Monday, October 13, 2008
I just returned from an International Water Training Conference hosted by EDGE Outreach in Indiana.
It was a bit different from your standard conference: I actually learned to do something. I can build and install a community water purification system. I can build and install a community water treatment system. I can do a community water, sanitation, and hygiene assessment. I can lead community hygiene education. I even learned a bit about how to do all of this in a cross-cultural situation!
The training was aimed at people who are actively doing community-based water development work. The development community itself appears to be broken into three parts: (1) the official development organizations, funding projects through official development aid and international financing from the World Bank, IMF, regional development banks and such; (2) the non-governmental organizations run by professional water management types -- who provide water and sanitation in developed countries and who do charitable work in developing countries -- WaterAid and Water for People; and (3) the missionaries who work on lots of issues throughout the developing world. This conference was organized and aimed at the third group.
I spent time talking to people who work in Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Haiti, Costa Rica, and dozens of other places. The need is immense and unrelenting. 1.5 million people are dying of preventable water borne diseases every year -- a child every 15 seconds. You really can install a village water purification system for a bit more than $ 1000; you really can develop new water supplies for a village for $ 5000 - $15,000. You can really make a difference.
One of the best parts of the conference was Bill Deutsch from Auburn discussing watershed management and the need to look upstream to prevent some of the water contamination problems. The light bulbs going on in people's minds were almost visible -- there will be some sustainable water systems developed throughout the world thanks to the wisdom he shared. The other concept he shared was that most of the work being done is first and second "generation" development work -- aimed at disasters and individual communities. The work that isn't being done and needs to be done is third and fourth "generation" development work -- the regional, national, and international policy levels. That's really my work in the area. We need to secure the human right to clean drinking water. We need to assure that the community-based water development work is sustainable in terms of being coordinated with integrated water resources development and with climate change adaptation planning. We need to find ways to increase the funding available for community-based water development -- beyond official aid and international financial institutions. This is the challenge. Let me know if you want to help.