Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rainwater Harvesting / Safe Water Network announcement

I have been hearing rumblings about the progress of the late Paul Newman's Safe Water Network for months now, but its website has remained mysterious. Big names, few details...

Change has come - with a very interesting announcement this week: a partnership between Safe Water Network, Bhoruka Charitable Trust, the Centre for microFinance, and the Institute of Health Management Research for a "rainwater harvesting optimization" program in the state of Rajasthan, India.

My words:

- rainwater harvesting is an important part of the safe drinking water (and sanitation) challenges impacting billions of people around the world.
- rainwater harvesting is a proven millennia-old system, but is often overlooked by planners.
- rainwater harvesting is one of the most effective climate change adaptation mechanisms, and will help the world deal with the vision gap so prominent at the Poznan climate change conference.
- although I don't have very good visibility into the inner workings of this initiative, it appears to deal with both the hardware (equipment, technical aspects) and the software (behavior change) of rainwater harvesting. It aims not just at the number of rainwater systems that can be built, but also at health outcomes.
- good example of thoughtful corporate social responsibility by PepsiCo Foundation, and I'm looking forward to learning more.

Their words:

Safe Water Network, Bhoruka Charitable Trust, the Center for microFinance, & the Institute of Health Management Research Collaborate on a Rainwater Harvesting Initiative.

JAIPUR, INDIA (March 31, 2009) Safe Water Network – a not-for-profit dedicated to the development of reliable, sustainable, and scalable water solutions for the world’s poor – announced today a partnership with India-based organizations Bhoruka Charitable Trust, the Centre for microFinance, and the Institute of Health Management Research for a rainwater harvesting optimization program in the state of Rajasthan, India. This 18-month initiative expands on a recently completed program that delivered rainwater harvesting systems to 15 villages in the Churu District of Rajasthan.

The program supports the development and validation of improvements in three areas: cistern design, water quality, and funding tools. The program also includes the completion of a white paper, which will make policy recommendations specific to Rajasthan. Learnings from the initiative will be shared with others who are working around the world to help the nearly one billion people living in areas of acute water scarcity.

“This work builds on findings from our initial project” says Kurt Soderlund, Chief Executive Officer, Safe Water Network. “We are pleased to partner with these Rajasthan-based organizations to take a comprehensive approach that will bring measurable improvements to the ancient practice of rainwater harvesting.”

Bhoruka Charitable Trust will construct more than 600 household level rainwater cisterns (kund) and refurbish 32 community-level cisterns, bringing safe water to approximately 10,000 individuals throughout 40 villages. “Through the improvement and standardization of the cistern, we are creating a more durable, affordable, and easy-to-replicate rainwater harvesting program,” says Amitava Banerjee, Executive Director, Bhoruka Charitable Trust. “And, through the education of local masons, we will ensure the systems are well maintained and therefore operational and functional over time.”

The Institute of Health Management Research is supporting the “software” elements of the program – including water quality management, health and hygiene promotion, working with government liaisons, and preparing the white paper for policy makers. This includes social marketing strategies and advocacy programs to communicate opportunities in rainwater harvesting to stakeholders in the State of Rajasthan. “This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate opportunities for local communities and government officials to pursue the considerable advantages of rainwater harvesting, which realizes significant economic and environmental benefits,” says Goutam Sadhu, Program Director, Institute of Health Management Research. “If delivered correctly, and combined with the proper community participation, rainwater harvesting can be a powerful tool in significantly reducing the incidence of water-borne illness and disease as well as the widespread suffering caused by water scarcity.”

The participation of the Centre for microFinance will demonstrate alternative funding models that enable villagers to obtain loans to pay for their water harvesting facilities over time. “What we’ve learned from past work with rainwater harvesting is that traditional donor programs and subsidy models alone are too expensive to be replicated at a large scale,” says Jai Pal Singh, Executive Director, Centre for microFinance. “We will identify approaches that balance the need for subsidies with access to microcredit facilities to best ensure affordability for all those in need, including the extreme poor.”

Safe Water Network’s rainwater harvesting initiative in Rajasthan is funded, in part, by PepsiCo Foundation. “This project supports PepsiCo Foundation’s commitment to investing in organizations that create and implement sustainable programs to improve the environment and health around the world,” says Claire Lyons, Manager of Global Grant Programs, PepsiCo Foundation. “In collaboration with Safe Water Network and our extended network of partners in India, we are working towards bringing safe water and healthy practices to those in the greatest need. “

About Safe Water Network
Headquartered in Westport, CT, Safe Water Network is a 501(c)3 cofounded in 2007 by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman and several leading civic and business leaders to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable water to the nearly one billion people who currently live without access to potable water. With its funding and expertise, Safe Water Network supports multi-sector and multi-disciplinary partnerships that create comprehensive, sustainable, and ultimately scalable solutions for our world’s water crisis. Safe Water Network’s projects are funded, in part, by PepsiCo Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation. For more information, please visit
www.safewaternetwork.org or email info@safewaternetwork.org.

About Bhoruka Charitable Trust
Headquartered in Jaipur, BCT is a Social Service Institution incorporated in 1962 under the Public Charitable Trust Act by Shri P D Agarwal to “uplift the underprivileged” through the physical, social, cultural, and economic development of rural people and institutions. For more information, visit

About the Institute of Health Management Research
Established in 1984 in Jaipur by Dr. Ashok Agarwal, IIHMR is recognized as a “Research Institution” and is working in collaboration with WHO Centre for District Health System for Primary Health Care, with attention solely focused on health systems management. The Institute undertakes training, research, and consultancy in health management in close collaboration with international organizations such as UNFPA, UNICEF, World Bank, ODA, DANIDA, KFW & GTZ, NORAD, CARE, USAID, Johns Hopkins University, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. For more information, visit

About the Centre for microFinance (CmF)The CmF was established in Jaipur (Rajasthan) in 2005 to widen, deepen, and upscale the microfinance movement in Rajasthan. The Centre is an autonomous institution set up to provide a wide range of technical and other support services to microfinance players, focusing specifically on networking and collaboration. For more information, visit

About PepsiCo Foundation
Established in 1962, PepsiCo Foundation is the philanthropic anchor of PepsiCo and responsible for providing charitable contributions to eligible non-profit organizations. The Foundation is committed to developing sustainable partnerships and programs in underserved regions that provide opportunities for improved health, environment and inclusion. In 2008 alone, PepsiCo Foundation contributed $30 million towards programs to help achieve the vision of creating a better tomorrow for the global community. For more information visit:

Anne Wells
Safe Water Network
atmwells [at] gmail.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cholera in Africa: More crappy news

It really (really) pisses me off when cholera is in the news - again. Cholera should not exist. It angers me even more when it is featured so prominently in so much of the reporting reaching my desk from many parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa. Cholera is preventable. If cholera kills someone, the world is doing something wrong.

The latest piece of shitty news is this disturbing piece from Kenya, where cholera is hitting a little too close to home:

Obama Brother May Have Cholera

and from the Associated Press:

Official: Obama's half-brother falls ill in Kenya

We hope that it is just a nasty case of diarrhea. We hope that this will be treated (as it can be quite easily) and that Malik Obama will be back at work soon. We hope that it is not cholera, and if it is, we hope even more that it doesn't kill him like it does many other Africans, preventably.

Keys to cholera:

- It is dangerous (viz. fatal all too often).
- It is easily spread through lack of simple safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
- It is treatable.
- Most importantly, it is preventable, and both the international donor community and every government throughout the developing world can do something about it.


This steady stream of cholera in the news has to stop. Cholera mortality and morbidity must stop. The White House is in an extraordinarily strong position to contribute to the elimination of fatal cholera and other diarrheal disease. For an interesting and related take on unnecessary and preventable childhood mortality please see Nicholas Kristof's piece Good News: Karlo Will Live. And call the White House.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jobs! The water sector is growing...

The global water sector is growing... and staffing up. Some interesting positions (see below) opening up at the Global Water Challenge, launched by the UN Foundation several years ago and now expanding rapidly.

One should also be aware of IWA Publishing's Catherine Fitzpatrick's somewhat more technical water jobs highlighted here.

GWC News

March 19, 2009 Job Opening: Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships
The role of the Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships is to support GWC's programs through fundraising and the development and stewardship of partnerships in the corporate, government, and civil society sectors.

March 19, 2009 Job Opening: Water & Sanitation Program Associate
The role of the Program Associate is to support the development and implementation of new initiatives and programs funded by GWC. The Associate will report directly to the Director of Programs and Initiatives and work closely with the entire GWC team.

March 19, 2009 Job Opening: Online Communications Manager
The Online Communications Manager will work with the Director of Communications to develop and oversee implementation of all the components of Global Water Challenge's online strategy. The Online Communications Manager is responsible for managing the comprehensive online strategy including content creation, design development, and on-line partnership building.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mickey Sampson and the Big Latrine in the Sky

Mickey Sampson RIP.

A good friend of the Waterblogger, Mickey Sampson, went to the big latrine in the sky last week. He is missed by many around the world, particularly the thousands of Cambodians who had the pleasure of working with him, his family and colleagues.

If you did now know Mickey personally, please read below and visit http://www.rdic.org/ for more information.

Death of RDIC founder-director Mickey Sampson:

Resource Development International-Cambodia is grieved to report the death of Michael Lynn (“Mickey”) Sampson, RDIC Founder and Country Director. Sampson, 43, had been experiencing health problems. He flew March 18 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Bangkok, Thailand, for evaluation by a specialist. His untimely death occurred in the early morning of March 19. His body was found at the Bangkok house where he was staying. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a heart attack. Arrangements are being made for returning Dr. Sampson’s body to Cambodia for funeral services. He is survived by parents Jimmy and Diane Sampson, one brother James Sampson, his wife, Wendi, and their children, Michal, Madelyn, Isaiah, Zach, and Datelyn, their Khmai daughter. Resource Development International-Cambodia would not exist without Mickey Sampson’s vision, dedication, and devotion. He lived and worked in Cambodia with his family since 1998, concentrating most of his efforts on improving drinking water and sanitation for the Cambodian people. One in twelve Cambodian children dies before age 5, primarily from diarrheal disease due to contaminated water. A native of Louisville, Ky., Sampson received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Louisville and taught as an assistant professor of chemistry with the University of Kentucky college system. He first saw the struggle of Cambodians for clean water in the 1990s while teaching chemistry in Cambodia during a sabbatical year from the University of Kentucky. One day his wife called Mickey into their bathroom in Cambodia while she was giving their children a bath. The water was only three inches deep, but it was so murky she couldn't see the bottom of the bathtub. “She said, ‘You know, you're a chemist. Can't you do something about this?’” He told a reporter years later, "It was a turning point in my life."

Many others also told Mickey that he should use his skills for helping with the water needs of the poor. The Sampsons moved to Cambodia permanently in 1998. He worked with other non-governmental organizations to improve water quality. Eventually, however, he started Resource Development International-Cambodia to address Cambodia’s health and development problems in holistic ways. The organization provides education, water testing, water filtration systems, and construction, among other community-development initiatives. Under Sampson’s leadership, RDIC established a ceramic water filter manufacture and distribution system (manufacturing 25,000 filters in 2008), produced a Cambodian television series for children to promote literacy and healthy living, and worked extensively to alert Cambodians to the risks of drinking arsenic-laden groundwater. RDIC also has developed and implemented agricultural, water, health and educational programs in villages throughout Cambodia.Mickey believed Cambodian communities would not be transformed for the better without behavioral changes on all levels. The results have shown his methods worked.

After two years of using RDIC’s water filtration pots, participating Cambodians were 49 percent less likely to have diarrheal disease than their neighbors without the filters. Sampson co-authored a number of publications and supported research in partnership with international universities through RDIC's water research laboratory. He also was a member of the technical working group for the Cambodian government concerning how to address the UN’s “Millennium Target” to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Mickey was widely known and respected in the international development and academic communities. His work with RDIC has been highlighted by a number of news and media outlets. National Public Radio (NPR) featured his creative campaign to educate Cambodians about unsafe drinking water via karaoke videos in a Jan. 27 profile: Karaoke Videos Teach Safe Water Techniques. Friends say "Mickey's faith made him compassionate for the peoples he loved and deeply cared. Countless lives have been touched by this expression of love in their lives." Mickey Sampson will be mourned and deeply missed by his many friends and colleagues, his family – and the thousands of Cambodians who now live healthy lives because of his work.

About the memorial service:

Your Excellencies, Friends, and Colleagues, A memorial service for Dr. Mickey Sampson will be held Saturday, March 28 at 17:30 at the RDI offices in Kien Svay, Cambodia. It has been delayed until Saturday to allow those traveling from outside Cambodia to arrive and to avoid conflicts with meetings occurring this week in Phnom Penh. All those wishing to pay respects are invited to attend.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Smart Power and Water

I'm not entirely convinced by the whole concept of "smart power," and if/how water can be an effective tool in this new arsenal.

That's why I'm hitting this event in DC this week:

You are invited to a CSIS Briefing for World Water Day with the
Bipartisan House Water Caucus

Water: A Strategic "Smart Power" Tool

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. Rayburn Gold Room 2168

Speakers will include:

Krishna Jafa
HIV Director and Former Deputy Country Director of PSI/Zimbabwe
Population Services International

Greg Allgood
Director, Children's Safe Drinking Water
Senior Fellow in Sustainability
Procter & Gamble

Howard Passell
Water Resources Ecologist
Senior Member of the Technical Staff
Sandia National Laboratories

Ladeene Freimuth
President, The Freimuth Group, LLC
former Deputy Director, Tel Aviv Office, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME)

Please RSVP by emailing chall [at] csis.org

This event is supported by: Population Services International (PSI), Procter & Gamble, the American Chemistry Council, PATH, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

When are toilets the best way to save endangered fish?

What do you do if there is no traditional environmental solution to an environmental problem? You find a non-environmental solution.

Exhibit A: Lake Miragoâne in Haiti, currently featured in an insightful piece by Conservation International's Alex MacLennan:

If the most effective way to protect fish biodiversity in an endorheic lake is to prevent untreated human waste from flowing into that lake's waters, then build latrines, build a community-level treatment plant.

As Mr. MacLennan writes:
"Whether you are an advocate for people, fish or both – fresh, clean waters must be restored in Lake Miragoâne. Due to its impoverishment, the local community depends too much on the lake to ignore it once waste has washed in. Drinking water comes from the lake. Laundry is washed in the lake. Gourds filled with water and even freshly laundered clothes carry bacteria into people’s homes."
His colleague researcher Mike Smith adds:
"...species conservation and alleviating human misery are not only compatible, they are the same."
The links between safe drinking water for people, sanitation facilities for human waste, and biodiversity conservation haven't been fully explored on the ground. Philosophically, there is little challenge: it is easy to agree at a high level that environmental sustainability initiatives should account for the impact of and on homo sapiens, and it is easy to agree that initiatives providing safe water and sanitation for humans should be implemented in a fashion that impacts positively on the environment. The trick is on the ground - what happens when you have a country manager of a safe drinking water organization who is paid to get water to people, and the country manager of an environmental organization who is paid to protect frogs and trees, and neither is incentivized to broaden the scope of his/her already-challenging work?

The Haitian lake is a good example of where this is playing out on the ground. Daryl Hannah's work with gorillas in Africa is another interesting example. Many groups are undertaking payment for ecosystems services programs. A lot of progress in the right direction, and a lot of creative opportunities still to be explored.

Friday, March 20, 2009

World Water Day events from PSI

Megan Wilson at PSI sent us a great list of DC-based events on and around World Water Day, March 22, 2009.

PS. To learn more, check out PSI's WWD 09 website at www.psi.org.

Wednesday March 25th, 1:30‐2:45pm;

"Let Clean Waters Flow": U.S. Leadership and Innovation in Addressing the Global Water Crisis

Room 121, Cannon House Office Building

Introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D‐OR), this PSI‐sponsored World Water Day briefing will be moderated by Global Health Council and feature Anick Supplice of PSI/Haiti, and other speakers from Save the Children and Earth Day Network.

RSVP to Shushanna Mignott at smignott [at] globalhealth.org or 202-833-5900 ext 3214.


Tuesday March 31st, 10‐11am;

Water: A Strategic “Smart Power” Tool‐‐ Bipartisan Congressional Water Caucus

Rayburn Gold Room 2168, Rayburn House Office Building

This Caucus event will feature PSI’s own Dr. Krishna Jafa, as well as Dr. Greg Allgood of P&G and other prominent speakers.

RSVP to chall [at] csis.org


Tuesday March 31st, 12:30‐1:30pm

Safe Drinking Water: How One Company Makes a Difference in the Developing World

JHU SAIS Kenney Auditorium, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Featuring Dr. Greg Allgood, director of P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program.

RSVP to 202.663.5626 or saisevents [at] jhu.edu.

For more information, reach out to Megan directly at:

Megan Wilson
Tel: (202) 785-0072
mwilson [at] psi.org

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Natural Resources Defense Council blogs on safe drinking water

Just want to quickly point out that Melanie Nakagawa of NRDC has a great post today on "Investing in Clean Water Brings Economic Benefits and So Much More."

Q: Should we cut back on investing in global drinking water and sanitation during the downturn?

A: "Now is the time to be investing in achieving access to safe water and sanitation because of the multiple benefits clean water provides for our economy and society...Every $1 invested in water and sanitation can yield economic benefits on average between $7 and $12. By taking into account the debilitating aspect of water-related diseases, time spent walking miles to get water, child mortality and drop out rates from school (often from girls who lack access to sanitary facilities after reaching puberty), the report highlighted additional benefits from investing in improving access to water and sanitation..."

Melanie goes on to discuss additional healthcare savings, productivity increases and time savings associated with safe water, and highlights the just-introduced "Water for the World Act" as well.
Love the close: "Therefore, with the right mix of political support plus financial investment in access to safe water and sanitation for those most in need, we have the opportunity to see mulitiple benefits, not only to the economy but for our planet."

The contribution that safe drinking water and sanitation for people make to the environmental sustainability sector is significant, and it's refreshing to see NRDC blazing a path forward on this important linkage.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Water for the World Act - Introduction and Senator Durbin's Remarks

This week in Washington DC saw a number of momentous events leading up to World Water Day, March 22. Among them:

Senators Dick Durbin, Patty Murray and Bob Corker introduced the Water for the World Act, the successor to the 2005 Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act. The linchpin of this legislation is the U.S. government's commitment to providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation to 100 million new people over the next several years. Read more from Senator Durbin here.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted Chairman of Coca-Cola Neville Isdell and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist at an event launching CSIS' Declaration on the Global Challenge of Water. Please review and consider adding your name to the growing list of supporters.

Also a great HuffPost oped by fellow water advocate Jonathan Greenblatt: Let The Clean Waters Flow. Be sure to read the postscript Jonathan added, with a list of things to consider doing on World Water Day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cholera BAD: A Lion in Our Village

If you read one journal article this year, make it this one, from the New England Journal of Medicine:

A Lion in Our Village — The Unconscionable Tragedy of Cholera in Africa

A lion in our village indeed. This is the under-recognized story of cholera in Africa powerfully told by Drs. Eric Mintz and Richard Guerrant.

We know that cholera is caused by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation, and solved by safe water and improved sanitation. This is not an intractable problem.

From their first handful of words "inexcusable,...completely preventable" to even more potent language later on "Epidemic cholera represents a fundamental failure of governance, and bold and visionary leadership is required if we are to attack its root causes," the authors do justice both to the gravity of the problem and to its solvability in Africa as elsewhere in the developed and developing world.

What's missing is the governance and the political and financial capital to get to solutions - both prevention and treatment - this is fixable and unnecessary.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

charity: water - help them turn booze into water - nyc event march 10

From Scott Harrison at charity: water:

This Tuesday, charity: water comes to Chelsea Market, NYC.Opening cocktail reception Tuesday, March 10th, 9 PM.

If you or your friends live in New York City, join us for a cocktail reception at the legendary Chelsea Market as we open our educational photography exhibition on water in the developing world.

The event begins at 9PM and we'll play host to more than 1,000 people. We've got some great musical acts lined up including The Kin, Rob Murat and Marques Tolliver. Tickets to the opening are only a $20 donation in advance, $40 at the door. As always, 100% goes directly to build wells in developing nations.Tickets and info here.

This exhibition is our biggest opportunity yet to tell the stories of the billion people on the planet living without access to safe drinking water, and the low-cost solutions we're funding to help them. The foot traffic in Chelsea Market is between 10,000 - 15,000 people per day, so we're excited about reaching more than one million people over the three month show.

THE WISHING WELL.Wood sculptor and artist Thomas Beale will transform the market's fountain into a Wishing Well. Visitors will be encouraged to toss in their loose change from purchases made at the market, and 100% of the money collected will directly fund freshwater projects in developing nations. Sponsors will then match your change penny for penny to fund even more wells.

HOW YOU CAN HELP.If you're a company or individual interested in sponsoring a well for a village, use your gift to match donations thrown into the wishing well. We're looking for at least 10 companies or individuals to pledge $5,000 over the course of the event. We'll communicate your support to the cause as part of the installation. If you know anyone who'd like to become a matching sponsor, write us here to learn more.

DON'T LIVE IN NYC? THE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION.If you can't attend, we'll be placing the exhibition online for you to see shortly after the opening.Visit charitywater.org/chelseamarket to see it after March 13th.We hope to see you there! - Scott Harrison

Monday, March 2, 2009

Social Entrepreneurs and Sanitation - huge potential

Great piece today on OneWorld:

Entrepreneurs Tackle Sanitation in Africa

African social entrepreneurs making money by selling toilets. Great idea. The Global Water Challenge and Ashoka rock. Think about it: 2.5 billion people don't have toilets - that's a global market of at least 500m toilets, plus nice recurring revenue streams because they all need servicing. Someone is going to a) get wealthy and b) win the Nobel Peace Prize for eliminating fatal diarrhea.

Also check out the World Toilet Organization. Sneak preview: plans are afoot to make November 19, World Toilet Day, an official United Nations Day. More soon.