or treated before it can be consumed. Boiling water is accomplished by burning wood, charcoal or LP gas. These methods are expensive, use natural resources and are time consuming.
They also found that not all water will be consumed and thus does not need to be treated. Non-consumable situations include bathing and washing clothes. However, water that is consumed or used to wash dishes and fruits and vegetables needs to be treated. An affordable solution needed to address both of these areas.
Through your generous donations, two facility filtration systems were gifted to Ekisinga. These systems will be connected to the existing NWSC standpipe infrastructure to provide safe and reliable drinking water at affordable prices. The revenue will provide sustainable funds to maintain the filtration system for many years and pay for additional systems to be installed in surrounding neighborhoods. As community members typically purchase bottled water, this system will also help them save money and reduce plastic waste.
This is just one of the many ways your support has provided clean water to those in need. Sustainability is always a key aspect of the projects that we partner with. We have seen how projects that require participants to pay something for clean water have a much greater impact and multiply their impact.
At Connect for Water, we are all about helping people gain access to clean water. We have partners in over 65 countries and are constantly reaching more communities with clean water. Yet what about the people in our own backyard? There are many communities across the United States that need access to clean water. We think of those affected by winter storms in Texas, those with contaminated water in Flint, Michigan and those living on American Indian Reservations. These communities have a real need for clean water today.
Many of these communities are in need of clean water because their water infrastructure has been damaged. In Texas at the height of the water crisis and winter storms in February 2021, nearly 15 million people did not have access to clean water. At first, the rolling blackouts caused many water treatment centers to be shut down. This lowered the supply to many areas. At the same time, freezing temperatures broke many water pipes. These factors combined to lower the pressure in the water systems which meant that bacteria was more likely to grow. Texans were encouraged to boil their water, but many could not even turn on their stoves without electricity. This led to many Texans reaching out to disaster relief organizations who brought in clean water. Natural disasters from the wildfires in the west to hurricanes in the southeast can cause clean water shortages. This is why it is so important to be aware of clean water solutions and how you can help in these situations.
There are also many communities in the United States that do not have access to reliable water infrastructure. On many American Indian reservations, clean water is not readily available. According to recent research by NPR, more than 2 million Americans do not have access to clean water. Fifty-eight out of every 1,000 Native American households lack plumbing, compared with 3 out of every 1,000 white households. This leads to a higher rate of deaths, poverty and unemployment in these communities. Darlene Yazzie shared that she has to drive 9 miles to buy clean water. These communities are never able to raise enough money to pay for the extensive infrastructure needed to gain access to clean water.
We share these stories to encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities to provide clean water in our own communities. We love helping in other countries, but what can we do to help our neighbors? If you would like to be a part of our work, in the US and around the world, become a water sponsor. This is a great way to partner with us.
In our work, we have the privilege of knowing many who have a heart to address the need for clean water around the world. Everyone has their own story and solution. Check out this story from one of our partners. He shares about helping to bring clean water to a variety of communities from Vietnam to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“In the 1970s and 1980s, as a professional engineer, I was researching the possibility of supplying tribes in the Sahara with solar powered water pumps which could draw water from the depths beneath the sand for their use. It turned out that the technology was not there at the time, as the water tables can be 500′ deep.
I then went to Vietnam and the Philippines in 1999 and 2001 to help with the management of medical waste through high temperature incinerators we were developing. These incinerators were oxygen fed to boost the temperature and eliminate dioxins and other dangerous byproducts in the smoke. During that time, I was asked to help with the construction of a milk plant in Saigon which could produce lactose free milk for the young women who were giving birth to malformed children because they were drinking water from contaminated lakes and rivers. They were contaminated with Agent Orange leaching from the nearby forested areas which had been defoliated during the Vietnam War or, what the Vietnamese call the American War. In fact, the tap water in Hanoi had to be boiled for at least 20 minutes to break down the very thick virus spores which it contained.
In the Philippines, I was asked to see what could be done with the contaminated water in the water supply of Cebu, the capital city of the province of Cebu in the Philippines. This water was contaminated with heavy metals from industrial byproducts. I was also looking into what could be done about the bacterial contamination of Manila’s water supply which could cause serious health issues.
Of concern, recently, was the problem of contaminated water in developing countries. A promising product caught my attention: Water bags that could be filled with dirty water and made drinkable by emptying a packet of water purifying powder into the bag. It seemed to me that there were some issues with this approach, which could otherwise be used temporarily in national emergencies following flooding or earthquakes: The bag could become contaminated by dumping it in dirty water. Furthermore, as poor people came to the end of their supply of water purifying powder packets, their natural tendency would be to prolong the supply by reducing the quantity of powder dumped into the water bat, with the risk of drinking unknowingly water only partially decontaminated.
That’s when I spoke to the Business Connect team and they suggested I look at the VF200 prefilters combined with the VF100 water filters which could last indefinitely, and whose exterior need not be in contact with contaminated water. We provided these filters to communities and dispensaries in remote regions of Africa. Villages in Haiti, Madagascar, and South America, for example, could also make use of these filters to provide people with safe drinking water.
My goal moving forward is to put whatever money is available towards supplying filters to people who have no access to clean water. The issues are so numerous: people without access to potable water because of pollution, dry climate conditions, hurricanes and earthquakes which destroy water supply facilities, undrinkable seawater…”
This story highlights a heart to help those in need and the many ways one can champion clean water. We are thankful that so many have noticed a need and taken action. If you would like to be a part of clean water work, become a water sponsor. This is a simple way to partner with those who have a similar heart and become a champion yourself!
Happy Earth Day! Today is a day that we celebrate the beautiful world we live in. We all have found little places of the world that we enjoy, whether it’s a beautiful sandy beach, the mountains, or a wooded trail. At Connect for Water, we often champion projects that bring clean water to those in need for health reasons, but did you know that water filters also help the environment? We’ve pulled together four different benefits of water filters to the environment and outlined them below.
Less Plastic Waste
A key benefit of water filtration is that it cuts down on plastic waste because bottled water is not needed. According to the Container Recycling Institute, each day in the US more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away. Even if one tries to recycle plastic bottles, only certain types of plastic bottles are recycled in certain areas. The rest of the plastic bottles end up in landfills. As they are made of polyethylene terephalate (PET) plastics, they break down into small pieces as they decompose and contaminate soil, pollute groundwater and make animals sick. These bottles can take hundreds of years to decompose in the landfills, continuing to release toxins into the environment. If one water filter can provide clean drinking water for a family for 5 years, that is 4,175 water bottles saved from landfills.
Reduces the Carbon Footprint of Bottled Water Production
Another benefit of water filtration to the environment is a reduction in the carbon footprint of bottled water production. Since water bottles are made from polyethylene terephalate (PET), they require fossil fuels to be produced. In 2006, the US water bottle consumption levels required the equivalent of around 17 million barrels of oil. This is enough energy to fuel one million American cars for one year (Pacific Institute, 2007). This means that drinking bottled water is also depleting the earth of other natural resources.
Save Scarce Water Resources by Reuse
Did you know that you can also save scarce water resources with water filtration? With a water filter, it is possible to reuse water which reduces stress on the freshwater supply. Many areas where pure water is plentiful are delicate ecosystems that suffer when their water is removed like rivers and wetlands. Wastewater is typically the water targeted for recycling. Instead of sending the wastewater directly to the nearest river or ocean where it spreads contaminants, it is recycled and used for irrigating crops.
Save on Soap and Other Cleaning Products
A final, and little known environmental benefit of water filtration is that it can help save on soap and other cleaning products. As many water sources are contaminated with oils and other minerals, filtering water before washing hands or cleaning surfaces will mean that less soap will be needed to wash away the dirt. Minerals like calcium and magnesium interfere with the cleaning action of soap. Soap is attracted to these minerals, producing fewer suds and being less effective (WaterTech, 2015). From this understanding, we can conclude that filtered water will also save soap and other cleaning products.
These are just a few of the filtered water benefits to the environment and they can just be added to the countless health benefits of clean water. This is why we continue to champion the cause for clean water around the world. Would you join us in this work to save the earth and help communities drink clean and safe water?