"Groundwater" is the water contained within rocks and soil beneath the surface of the ground, the top level of which is often referred to as the water table. Groundwater exists pretty much everywhere - even in a parched and arid landscape, there will typically be water present not too far beneath the surface. In the Kalahari Desert, the old indigenous bush dwellers of the San people were known for their extraordinary ability to sense the presence of groundwater where it comes closest to the surface and to make drinking straws from natural desert vegetation with which to pierce the sandy topsoil and suck water out from beneath.
In developed countries, groundwater is typically a greater source of drinking water than many imagine. According to website groundwater.org the United States derives over 50% of its drinking water from these subterranean sources, while in rural areas, that can go up as high as 99%. And, of course, groundwater also provides a valuable source of water for irrigation and thus for growing crops. Throughout the continent of Africa, geological surveys indicate there is sufficient groundwater for most countries to survive a minimum of five years of drought, while in some areas there may be enough groundwater to sustain the population for 50 years or more. And yet, in many of those same areas - outlying regions of Ethiopia, Mali and Niger for example - people are falling ill or dying every day through lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Conversely, in swathes of south Asia, an excessive exploitation of groundwater without proper management has caused extensive problems of contamination and pollution, which can have equally devastating consequences.
Projects to tap into groundwater sources and create sustainable supplies of clean, safe water are relatively inexpensive, both in terms of the equipment needed to sink boreholes or wells and bring water to the surface, and the infrastructure to distribute and utilise the drawn water. But it is critical that it is done in a properly managed and co-ordinated way so that communities that benefit from accessing the groundwater beneath their feet do not then go on to contaminate it with excessive or incorrect use of fertilisers and pesticides on crops growing in their newly irrigated land, or by mismanaging the output from their new sanitation systems. The entire process must be carefully managed, but where there is a will to succeed backed by a good working relationship between governments, aid agencies, equipment suppliers and installers, and local project managers, new safe water supplies can quickly be brought to desperate communities to secure their long-term futures.
Here in the UK right now we have shortages - shortages of
fuel for our cars, and shortages of some foods on our supermarket shelves, with
predictions the situation may get worse before it returns to normal. The
widespread response to this has been PANIC BUYING - people rushing out in
droves, queuing to fill the tanks of their cars in case they might need to
drive somewhere, filling their cupboards and freezers with canned and frozen
foods for fear of the diminishing vast range of dietary options
usually available to us. It's an understandable reaction - sure -
and our politicians are quick to assure us it's temporary, to assure us
they will resolve these crises in the coming weeks and all will return to
But... imagine if your "normal" routine, every day of your life, is to wake up and wonder if you will get any clean water this day. Water - that most basic essential for life along with the air we breathe. You set off on the daily trek to a source you hope will not have dried up, and not have become contaminated. You don't PANIC because this is your daily reality, as it has been throughout your life. Sometimes there will be days when there is no water, perhaps several days, but you still don't PANIC because you've been here before. You have to go with it, conserve energy as best you can, put up with the searing headaches and draining fatigue of dehydration. And you wait, and hope, for the day you can get water again. And so life goes on... hopefully.
Even while our petrol pumps stand empty and we find gaps on our supermarket shelves, we absolutely take it for granted that we will turn on our kitchen taps and clean, fresh, safe water will pour forth. So, please let us maintain perspective here. Let us never forget the hundreds of millions of people on this Earth who do not have ready access to clean, safe water, and let us always strive as a global community to make water available to all - a right, not a privilege.
The American 'Rover' explorer has landed on the surface of the 'Red Planet'. There has been much eulogising over the ambition of this project, the technical brilliance involved, the extraordinary achievement, the further stretching of the boundaries of human ingenuity. The ultimate goal of the mission is, of course, to find 'life on Mars', for which the Holy Grail would be for Rover to discover any current, or even past, evidence of water.
While the scientists dream of finding water on Mars, some 785 million people still dream of finding clean, safe water here on Earth [current figure published by WaterAid]. While the scientists pursue their quest to shape the future for humanity, we - as a global community - must not lose sight of the urgent need to secure its present.
There are many wonderful projects being implemented at this moment to bring safe water and sanitation to outlying communities, but such projects are needed in greatly increased quantity and scale. This should be our planet's priority and every one of us can play our part. Donations to support the work of charities dedicated to this field are vital, but even more important is that the provision of clean, safe water and sanitation be urgently pushed to the top of the public agenda worldwide and kept there for as long as it takes.
Water = Life on Earth.
The threat posed by Covid-19 remains headline news across the world and 'expert predictions' are widespread that it will be another six to twelve months at least before it can realistically be brought under control.
This is frightening to those of us who live with clean, safe water on tap and good sanitation facilities, but must be terrifying to the millions who still do not have access to this basic human need.
According to Wateraid, ONE in every FOUR health centres globally does not have access to a supply of clean, safe water.
This not only directly endangers both the sick and the medical staff on the front line, but also causes major disruption and delays to international efforts to bring pandemics under control - so ultimately the world suffers.
At Water Incorporated we continue working towards the launch of our WashIF programme while, at the same time, urging everyone to support initiatives to bring clean, safe water to the world.
With the international community in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the main guidelines for both personal and communal protection being issued by the World Health Organisation and governments across the planet is to greatly increase the frequency and thoroughness with which we all wash our hands.
Why? Well yes, it's obvious, and we all know... it removes germs and significantly lessens the risk of spreading infection. All very well for those of us who have ready access to clean, safe, running water in our homes, our workplaces and in many public facilities.
But this virus is now reaching areas of our planet where people have no access to clean, safe water. They live their lives in daily risk of contracting disease from either contaminated water or lack of water. And now Coronavirus brings a whole new threat, both directly to these people, and to global efforts to stem the flow of the disease.
Clean, safe water is life. Please continue to support initiatives to bring clean, safe water to the whole world. Thank you.
Friday 11 October is this year's International Day of the Girl Child. Launched by the United Nations in 2012, its purpose surely needs no explanation.
Of course, the need to diminsh gender inequality worldwide goes far beyond water-related issues, but nevertheless this is a key day on the calendar for all those working toward improving global access to clean water and safe sanitation.
There are many parts of the world which clean water and sanitation facilities have yet to reach where the daily duty of collecting water for the family falls on its daughters who both miss out on their education and can suffer consequential health problems from the excessive trekking and carrying. Furthermore, lack of clean water and absence of proper toilet facilities exacerbate hygiene issues for girls when they start menstruation.
So, we ask you please to recognise this important date on the calendar, and to continue whatever you may do to support and promote safe water and sanitation projects. Thank you.
Please support World Water Day.
This doesn't require you to do anything much out of your normal routine, EXCEPT...
...stop and think every time you reach for the tap.
World Water Day takes place on 22 March each year and is an initiative of the United Nations. It encourages those of us lucky enough to live in societies where water flows readily from our kitchen and bathroom taps to use those taps as little as possible.
Short of subjecting yourself to dehydration, if you would like to
support WWD, please use your taps as little as possible, encourage others to do
the same, and try to imagine living without access to fresh, safe, running
water at the turn of a handle.
World Water Day is all about raising awareness that there are still millions of people in our world who at best devote much of every day to collecting the minimum quantity of water they need to survive, and at worst risk disease and death from only having access to contaminated water, or at times not being able to source water at all.
Each year the UN gives WWD a different theme, and this year it is "Nature for Water". This is looking at environmental damage which is bringing about alarming growth in the level of water-related crises - floods, droughts, water pollution, soil degradation, and so on. To find out more, and to discover potential solutions, visit www.worldwaterday.org
Should you be inspired to make a donation and/or get involved, please note that here at Water Incorporated, we neither take direct donations nor manage projects ourselves. We have our very specific WashIF programme - explained here on our website - which we are preparing to launch. But there are established organisations out there doing great work in the field, and you can find some useful contacts on our "Links" page.
Leading UK water charity WaterAid has announced that "for the first time in history, 9 in 10 people around the world can now drink clean, safe water".
This is fantastic news, and is the result of the great progress being made by volunteers, fundraisers, charitable organisations and government bodies around the globe.
BUT, of course - as WaterAid is quick to point out - this still leaves an estimated 650 million people in the world WITHOUT ready access to clean, safe water, so there is still a huge amount of work to be done.
For those of us born and brought up in homes with safe water on tap and the shelves of local stores laden with an abundance of bottled mineral waters, it is almost unimaginable to have to walk miles every day for no reason other than to collect a drink, or worse still to have no option but to drink filthy, contaminated water risking disease and death with every sip.
Here at Water Incorporated we're hoping to soon be much closer to launching our WashIF programme and making our contribution to the drive to ensure that everyone has access to clean, safe water. Please watch out for our progress, and meanwhile, if you wish to support active safe water projects, you can find some useful information on our "Links" page.