You’re Drinking Plastic, Science Says

You’re Drinking Plastic, Science Says

Trash piles up on shore. Credit: European Wilderness Society.

Envision plastic floating in the air all around you in tiny pieces. See it sitting on the top of your drinking water, in your food, and in your body. Dream of a world plastic-covered, with wrappers and garbage and small bits of it piling up on windowsills and in crevices. This is the current reality for ocean life, and it is beginning to become our human reality. 

A media-fueled uproar has occurred in the past five years in response. The plastic conversation, led mainly by the topic of plastic straws and bags, has aimed a spotlight on ocean pollution. Restaurants, coffee shops, and other straw-dealing businesses have ditched their plastic straws in an effort to combat the ocean-bound waste. Though banning plastic straws has helped the cause, some say it is a misplaced attempt to save the oceans and is simply a form of viral environmental consumerism

Plastics are not biodegradable. Larger plastics will simply degrade down to smaller forms to the point of being considered microplastics. Plastics that are less than 5 mm in length are considered ‘micro,’ and these are the most prevalent form of waste found in the oceans (NOAA). As microplastics get smaller and smaller, they are harder to detect by scientists. They often float to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Commercial Fishing and Microplastics

The relationship between microplastics and commercial fisheries is prominent from fishing boat to food market. 

As previously mentioned, the breakdown of larger plastic products into smaller components creates microplastics. It has been previously thought that much of the ocean’s waste comes from consumer packaging plastic, which holds true today. What scientists are just now discovering is that the truth of much microplastic waste is not a fisherman’s tale but is a tale of fishermen. 

Commercial fishing contributes heavily to ocean microplastics. The basis of much of this waste comes from nets, and namely old, deteriorating ones. Smithsonian Magazine reports that new and one-year-old synthetic ropes potentially release 20 microplastic fragments for every yard hauled in the ocean—and that this number climbs exponentially with older equipment. New Atlas estimates that with every meter of old rope hauled in, over 760 fragments of microplastics are released into our sacred oceans. 

Fish are consuming microplastics in every ocean of the world. In Science of the Total Environment, researchers found that aquatic life consumes microplastics in two main ways: actively and passively. While actively consuming microplastics, aquatic life confuses plastics for natural prey, and while passively, particles filter through any openings in the animal. 

When we eat fish and other marine organisms, we risk ingesting these microplastics. According to the Washington Post, a calculation found in June 2019 revealed that for Americans, by just eating, drinking, and breathing, they’re consuming up to 74,000 microplastic particles per year. Another study by the University of Newcastle in Australia estimated that people consume about 5 grams of plastic per week, which is the equivalent of about 3 playing cards. 

What do Microplastics Mean for Your Water?

We’re drinking a variable amount of microplastics in each sip we take from plastic bottles, new research by Orb Media states. Bottled water tested from several sources around the world for microplastics confirms microplastic contamination. Tests on more than 250 bottles from 11 brands show contamination with plastic including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (Orb Media, PET). For each liter of bottled water, approximately 10.4 microplastic particles were present. The sizes of these particles were about 100 micron, or .10 mm. At an even smaller level, there were about 314.6 particles per liter located by the industry-standard infrared microscope. 

Research is emerging about the physical harm that microplastics could provoke within humans. We discard many of these particles in waste, but that some are so small that they remain within us. A journal by Scientific Reports suggests that plastics found in fish are likely the direct cause of observed behavioral disorders within those fish.

Let’s Fix It

It may not be possible to completely ‘fix’ the microplastics problem. However, there are some ways to eat and drink differently so that your body may become more plastic-free, as well as ways to help rid our Earth of plastic. 

1. Plastic Bottle-No-More. Filter Your Water. 

Our partner, Business Connect, has several affordable at-home water filter options so that you may avoid risking ingesting microplastics. Their VF100 water filter is a .1 micron filter which meets and exceeds EPA and WHO world standards for filtration. Water filters are the best way to ditch plastic bottles, and they’ll last years longer than disposable items like bottles.

2. Eat Less Fish. 

Try to reduce your consumption of aquatic foods. Plastics exist in up to 386 aquatic species (Ecowatch). Therefore, there isn’t one right fish to buy. When you buy less fish from the market, you are also not feeding into the commercial fishing and netting industry. Many fishing vessels, of the 4.6 million afloat in the world, have illegally dumped old nets and gear for years. This is a problem that will not float away.

3. Don’t Throw Away Your Clothes. 

Clothing fiber is made up mostly of nylon, polyester, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers. A 2017 report states that up to 35% of microplastics in our oceans come from synthetic fabrics. Before you throw your clothes out, consider donating them or reusing them for other purposes. 

Help Us Help You

The problem of microplastics is one of your water, and therefore one of your health. We care about your water situation, no matter the need, as well as your health. Connect with us. If you subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can get updates about blog posts and happenings in the world of water. We want you to stay informed of everything we’re up to, so you may be included in alleviating the world’s water crisis.

Clean Water & Mental Health

Clean Water & Mental Health

Anyone who’s consumed bad food has experienced unfortunate and miserable outcomes. It’s a lesson learned that putting bad substances in your body results in bodily harm. Same goes with water. Studies show that the human body is 70% water—that’s a lot of water! Fortunately for us, we need it as it’s the fuel that makes everything run as it should, including our brains. Like bad food, bad water can cause issues that affect mental health.

I remember growing up traveling the world; mother would always tell me whether or not I could drink the water. I never understood this, wasn’t water, water? Of course I understood that when water didn’t run clear, it meant that it wasn’t drinkable, or rather, consumable. But there were places where the water ran clear and my mother told me not to drink it. 

It wasn’t until years later in a chemistry class that I fully comprehended why being careful about water, no matter its transparency, mattered.

Contaminators & Effects

“Get out your periodic tables,” my teacher said. “We must look at contaminators to understand why drinking contaminated water is bad for mental health.” 

One by one he listed different elements—“Inorganic arsenic, PCE (organic solvent tetrachloroethylene), lead, mercury…”—before diving into their negative effects.

“All of these things,” he continued, “affect our mental wellbeing. They can cause depression, a deep sadness that steals joy and interests away. A result can be anxiety. Anxiety is when someone is constantly worried. Another is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. Symptoms are triggers, usually sense-induced, that brought back to painful memories. Some people even experience bipolar disorder. This disorder causes intense mood swings that range from depression to a manic state.” 

As I sat in my chair taking notes, it occurred to me how important drinking clean water is not only for your body but your mind. 

Mental Health’s Effect On The Brain

Mental illnesses, as many of us know, causes a wide range of problems. Some effects include severe emotional, behavioral, and physical issues including brain damage.  

According to Stone Ridge, when anxiety disorder is left untreated: 

The brain doesn't return to a sense of normalcy when the stress, threat, or danger is gone. Instead, anxiety disorders can trigger your brain's fight or flight mode even when there's no perceived danger. 

This can lead to becoming hypoactive to non-existent threats that over time, make it hard for the brain to reason rationally. 

Depression can lead to brain shrinkage and inflammation. When the brain shrinks, memory loss, stress, rational thinking, emotions, and an irregular sleep pattern can occur. And when brain inflammation occurs, it can lead to severe symptoms and chronic issues such as confusion, seizures, speech or hearing problems, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects of bi-polar disorder, however, can reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain. Gray matter helps process information such as thoughts and feelings, controls impulses, and helps with motor skills. 


When concerning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a Very Well Mind, can cause damage to the amygdala. This area assesses threats, the formation of emotional memories, and memories. It also affects the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for emotional regulation, decision making, and regulating attention. Other effects of this disorder result in the damage of the mid-anterior cingulate cortex that regulates emotions, registering physical pain, and autonomic functions.

Perception of Mental Health


After my new found knowledge on clean water’s benefits for mental health, I thought everyone should drink clean water. Who doesn’t want good mental health? But then I realized that many countries and cultures, however, perceive mental health differently. For instance, in the western world, it is more acceptable to talk about mental health. But in other places, it’s still considered to be stigmatized, shameful, and wrong. This could be the result of a lack of awareness and mental health professionals. In many areas, religious beliefs are what fills in the holes for science.

Clean Water Is No Where

Another misconception I believed when I was younger was that clear water meant clean. I also believed that developing countries faced water contamination and the water crisis. I was wrong. Technologically advance counties also struggle with these issues.

More than 30 million Americans lived in areas where water systems violated safety rules at the beginning of last year, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Others simply cannot afford to keep water flowing. As with basically all environmental and climate issues, poor people and minority communities are hit the hardest

Time, 2020

The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis is the perfect current-event example of the clean water crisis in the United States. During 2014 to 2019, the city of Flint faced a clean water crisis that its residents without clean water. As read in the Detroit Free Press, while the crisis has ended, the contaminated water and crisis itself contributes to the decline of the residents’ mental health. 


But the issue doesn’t stop at Flint. In 2020, Vox covered how the COVD-19 pandemic highlighted water contamination and crisis in the U.S. The news website writes of the multiple rejected claims for clean water as bottled water was being bought out everywhere. This event, I learned, left thousands of people in a water crisis.

What We Can Do

If you’re like me who can get overwhelmed by thinking about the mental health and the water crisis, fortunately there are things we can do. 

1.) First and foremost is to educate ourselves and others around us on contaminated water’s effect on mental health. I strongly believe that in order to find a solution, identifying the problem is crucial. 

2.) Invest in a water purifying product to help ensure safe drinking water for our mental health. Our partners at Business Connect offer various water treatment and filter systems to ensure safer drinking water. 

3.) Be an advocate for those without safe drinking water. Whether it be for a far off community in a developing nation or in your own community, adding to the noise to demand for basic human rights helps make the voiceless heard.

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Earth Day reminds some of us making a chocolate layered dirt and worms dessert in school as children. Some are reminded of the phrase, “Ok, Boomer,” echoing in their ear. And for others, memories of the very first Earth Day come flooding back. Whatever the memory the annual day brings, it’s a reminder of our responsibility to create a sustainable life and future. 

On Earth Day, many organizations and companies make their voice known about one particular environmental issue that is close to their heart. Some might be deforestation, climate change, or the genocide of animal species. At Connect For Water, our Earth Day Focus is what we know best: water. Because our company ethos is to fight the water crisis, we thought it appropriate for our Earth Day focus to be on water scarcity. But before we dive right in, we must define what it is -what is water scarcity?

Water Scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region.

Science Daily

Water Scarcity can mean scarcity in availability due to physical shortage, or scarcity in access due to the failure of institutions to ensure a regular supply or due to a lack of adequate infrastructure.

The United Nations

To put it simply, it means that mankind is using up more water than the earth has time to give. 

Different Numbers, Same Problem

Before we go any further, we recognize that there are different ways to calculate water scarcity. However, understanding that the problem remains the same is crucial. 

It’s ironic that the earth is facing a water scarcity with 71% of its surface area being in water. It makes the nickname “Blue Planet” appropriate.  The unfortunate truth, however, is that while only 3% of that water is fresh and consumable, less than 0.5% of consumable water is accessible.

So what does 0.5% look like? If measured in galons, the earth has 326 trillions gallons of water. 3% of that is 9.7 trillion gallons, 0.5% is 1.6 trillion gallons, and according to the Bureau of Reclamation, that equates to 2.2 million gallons for each person. 

Humanity’s Water Consumption

At first glance, 8.5 million liters (2.2 million gallons) for each person on earth doesn’t seem to be too much, but when you add up the water usage of each person, things get a little tricky. Human water usage goes beyond drinking water, showering, and flushing the toilet – it involves productions and infrastructures with agriculture at the top of the list. High Tide Technologies states that on average:

Farms around the world account for 70% of all water that is consumed annually. Of that 70% used by farmers, 40% is lost to the environment due to poor irrigation systems, evaporation, and overall poor water management. 

That’s a lot of water and unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The garment and textile industry takes second place using 79 billion cubic meters of water per year to produce garments and textiles. The list continues with meat production in third place, the beverage industry in fourth, and automotive manufacturing in fifth. 

Global Warming’s Effect On The Water Cycle & Water Scarcity

Unfortunately, another reason for water scarcity is global warming with its effect on the water cycle. The water cycle, as we all have learned, is essential to life on earth. It affects our weather, ecosystem, water levels, and much more. But due to higher temperatures, massive deforestation, and pollutants, the cycle is changing for the worse, in a way that will greatly affect our water supply. 

The Water Cycle As We Know It

Step 1: Evaporation
Water evaporates from bodies of water such as the ocean, sea, lakes, and rivers. Transpiration, which is when water evaporates from trees and other vegetation, also happens during this stage.

Step 2: Condensation
Evaporated water turns into water vapor that rises up into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. It then changes into the form of ice before falling in the form of rain or snow.

Step 3: Precipitation
Rain comes down due to temperature change, and if the temperature is below 0 degrees, the rain becomes snow. In some instances, it comes down as sleet or hail.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
As water pours down in either rain or melted snow, the liquid covers the surface of the earth, filling bodies of water and hydrating vegetation.

Step 5: Infiltration
The leftover water infiltrates deep below the topsoil, filling aquifers that help replenish different bodies of water. It is the top soil that allows for the moisture to be trapped. This water is drinkable and is considered to be the earth’s backup water supply.

What Is To Come

Step 1: Evaporation
Due to higher temperatures, evaporation quickens, adding moisture to the air which sucks up water from bodies of water and vegetation even faster.

Step 2: Condensation
The evaporated water rises into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. Due to temperature and wind changes, condensation will be heavy in some places and lighter (and sometimes next to none) in others.

Step 3: Precipitation
Because of the change air in temperatures, the areas where precipitation will occur will be drastic, leaving some areas too wet and others too dry. When precipitation occurs, heavier and warmer rain will increase as well as heavier snow falls.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
Because the water will be warmer, heavier runoffs will be experienced causing landslides that, aside from too much rain, will destroy crops, animals, and infrastructure. Topsoil will also be stripped away. The runoff will carry pollutants that will contaminate bodies of water including humanity’s drinking water. The temperatures of oceans, lakes, and rivers will increase resulting in an overgrowth of algae that will suffocate fish and destroy marine ecosystems. The ocean will increase in acidity causing major changes in ocean currents that can alter weather patterns across the globe.

Step 5: Infiltration
Because topsoil will be stripped away, the ground will not be able to retain moisture for vegetation, and the aquifers will no longer be able to hold water to help replenish bodies of water. This will lead to droughts. We are then left with a cycle of flooding and drought. Every time it floods, more soil will be stripped away, causing evaporation to quicken each time, leaving the ground worse than before.

Consequences of Water Scarcity

Consequences of water scarcity are as vast as they are disastrous.

We know that water scarcity combined with climate change results in a disastrous cycle of extreme drought and downpour. It can also result in severe weather changes such as heat waves,wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados. 

However, the consequences of water scarcity itself can result in much, much more. The lack of drinking water is obvious. As a result, a drastic change in the economy follows suit as prices in water and food increase. This will cause third world countries to suffer first. Poverty and hunger will also increase at an alarming rate. There will be destruction of habitats as well as mass migration, forcing everyone to move to a water supply. Other issues consist of sanitation issues and the spread of disease. The United Nations International Children’s emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that “When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting disease like cholera surges. Scare water also becomes more expensive.” 

Living in an inhabitable world is worst case scenario.

Be The Solution

Luckly, we have a chance to stop water scarcity before it’s too late, but we must act quickly. 

First and foremost, we must educate ourselves and those around us on water scarcity. We must know its causes and effects to understand how to fix it. We then must change our lifestyles to become water conservationists – doing everything in our ability to conserve water. One of our authors, Julia Hall, wrote an article titled article titled 4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water. There, among other sources, people can get conservation ideas. Other solutions include being innovative and part of teams that create new conservation technologies, being vocal in community organizations and political powers.

If you want to learn more about water conservation, we encourage you to follow us on our social media sites and stay informed by signing up for our newsletter!

The Complex Problem in Ghana

The Complex Problem in Ghana

The warm morning sun rises early to a new day in Ghana, to the sound of familiar chatter around your dwelling. The women of one rural village are preparing to fetch water for drinking and bathing, as they do every day, so you join them. You are greeted with “Ɛte sɛn?” or “how are you?” which is a common greeting in Twi, to which you respond “Ɛyɛ” or “I’m fine.” On your walk to the water source, which is little more than a pond, you notice that some of the children are full of life and energy, but others seem sluggish and tired. You want to ask them, “Ɛte sɛn?” but part of you doesn’t want to know the answer.  

Rural Ghana

For Ghana’s rural population, life is not easy. Things we take for granted in the Western world, like water and electricity, are hard to come by. In a prosperous Southern village of Ghana, there may be several local teachers in a concrete school building. But in rural areas, especially Northern Ghana, there may be only one or two teachers in a structure made of mud and thatch roofing. In these areas, children usually only complete primary school because secondary school is too far away from their village. These children will instead join their families to fetch water, complete chores, and help with the farm. Many Ghanaians tend to fields or livestock for their livelihood. While agriculture employs over half of Ghana’s population, particularly in these rural areas, the farmers’ irrigation needs can upset the town’s already insufficient water supply. As a result, many farmers become displaced during seasons of flood and drought.

Migration to Cities

Urbanization is a complex trend occurring across the African continent. In Ghana, many people began moving towards cities in the 1990s during the presidency of Jerry Rawlings. Since then, Ghana’s government has successfully increased access to public education, healthcare, and WASH services in urban areas. According to the Radiant Ghana Guide, 93% of Ghana’s urban population now has access to clean drinking water. The massive growth of Ghana’s urban population has also come with a boost to the economy, mainly due to the development of Ghana’s oil industry (International Monetary Fund). But many people still living in rural Ghana have not felt the benefits of governmental stability. Ghana’s success is slow-reaching for the rural population, where only 35% of people have access to clean drinking water.

Illegal Mines

Noticing these desperate rural communities of Ghana, Chinese nationals have begun ‘moving in’ to operate illegal mines. Locals in need of cash will “galamsey”, or “gather them and sell” to the Chinese, who smuggle the precious minerals out of the country. This is exceedingly dangerous work. Many men either die in homemade mine-shafts or from exposure to toxic chemicals used during extraction. The heavy metals brought out by extraction during these small-scale mining operations have a large impact: they contaminate waterways, sometimes for entire communities (NASA). Because of the serious environmental impact of galamsey, Ghana’s government has taken a strict stand against this illegal mining. After deploying 200 soldiers to lakes and rivers in Central and Western Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said, 

“Mining becomes a danger to the society when, after extracting the gold, diamond, or other stones and minerals, the land is left degraded and poisoned with toxic materials.” (Reuters)

The success of Ghana’s government in standing up to these external forces again proves their strength and resilience. Still, the current situation is far from solved for the men, women, and children living in rural areas. These mines are hard to locate since they are on such a small scale. They are also hidden away in dense forests and sometimes only contain a few men per site. Often illegal mines are also scattered near legal mining operations. This makes the distinction between legal and illegal mining hard to spot. 

Oftentimes, we want to make a difference by setting goals for ourselves. Perhaps we promise to take shorter showers or turn off the tap. Unfortunately, being fully sustainable and waste free is unfeasible. The good news is that small changes make a big difference. If more people subtly changed their routines, it would make more of an impact than anything else.

Help Ghana 

Rural Ghana has a need you can help us fulfill. Interested in helping Ghanaians access clean water? You can make an impact on their lives today: we have several ways to help. If you want to receive more stories like this or have a question, fill out our connection form here. Go to our giving page if you’d like to become a water sponsor, are interested in championing a project, or simply give.

The Hefty Price for Clothing: Water

The Hefty Price for Clothing: Water

Water encompasses many aspects in our lives. It links us to our past and future. Water currently used for production, bathing, and hydration was present during the dinosaur era (Sigit, 2019). It is the key to life and is “the core of sustainable development” when it comes to achieving goals. People call Earth the blue planet for a good reason. Oceans dominate, with land and clouds making subtler appearances. This makes it easy to forget that despite its abundance, water is still a precious resource.

Cotton farming and clothing production are water intensive and create pollution. Mounds of clothes are heaped at dump sites. These towering piles of fabric can take 200+ years to decompose. The fashion industry is incredibly wasteful, with 85 percent of garments going to waste. Clothing is produced rapidly to meet customer demand.

Water in Clothing Production

It Begins with Cotton… 

Producing textiles is an arduous process. A kilogram of raw cotton uses 10,000-20,000 liters of water. Additionally, dyeing, spinning, and finishing uses 100 to 150 liters. As for cotton farming, about half of production requires additional irrigation. This strains water reserves in areas without enough rainfall. Cotton is popular, with approximately half of all fabrics being made out of this crop. However, its manufacturing process is unsustainable. Cotton is linked to a negative “chain of impacts” worldwide.

Cotton farming severely impacts countries around the world. Uzbekistan has drained the Aral Sea Basin. In China and India, cotton is grown in the drier areas, with little regard to water consumption (Leahy, 2015). Australia extracts “about five Sydney Harbours’” per year. In Latin America and the Caribbean, cotton has ”the highest return per unit of water used” out of the agricultural export products. North America is not immune to these detrimental effects either. In the United States, western states struggle with shortages, with water being imported elsewhere to grow cotton.

Cotton farming also causes pollution. In Bangladesh, the Dhaka River has turned into dark sludge, all so that shops in the United States and Europe can earn profit (Regan, 2020). Meanwhile in India, cotton uses about 50% of all pesticides in the country. The United States is undergoing a similar predicament, with cotton being the third most pesticide intensive crop. In the end, water too full of toxins is untreatable (Le, 2020). Runoff from fields also results in algal blooms that block sunlight, create contagions and consume oxygen.

The solution involves growing and producing things in the right place. Farmers are already learning about how rainwater harvesting or drip irrigation can save up to 60% of water resources. Water planning and minimal pesticide use has made it easier to cultivate without negative consequences (Newell, 2016). Companies are eliminating the procedures that use up so much water by attempting to reuse fibers. Organic cotton production is a better alternative, since it prioritizes the “preservation of lands.”

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

From argyle print to sage green, trends cycle in and out of style, turning coveted items into last season trash. This can make it difficult to find what to wear. In an effort to profit off this ever changing market, corporations overproduce clothing.

 As consumers, we have more power than we realize. Our purchases tell companies what we want. Although it is impossible to halt all cotton production, emphasis can be placed on certified organic cotton. Buying sustainably can be more expensive than fast fashion. Nevertheless, it is a worthy investment. Poorly made clothing tends to break down after a couple of wears and washes.

A cheaper alternative to reduce your water footprint is to use clothing that has already been made by thrifting or purchasing second-hand and in return, donating unwanted garments. With a shirt using about 2,700 liters and a pair of jeans over 8,000, thrifting one outfit can save thousands of liters of water. Lastly, leadership should enact and enforce regulations on water consumption.

Oftentimes, we want to have an effect by setting goals for ourselves. Perhaps we promise to take shorter showers or turn off the tap. Unfortunately, being fully sustainable and waste free is financially unfeasible for many. The good news is that small changes make a big difference. If more people subtly changed their routines, it would make more of an impact than anything else.

Connect With Us

To learn about the water crisis and how you can save water, join Connect for Water’s newsletter. If you would like to partner with us, consider becoming a water sponsor. For $5.00 a month, you can provide people with clean water for five years.

Sierra Leone, Then and Now

Sierra Leone, Then and Now

Featuring commentary from our founder, Lou Haveman

Children gather on a bridge after school in Kroo Bay, one of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Credit: EU/ECHO/Jonathan Hyams

Imagine carrying 5 buckets of water each day to and from your house: to bathe, to cook, and to drink—and then worrying about which bacterial infection you might receive. 

In the United States, this is something that is largely avoided. However, other countries around the world, such as Sierra Leone, struggle with access to clean water on a daily basis.

In Sierra Leone, the general population has extremely low access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), at just 16% of the population. Less than 1% of the population has piped water in their home. Low access to WASH contributes to health concerns such as diarrhea, acute respiratory illnesses, undernutrition and worm infestations. All of these can lead to death and many other health issues. (UNICEF).

Connect for Water founder Lou Haveman reflected on his time living in Sierra Leone. Haveman lived in Sierra Leone through part of the 1980s as well as in several other regions of Africa. 

Lou’s Recollection

“In that day, we didn’t think of clean water. I’ve regretted living (in Sierra Leone) at that point and time because here’s the thing: almost everybody had a chronic case of bacterial infection,” reflected Haveman.

While in Sierra Leone, Haveman and his team focused mostly on food insecurity, community development and literacy. All which are important issues—but dodge the root of many health concerns in the region: lack of clean water. However, water was not a major concern at the time because of the abundance of rainfall in the region. 

“If you know anything about the geography of Sierra Leone you know it’s high forests, lots of rainfall, 60 to 80 inches a year,” said Haveman. “So, lots of streams, lakes and a lot of rivers. The source of water for almost everyone was open wells, rivers and streams.” 

“If we had known what we know now, we could have gone in and just provided clean filtration or clean water and called it good, but we didn’t know that and we didn’t focus on water,” Haveman added. 

Present Day Sierra Leone 

‘What we know now’ is that much of the water in Sierra Leone is contaminated. Although rainfall and water is plentiful, the quality of that water is subpar. Therefore, access to clean sanitation is nearly impossible for the average household in Sierra Leone, bringing about waterborne disease. According to UNICEF and Haveman, much of the problem comes from poor infrastructure, which leads to human and animal defecation leaking into drinking water.  

Sierra Leone is a beautiful region, spotted with beaches, flourishing trees—it should have a stable, tourist-centered economy to support secure infrastructure—it does not. 

“Sierra Leone experienced a civil war for a number of years and a lot of the infrastructure that did exist was destroyed, including some water systems. Now there’s a higher population and more demand for water,” stated Haveman.  

This is the raw truth. Before the civil war, people lived in the countryside of Sierra Leone and access to clean water was plentiful. It bubbled out of springs and rushed down mountainsides. As the war began, people started to move to the capital, Freetown, and the population grew, but infrastructure did not improve (NPR). These people are now crammed into small brown villas with metal roofs, fighting off disease. 

As of now, many neighborhoods have implemented water kiosks. For a small fee, villagers can fill up their cans with water trickling from taps. In some areas of Sierra Leone, water kiosks are run by private companies with their own buildings. Many sources of water, though, are just pipes that run above ground or water collected from rivers and rainfall.

To our Network 

Here at Connect for Water, we aim to give hope to areas like Sierra Leone. Though it may be hard to envision this reality, it’s important to us that you’ve taken the time to read about it, so, thank you! If you want to hear more stories like this, join our network here. If you want to help us raise funds for those in Sierra Leone, go to our sponsorship page here

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