Amber Keenoy, LEED AP BD+C – Principal, Star Estimation and Consulting Services
Water is an essential component to life on earth. Humans rely significantly on water. Water is used for most if not practically all of human manufacturing processes. In fact, water is used every day in some function for most human activities. Water quality is essential as contaminated water is quite harmful to human health and well being.
The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by 2015 there will be 2.7 billion people without access to basic sanitation. Lack of sanitation often forces people to defecate in the open; in rivers or in areas where children play or where food is prepared. The WHO states that the Ganges River in India has 1.1 million liters of raw sewage dumped into it every minute, a startling figure considering that one gram of feces may contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs! Some examples of diseases transmitted through water contaminated by human waste include diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis A.
In response to the lack of sanitation infrastructure, governments, development agencies and NGOs typically implement programs to provide latrines to poor / vulnerable populations. These programs usually do not link infrastructure and its management requirements. In most developing countries wastewater treatment systems are hardly functioning or have a very low coverage, resulting in large scale water pollution and the use of very poor quality water for crop irrigation especially in the vicinity of urban centers. This helps to create significant risks to public health, particularly where crops are eaten raw. In Africa, 115 people die every hour from diseases linked to poor sanitation, poor hygiene and contaminated water.
A contributing factor to the lack of water quality in most regions comes down to money or the lack thereof. Many governments are too corrupt, too poor, too mismanaged to ensure proper water quality for all. In defense of government, it can be quite difficult to keep up with burgeoning world populations and increased pressure on existing infrastructures. Additionally, in water scarce areas it becomes even more difficult to provide proper water quality to all inhabitants.
There are groups and organizations committed to ensuring clean water. Waste Enterprisers is an organization wherein the primary mission is to reinvent the financial incentives that govern collection, treatment, and final disposal of human waste; and to generate a reliable revenue stream for facilities that will help cover costs of operation and maintenance, and thereby improve performance.
Waste Enterprisers is not the only entity that offers water sanitation services; however they are noteworthy due to the unique business model which also garnered Ashley Murray, Waste Enterprisers founder and CEO, a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorers honor. Of particular interest is WE’s pilot project which is a commercial catfish farm in the maturation pond of the Ahinsan Estates Waste Stabilization Pond system in Kumasi, Ghana. Upon harvesting the fish, WE will allocate 50% of the net profits to the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly to help cover the costs of operation and maintenance at the facility.
The WHO supports The Millennium Development Goals which targets 75% global sanitation coverage by 2015. The cost to reach this milestone is estimated at US$14 billion annually through the period. Among other health gains, sanitation is estimated to reduce diarrhea cases by 391 million worldwide each year.
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