By Ronald Y. Perez, WC&P Senior Editor
Many of us will greet this holiday season with certain trepidation as opposed to past years due to the global situation (conflicts in foreign lands) and our personal circumstances (unstable economic conditions). Spending will be tighter this year, which means each of us may have to make do with fewer things that we want. But as we look over our wish lists, this might be a good time to think of those who’ve done without actual needs for a long time. Specific to the water treatment industry, literally millions of people live without potable water. In turn, many also die without ever having potable water.
If anything good has come from recent national events, it’s that the United States hasn’t witnessed such united patriotism via its citizens in decades. From schoolchildren to the elderly and from the lower-economic classes to those in the public spotlight, Americans (not to mention a great number from other countries) have banded together to help not only those in need here but in the Middle East as well. Charity and donations are at a high level. It’s also important to identify and laud the efforts of international water-related organizations gallantly working toward providing safe water for those most in need. With limited space, we’ve highlighted four websites that speak to the importance of clean water for any community.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this website was home to a daily newspaper in the United States. The content is presented in a very comprehensive manner and no stone is left unturned. To the right of the home page, the heading reads October 2001 Edition. Obviously a monthly edition, the website may be too expansive. Using Microsoft Internet Explorer, the screen runs off to the right. A slight inconvenience, but worth pointing out. The previous five issues are also included on the home page with main topics and themes containing hyperlinks. This feature beats a search button in many instances.
Moving right to left, the background and history button of The Water Page (an outgrowth of The African Water Page, born in 1996 in South Africa) is located in the middle. The organization is “an independent initiative dedicated to the promotion of sustainable water resources management and use…of water in Africa and other developing regions.” Below that is a serviceable search function and a comments button. To the home page’s far left is the site’s version of the table of contents. With too many buttons to name here, this is hyperlink heaven. Every heading and sub-heading contains a link to even more valuable information. A feature worth noting is Water Basics, which caters to students looking for potential research topics, a popular theme at the Letters to the Editor desk. A pop-up window directs you to the website’s “Education in Water” page also. At the bottom of the home page, you’ll notice a number of areas under development that show much promise.
From across the big pond comes this site, which devotes itself to “working to help some of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia provide themselves with a safe water supply and adequate sanitation.” The home page comes in an easy-to-read format with large buttons. No need to scroll here. The five main buttons found near the bottom of the page are About Us, Education, Research + Campaigns, How to Help and Give for Free.
About Us is broken down even further with categories such as Latest News, 20 Questions, Where We Work, Next 5 Years, Gallery and Contact Us. Latest News isn’t so much a newswire service as it is an invitation for visitors to announce their own items or upcoming events. I found the “20 Questions” button to be an effective overview of WaterAid and includes questions and answers to matters such as “How is WaterAid governed?” and “Isn’t the real problem uncontrolled population growth?”
Education, much like the aforementioned Water Basics at The Water Page, provides resources and games for schoolchildren of all ages. Meanwhile, Research + Campaigns supplies projects that deal with groundwater quality information, work with the Freshwater Action Network, Evaluation, Reports, and supplies a sufficient list of links to other similar groups. Keeping with the holiday spirit, How to Help describes how visitors can chip in with community fundraising, Christmas shopping, Christmas catalog and a “charity challenge.” Finally, there’s a Give for Free button that explains the ways one may contribute to the cause.
Backed by a Christian organization, Lifewater International proclaims on its home page: “Every eight seconds a child dies of a water-related disease.” And Lifewater gives you plenty of avenues to assist in its preventative efforts. Compared to the two previous sites, lifewater.org is simple and to the point. Based in California, the site’s main buttons are labeled using pails of water and include About Us, HELP, Gifts, Train, World and Links.
In About Us, technology and training are spotlighted as two of the main components behind Lifewater’s success. HELP allows those looking to improve their plight by asking a few questions as well as providing some helpful links. Topics covered include water treatment and, more specifically, things such as analyzing a water sample, designing a slow sand filter, and constructing a disinfection unit. It’s like a self-help guide for communities around the world. The Gifts button shows what $4 will provide by way of water. According to the website, the amount will “give the equivalent of a lifetime supply of safe water to one person.”
For those wanting a more hands-on contribution, Train lists a number of opportunities for on-site volunteers. World is short for World Water Day, which is the publication cited for technical notes and other developments having to do with U.S. aid projects. Lastly, Links gives additional information resources on topics such as water treatment, sanitation and distribution. We should point out that you can dig into your back issues of WC&P and find a related article by the founders of this organization’s Canadian affiliate (see Gehrels, Jim, and Glenn Stronks, “Africa: Well Water Quality in Liberia—A Life or Death Issue,” September 1999, pp. 62.)
As we work ourselves to the last site reviewed, the amount of text and graphics on the home page decreases. WaterPartners International runs this site. It’s “a non-profit organization that addresses the water supply and sanitation needs in developing countries.” Pretty consistent with the explanations throughout the various sites listed here. A little side note is the running tally of “deaths from water-related disease today” button at the top right. At mid-afternoon, the number had reached 17,000. A little disconcerting, but effective.
The visual effects are a little stronger at this site too. Near the bottom of the home page are the main buttons: Giving, Subscribe, Site Map, Search, News Center and Contact Us. Above the buttons is a nice feature that provides more information on a multitude of things from “The Global Water Crisis” to “Workplace Giving.” News Center provides a few press releases about WaterPartners’ programs and projects in less developed countries. Overall, a good site that packs a lot in a small space.
Many U.S. water treatment companies are looking overseas for potential business. These charitable organizations and non-profit groups—only a few represented here—are laying the groundwork for the availability of water filters and softeners down the road. First, less developed countries will have to be supplied with potable water. Then, the task of those in the water treatment business in conditioning the water further will reap its own rewards—not all of them monetary. Just something to think about as we contemplate our own situations during this joyous season.
The sites’ give and takes
Call it the Britannica site because it’s loaded with stuff, and good stuff at that. For those interested, it even has a “water in religion” feature. They cover it all. It combines the newsworthy features of a newspaper with enough photos and other visual aids.
In this group of sites, this one gets lost due to a nice lineup. Don’t be discouraged. Generally speaking, the site holds its own. The kid-friendly tools can be a nice introduction of water issues to the younger ones at home.
The training possibilities stick out the most here as most memorable feature. Helping one another is vital but helping others to help themselves seems to be the overriding emphasis here. Free newsletter is a bonus.
As stated on the home page, a 2-year-old “drinking” herself to death seems a little macabre but ghastly references are kept to a minimum. Not quite shock value, but close to the edge. The key: Read what’s presented and not how it’s presented.