​World Water Day: Simple Solutions That Save Lives

This week our attention is focused on World Water Day, which takes place on March 22. The 2014 focus is on the water/energy nexus. Water is one of the greatest environmental challenges of this century. Increasing human population, productivity and climate change are putting enormous pressure on water resources, with tragic consequences for hundreds of millions of people.

In many parts of the world, access to clean water is an everyday struggle. One of these places is the​ Trojes Municipality in Honduras, a coffee-farming region with a population of 52,000 people across 270 rural communities. Drinking water in Trojes is sourced from springs, rivers and rain collection and sometimes needs to be boiled before being drunk. As a result, waterborne illness is widespread. ​The problem affects the whole country, though. ​UNICEF says one million people in Honduras, with a total population of 8.3 million people, lack safe drinking water; 1.8 million lack access to proper sanitation.

One project called Pure Water for the World (PWW)​ is trying to change this reality by installing water filters in every household in the Trojes municipality. Initially,​ in 2009​, it started installing concrete biosand filters, but in 2010 it switched to plastic biosand filters because the plastic version​ ​ ​has been shown to be more reliable, easy to transport and ranked as the most sustainable (long-lasting) point of use water treatment technology​.​

The NGO works with Triple Quest, the manufacturer of the plastic Hydraid BioSand Water Filter. The Hydraid BioSand Water Filter is a simple lightweight household filter, with no moving parts, proven to remove up to 99% of bacteria, viruses and parasites. Once water is poured, it makes its way through a diffuser and a biological layer that consumes pathogens, then down through layers of sand and gravel. ​Safe water collects at the base of the filter and flows by gravity out of the filter through plastic piping attached to the unit’s exterior​.​ Filter use is monitored for 10 years.

The filters are funded with grants and personal donors, including a commitment from NativeEnergy to cover the costs of 1,200 filters using ​a ​carbon finance ​scheme​. 600 of the 1200 have been funded through the sale of forward stream carbon credits, NativeEnergy’s Help Build model, where businesses enable new projects through essential upfront funding. Carbon credits are generated by the elimination or avoidance of burning wood for water sanitization​, and ​will be Gold Standard certified.

Clean water ​blows a new lease of life into a community. Health improves, and in tandem so does productivity, economic stability and access to education. So far, 15,680 of the 52,000 people in the Trojes municipality have benefited to date from PWW water filter installations.

This is an ongoing success story that shows how ingenious yet simple solutions can make a difference in people’s lives. On World Water Day we should all think reflect on our relationship to this most essential element of life.​

Image credit: Pure Water for the World