Monday, August 31, 2009

ITT and Water For People at World Water Week in Stockholm

ITT has been a longtime supporter of the World Water Week in Stockholm. ITT's Bjorn Von Euler has done a lot of writing this summer and you might want to skim his Final Thoughts from Stockholm World Water Week 2009.

To reiterate one point that Water For People’s Ned Breslin made at Stockholm: “Please hold poor people accountable.”

Donors, implementing nonprofits, and local communities *all* need to be held accountable for the sustainability of their water and sanitation programming, each as much as the other. Often the best way to ensure decentralized ownership and thereby local sustainability is by making sure that the local communities have a financial stake in the program. This often comes as an upfront cash investment in the capital costs of the work (e.g. the community itself pays for 5-25% of the cost of the borewell) and most if not all of the ongoing operating costs. This contribution will be managed by a village water committee or its equivalent in an urban or peri-urban environment. That committee will also be charged with ensuring that the benefits of the program are distributed equitably, including to those families and individuals who are too poor to pay anything at all.

ITT, Water For People, and many other groups (for profit and/or nonprofit - this distinction is often lost on me) are doing what they can to “work themselves out of a job” - the true goal of global development work. Accountability and sustainability (including financial sustainability) are two facets of development which need to pervade the safe drinking water sector.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guy Laliberté's Poetic Social Mission in Space | One Drop Foundation

Holy cow. Mon dieu je veux dire.

About Guy Laliberté's Poetic Social Mission in Space One Drop Foundation

In September 2009, Guy Laliberté will undertake a groundbreaking, ground-leaving adventure of a lifetime. The Founder of Cirque du Soleil and the ONE DROP Foundation will become Canada’s first private explorer in space and the first to engage in a Poetic Social Mission in Space.

During his 12-day stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Laliberté’s unique social/humanitarian mission will have one clear purpose: to raise humanity’s awareness of water-related issues.

Traveling has always been a part of Laliberté’s life, and he has been researching the possibility of space travel since 2004. That being said, the timing and purpose needed to be right.

This is the time... The first Poetic Social Mission in Space is a symbolic moment for Laliberté.

After 25 years, Cirque du Soleil will be introduced to Russia, the country where Laliberté is training for his voyage and from where the Soyuz TMA-16 rocket will launch him and the Expedition 21 crew into space. The timing could not be more appropriate!

The purpose is also clear... Laliberté’s mission in space is dedicated to making an impact on how water, our most precious resource, is protected and shared. And he will be applying tools he has used so well for most of his life to bring about change: arts and culture.

Information about our world’s water-related issues will be conveyed using a singular poetic approach. The messages he will transmit from the ISS will build awareness for ONE DROP Foundation initiatives, its objectives and dream of "Water for all, all for water."

Read about ONE DROP's work in Nicaragua with Oxfam also - here.

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Stockholm Water Prize Awarded to Bindeshwar Pathak and Sulabh International

I have been following Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak's work for years at Sulabh International, including a visit to his workshop and the Toilet Museum in New Delhi a couple of years ago. Don't forget to check out the Sanitation Fashion Show.

Great to see Sulabh win the Stockholm Water Prize a few days ago in Sweden. It's about time to see sanitation included in water discussions and global water events instead of it being the unruly red-headed stepchild at the kiddie table. We won't solve the global safe drinking water challenge, or stay on top of it when we do, if we don't deal with the untreated human waste of 2.5b people.

As the India Journal quoted:

If water is honored by the Prize being named after it, the importance of sanitation, its sibling, cannot be left far behind. The two complement rather than compete with each other,” Pathak said in his acceptance speech.
Yes. Go Dr. Pathak.

Friday, August 28, 2009

National Geographic - looking for water writers

The National Geographic is looking for story pitches about the global water and sanitation challenge and its solutions for a new series in National Geographic News.

For aspiring writers and waterbloggers, the Geographic's Tasha Eichenseher writes:

If you have ideas and pitches you are shopping around, I'd love to read them. I believe our news site is getting about three million page views a month, so this is a great way to share what you've found. I'd like the news series to be primarily feature stories with a local flavor -- stories about the people and other species affected by diminishing water resources. Ideally we'll balance out stories of peril with stories of progress and hope. I am also interested in breaking news about new programs, tech solutions, scientific studies, and policies and their potential positive or negative implications. And definitely always looking for the quirky, unexpected, and bizarre.

Some more detail about the series:

Clean Water for All

By 2050 a third of the planet's people could be without a clean, secure source of water—a necessity for life. A special news series by National Geographic News explores the local stories and global trends defining the world's water crisis.


50 new articles -- National Geographic News word-counts and rates apply (an average of U.S.$400 per story, depending on length.)

Themes include:

  • Water and Health
  • Sanitation
  • Conflict
  • Competition
  • Habitats and aquatic species
  • Climate
  • Engineering
  • Energy
  • Food
  • Population growth
  • Innovation
  • Tech solutions
  • Policy solutions
  • Embedded and virtual water
  • Sacred water
  • Interesting projects and people


September 15, 2009 – June 15, 2010

If interested, please submit pitches, including potential ledes and sources to Tasha Eichenseher at TEichens (at)

Monday, August 24, 2009

WSSCC Openings (Geneva)

From one of the organizations doing some of the most interesting, effective work in the global water and sanitation sector currently: the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC):


Please feel free to circulate these new post announcements at the WSSCC Secretariat in Geneva within your respective networks.

Ø Programme Manager, Networking and Knowledge Management
Ø Programme Manager, Advocacy and Communications

If the link doesn't work then go to and click under "Join the Team". Other WSSCC project officer posts for our Global Sanitation Fund and Networking and Knowledge Management departments will also be announced in the coming days on the UNOPS site and at

Friday, August 21, 2009

USAID Water Finance Website - launched

If one subscribes to the theory that true sustainability happens when development meets capitalism, then finance is clearly an important part of the solution to the global water and sanitation challenge, at many levels (e.g. capex, social entrepreneurs, microcredit/microfinance, etc.)

I do subscribe to that theory - with the 'poorest of the poor' caveat (grantmaking will likely never totally disappear) - so it's good to see USAID's Development Credit Authority launching their USAID Water Finance Website at Stockholm's World Water Week.

In USAID's words:
The Water Finance Website is designed to help you integrate finance into your broader WSH [Water, Sanitation, Hygiene] strategy. Financing is especially crucial to the development of WSH services because those services are very capital intensive. Just as WSH services need to be technically sound and sustainable from an environmental perspective, they also need to be financially sustainable in order to develop adequately. By including financing in the development of a strategy to promote pro-poor WSH services, you will be helping to assure that technical, environmental and health results achieved will continue beyond the end of funding any one individual activity.
Curious as to their definition of financial sustainability, I logged in and found this: "Financial sustainability is achieved when sufficient funding is available so that service providers can continuously reduce the number of poor and marginalized people who lack adequate access to WSH services."

One way or another, these services have to be paid for, by the government through public sector finance, or by private citizens, farmers, businesses. Those without such services are paying for that in time, healthcare costs, lost wages and other opportunities.

Note that most of the developed world does not of course meet this "financial sustainability" criterion for water and wastewater resources management or else we would not have a half trillion dollar financing infrastructure gap in the US alone. Stay tuned for more on water pricing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Global Water Survey: Results

Some encouraging news from Carl Ganter and the always-impressive Circle of Blue at World Water Week:


A quick summary from

A close look at the results shows that people around the world view water pollution as the most important facet of the freshwater crisis, and that shortages of fresh water are very close behind. Across the 15 countries surveyed:

• 93 percent say water pollution is a very serious (72 percent) or somewhat serious (21 percent) problem.

• 91 percent believe that a shortage of fresh water is a very serious (71 percent) or somewhat serious (20 percent) problem.

Across the seven focus countries:

• Government is considered among the most responsible for ensuring clean water.

• 78 percent say “solving drinking water problems will require significant help from companies,” indicating that partnerships are an important component to resolving the world’s freshwater sustainability challenges.

• 76 percent say “I need more information to be able to do more to protect water.”

While people around the world agree on the importance of the issue, some key differences between the countries surveyed support the idea that solutions will have to be carefully tailored to local conditions.

These findings are helpful for water writ large, and highlight a couple of really important topics:

- At the end of the day, meeting peoples' needs for safe drinking water and sanitation is the responsibility of the governments around the world. If those governments chose to outsource some of the infrastructure provision, I have no issue with that per se. Those governments need to maintain the intellectual capacity to manage that relationship so that the outsourced provider is not simply focused on profit, but on the social contract.

- Solutions will indeed need to be tailored for each local condition. There are so many social externalities associated with water and sanitation/hygiene that the cultural piece of this puzzle may prove to be the most challenging.

- I need to dig into the report further, but I hope that its definition of 'pollution' includes not just industrial/chemical contaminants running into water supplies, but nasty biological contaminants like rotavirus and vibrio cholerae, which kill millions of people unnecessarily each year. However, considering that quality typically lags quantity, it's good to see quality taking the spotlight in this survey period.

And of course MUST give shout out to Molson Coors Brewing Co. for their support for this survey. Molson can spend its money (part of it from me...) on many things, and I am glad they chose this.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World Humanitarian Day

Happy World Humanitarian Day!

From the United Nations media advisory:

Established by the General Assembly of the United Nations, 19 August 2009 is the first World Humanitarian Day. The designation of the Day is a way to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities worldwide. The Day also aims to honour humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or been injured in the course of their work.

Why 19 August? - Six years ago, on 19 August 2003, the United Nations office in Iraq was bombed and 22 people lost their lives. Among them was Sergio Vieira de Mello, at that time the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq. While there have been many other fatal incidents involving humanitarian personnel the General Assembly decided to use the anniversary of this incident as World Humanitarian Day.

So a quick shout out to some of our favorite humanitarians:

Clarissa Brocklehurst of UNICEF's Water and Environmental Sanitation program.

Chris Williams of UN Habitat.

Jamie Bartram, formerly of the World Health Organization, now at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Lots more where these came from, but let's start here and get the festivities rolling.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WASH in Schools - UNICEF at World Water Week

It's a busy time for global water and sanitation challenges at the World Water Week in Stockholm.

Of note: UNICEF is using its time there to promote part of its approach to the challenge, which they call WASH in Schools - Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education in Schools.

If you are at all unsure about the impact that safe drinking water and single gender sanitation can have on schools, please watch a brief video that UNICEF has produced here.

And more on UNICEF's website:

And more from Water Advocates here.

I have been saying for a long time that the only thing that can compete with safe drinking water and sanitation on the hierarchy of development needs is girls' education. UNICEF's work with WASH in Schools pulls it all together nicely.

Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy - Awards Nomination

Paul Newman launched the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy several years ago.

They have just announced the nomination period for their Excellence Awards in Corporate Philanthropy. From CECP:

There are three corporate award categories:

Chairman’s Award: company with 2008 revenues equal to or greater than US$20bn.
President’s Award: company with 2008 revenues between US$5bn and US$20bn.
Founder’s Award: company with 2008 revenues less than US$5bn.

Additionally, there is a Director’s Nonprofit Award, given annually to a nonprofit for its partnership with a corporation. The winning nonprofit receives a $25,000 check from CECP’s directors.

The Waterblogger would really like to see a water-related corporate/nonprofit partnership win this time around. There are a lot of examples, some of which are featured in CECP's own recent newsletter:

The programs are evaluated by an independent selection committee according to the following criteria: CEO Leadership, Innovation, Partnership, and Measurement.

More information about the nominating process here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

UPI and Global Water

An upcoming event I want to make you aware of:

Hosted by United Press International, Our Water is the first in a series of topic-related forums that aim to bring together experts and decision makers, as well as traditional and citizen journalists to discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing our world today. Our Water will include a speakers' panel consisting of experts and organizations that are actively working to solve the pressing problems resulting from a lack of access to clean water around the world. This distinguished panel will provide vital information on economic and political aspects of the problems surrounding preventable water-related illnesses, as well as tangible solutions to this critical matter.

Why Water?

After oxygen, water is the most essential resource for the human body. Over half of the human body is composed of water, nearly 70% of the world is covered in water, and yet less than one percent of the freshwater on the planet is readily available for consumption. Without access to sustainable, clean water resources, people are forced to drink contaminated, unsanitary water. In more than 150 countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, and areas of sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, South Asia, Central America and Europe, among others, between 2 and 5 million people across the globe die each year without access to clean water.

Panelists include PSI's Sally Cowal, Water Advocates' John Sauer, George Mason University's Abul Hussam, charity: water's Becky Straw, and CSIS' Katherine Bliss.

See the current list of panelists.

For more details, download UPI's Our Water press packet here or contact: