Five Ways Clean Water Can Improve the Lives of Women

1. Improved health

Women in developing countries walk an average of six kilometers a day to collect water. They frequently fill jerry cans which can weigh over 40 pounds and carry those cans on their back or head to their homes. Not only do many women suffer physical injury from carrying heavy containers over long distances, they often suffer illness from the water they collect. There is no guarantee that the water women walk for hours to procure is clean. In developing countries, over 80 percent of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.  Clean water alone can reduce water-related deaths by 21 percent.

2. Increased access to education

Water scarcity affects the ability of young women to attend school and receive empowering educations. In many communities, women and young girls share the primary burden of providing water for a family. It is often impossible for young women to attend school after walking miles each day to collect water. Lack of access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities at schools also hinders the ability of women to attend class when they reach puberty. In the best case, girls make the decision to remain at home one week each month, a decision which puts them behind when they return to school. In the worst case, and most common, girls fall too far behind in their education and drop out of school completely. In Byimana Primary School in Rwanda, a concerned teacher promoted the construction of safe, sanitary bathrooms for the young women attending the school. In 2008, a year before the new bathrooms were constructed, only 14.7 percent of girls passed the national exam to go on to secondary school. The following year, 76 percent of girls passed the exam. Two years later, 87.5 percent passed. These numbers provide staggering evidence of the significant impact clean water and sanitation can have on the lives of young women.

3. Improved access to employment opportunities

Women are often unable to work and provide income because their time is consumed by walking to find water. Each day, 200 million work hours are consumed by women collecting water for their families. In some urban slums, such as those in Nairobi or Mumbai, women spend several hours each day waiting for water to arrive on a truck. They have no control over the price of water, the quality of the water or when the truck arrives. It is impossible for them to take jobs with fixed hours as their schedule must revolve around when the water arrives. With improved access to water, women are able to pursue income-generating jobs and contribute to household finances. In a success story recounted by the Replenish Africa Initiative, Nadia Faisal Gaber, a woman living in Egypt, said that her days were consumed by the need to find water. After fresh water was supplied to her village, she had more time to properly care for her family. She was also able to begin generating money by raising poultry at home.

4. Reduced risk of rape and assault

Traveling long distances to collect water and fuel can place women and girls in dangerous situations. Not only do women face the risk of animal attacks, but they face the threat of violence, sexual assault and rape. In a study produced by Doctors Without Borders, researchers found that 82 percent of almost 500 women treated for rape in West and South Darfur were attacked while gathering water, firewood or thatch. Women are faced with the difficult decision of either putting family members at risk of dehydration and illness without water, or putting themselves at risk of attack. The study proposed expanding access to clean water as the best solution to this problem, which is not even mitigated by encouraging women to travel in groups: Sixty-five percent of the women in the Doctors Without Borders study were actually in a group when they were attacked. Many of these women were also traveling in the company of men, but were still subjected to sexual violence.

5. Greater dignity for women

Globally, less than one in three people have access to a toilet. In many countries, it is unacceptable for women to relieve themselves during the day, so they must wait all day until nightfall in order to have privacy. When women wait all day to relieve themselves, they put themselves at risk of illness as well as sexual violence, as they are often forced to relive themselves in dangerous locations. With improved access to water, especially in rural communities, women are more likely to have sanitary facilities and the ability to wash themselves and their children more frequently. Women suffering from water scarcity in Egypt noted that they were able to wash themselves and their children only once or twice each week. Improved access to water means increased dignity and self-esteem for women and young girls in developing areas.

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Mayor of Santa Cruz, Cape Verde visits Aeronautica, AWD

The mayor of Santa Cruz, Orlando Sanches, visited the headquarters of Aeronautica Windpower and Associated Wind Developers, LLC this week, as part of a larger tour of New England in which he connected with many members of the vibrant diaspora. Sanches has worked on behalf of the Cape Verdean people to bring more jobs, resources and opportunities to both his village and the entire island nation.

Orlando Sanches (left), mayor of Santa Cruz, Cape Verde, and Julio Rodrigues, part of the Wind4Water team, visit the Aeronautica/AWD headquarters in Plymouth this week.

He is currently collaborating with Associated Wind Developers to build the first Wind4Water system, which will provide as much as 750,000 gallons of water per day at half the cost to his community of 40,000 people.

He spoke briefly with staff members about his hopes for Santa Cruz and for Cape Verde.

Q: Why is the Wind4Water project so important for Cape Verde?

A: This project is critical for Santa Cruz for two reasons. First, it will provide many families with access to a consistent source of water. And second, it will help us stimulate our economy by enabling us to expand our agriculture base. Yet, the benefits extend beyond Santa Cruz as other communities will have access to cheaper food and it will liberate imports of fossil fuels to be used elsewhere in the country.

Q: What type of agriculture does Santa Cruz currently produce?

A: Mainly tropical fruits; bananas, mangos, oranges. We tried a rice patty, but we don’t have enough water. Maybe we can try again once this project is completed.

Q: If you could deliver one message to the people of the United States about Cape Verde, what would it be?

A: Given its location at the tip of Africa, Cape Verde can serve as a platform to access the rest of the continent. It is stable both politically and socially and it is ripe for opportunities for investment.

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Five Solutions to get Water to Remote Villages

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to water scarcity in developing communities. Often times, the most appropriate method of accessing freshwater depends on characteristics unique to each community: You wouldn’t want to sink a well in an area with low groundwater tables, nor would you want to pipe water from an urban area to a rural community that gets plenty of rainfall.

Here we offer five ways of bringing freshwater to areas with historic water shortages.

1. Rainwater Catch. Perhaps the least expensive form of accessing freshwater is through rainwater harvesting. Put simply, rainwater harvesting is the act of catching rainwater in large storage barrels and then treating it for everyday use. Plan, Rainwater Club and WaterAid are some of the nonprofits installing water catches.

Pros: Affordable and simple. Cons: Some communities lack a stable source of rainwater.

2. Dig a Well. Sinking a well into a groundwater table is one way to get freshwater to isolated communities. Dozens of nonprofits are building wells in remote villages for costs ranging from as little as $100 to as much as $8,000 (with a solar pump). These nonprofits include The Water Project, charity:water, Drop in the Bucket, among many others. Wells are an attractive solution if groundwater is available and the systems are in place to maintain the wells.

Pros: Relatively affordable. Cons: Requires some technical expertise; many communities lack groundwater resources.

3. Purify from open water sources. Safe drinking water can often be extracted from open water sources, provided it is flushed through appropriate water filtration systems. Techniques used include sedimentation, chlorination, distillation, boiling and the use of high tech filters, among others. However, purification often faces barriers such as high costs and reluctance of use. In the book ‘Poor Economics’, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo write, “A mere $100 spent on chlorine packages for household use can prevent 32 cases of diarrhea. Dehydration is the main proxy cause of death from diarrhea, and [Oral Rehydration Systems], which is close to being free, is a wonderfully effective way to prevent it.” Why isn’t this form of purification used more? “It’s not that people don’t care about their heath,” the authors continue. “They do … they just seem to spend money elsewhere.”

 Pros: Affordable. Cons: Requires a sufficient water supply and buy-in of individual households.

4. Run pipes from urban zones. In many cases, a public water supply exists, but it hasn’t been extended to remote villages. Why? The high capital cost of building such infrastructure cannot be covered by the fees of impoverished villagers – therefore, villagers have remained ‘off the grid.’ Some social organizations have funded the extensions of pipes into rural villages, but these projects can often be cost prohibitive.

Pros: Makes use of existing infrastructure. Cons: Can be costly to route pipes over miles and it’s difficult to maintain.

5. Wind4Water. A new concept introduced by Associated Wind Developers LLC, Wind4Water uses wind turbines to convert seawater into drinking water. This system is ideal for coastal communities where utility costs are already high. By using wind turbines to power the desalination process, Wind4Water converts large amounts of seawater and provides sustainability to regions where water shortages exist.

Pros: Can generate large amounts of water sustainably and can be paid off through smaller water bills over time. Cons: Expensive and limited to coastal areas with high wind.

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Children and the Water Crisis

When I was in elementary school, I was taught not to leave the faucet on while brushing my teeth and I recall reminding myself that I had to take a short shower to conserve water. But as I grew up, not only did the reminders from parents and teachers to “conserve water” fade away, but my belief in the need to conserve water faded too. By the time I entered college, I was taking half-hour long showers, confident in the fact that the water which ran down the drain wasn’t wasted at all; it was simply flowing away to return one day in the form of a raindrop. I took water for granted, like many in developed nations do.

It is incredibly difficult for a person with seemingly endless access to water to realize that, for some, procuring a small amount of (often contaminated) water constitutes a battle. The reality of the world water crisis is especially difficult for children in wealthy nations to understand. But in developing nations, children face the reality of water scarcity every day, and it can be one of the most significant factors inhibiting a child from reaching his or her development potential. Water scarcity presents itself not only in the form of health and sanitation concerns, but in the form of family loss, missed opportunities, and stunted social, educational and community development.

Many children in developing nations confront water scarcity in the form of health issues, ranging from diarrhea to malnutrition. Diarrhea, which is often considered little more than an inconvenience in developed countries, is the second leading cause of death among children under the age of five worldwide. Every 21 seconds, a child dies from diarrhea. Occurrences are more prevalent in the developing world due to a lack of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. Children with poor health and nutritional status are vulnerable to serious infections resulting from diarrhea, and many children suffer multiple episodes each year. The cycle of poor health and malnutrition is exacerbated by recurring episodes of illness, as diarrhea often results in significant fluid loss and dehydration, and children remain within a cycle of continuous illness. The significant health issues caused by water scarcity are not limited to diarrhea, and often include methemoglobinemia (also known as blue-baby syndrome), dehydration, high infant mortality rates, malnutrition and dull skin.

Water scarcity is also implicated in the early orphanage of many children, as diminished kidney function with age puts adults in areas facing water scarcity at a higher risk of dehydration. Low life expectancy and high maternal mortality rates account for the early death of many parents in developing countries. For example, in Africa, only seven countries recorded life expectancies of 70-74 years of age. Fourteen countries recorded 50-57 years, 21 countries recorded 40-49 years, and 5 countries recorded 31-39 years. The average life expectancy in Africa falls at an alarming 51 years of age.  The orphanage of children in developing nations results in an increase in the number of homes headed by children, poverty-induced child labor and trafficking, and the perpetuation of the circle of poverty.

The combination of health and family situations leads to missed opportunities to attend school and procure income-generating jobs. It is estimated that 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related illness, and this does not account for the school opportunities lost when a child must act as the head of a household, or the days of school lost when a child must walk, often for 4 to 5 hours a day, to collect water. Improved water access and sanitation in water-scarce areas could result in greater school attendance and improved child- and community-development.

Where water access, sanitation facilities, and hygienic behavior are present, rates of illness drop, malnutrition in children is reduced, and children, especially girls, show greater school attendance. Access to clean, potable water could provide children with the ability to escape poverty and generate development in communities which are often hindered in their ability to grow.

- Sara Corben, Wind4Water

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The Water Crisis

One in three people in the world lack access to safe, clean water. Almost one fifth of the world’s population, nearly 1.2 billion people, live in areas where water is physically scarce. But water scarcity surpasses a physical lack of water; it can occur even in areas where rainfall and freshwater are plentiful. The way in which water is conserved, used and distributed, as well as the quality of the water available, can determine whether there is enough water to meet the demands of a community.

Water scarcity forces men, women and children to rely on sources of water that are often both unsafe and far from home. Contaminated water is responsible for 80 percent of all sickness and disease worldwide. To put the severity of this data into perspective, consider this: Today, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people who are suffering from easily preventable water-borne illnesses, and more children are killed by dirty water than by war, malaria, HIV/Aids, and traffic accidents combined. Not only is water often unclean, but families and villages face the challenge of simply accessing water regardless of whether or not that water is safe to consume.

The women of South Africa collectively walk a distance equivalent to the journey to the moon and back 16 times a day in order to collect water. These journeys prevent women from pursuing an education and are linked to health and safety concerns.  Medical research has linked carrying water to a number of permanent health issues, including chronic fatigue, spinal and pelvic deformities, anemia, and effects on reproductive health. Not only that, but these women face a greater risk of violence while traveling alone to gather water. In Darfur, 82 percent of almost 500 women treated for rape were attacked while gathering water, firewood or thatch.

Many of those suffering from water scarcity live in Africa. Today, over a third of the continent’s population lacks access to safe drinking water. It is projected that if fundamental changes are not put into place, in less than 15 years half of Africa’s population will be living in countries without access to potable water. Cape Verde faces many of the challenges associated with the lack of access to clean, safe water. The country faces inadequate natural resources, a shortage of fresh water, a climate characterized by prolonged periods of drought, and a 2.7 percent population growth, the combination of which has led to structural poverty in the country. The strain caused by these factors had previously been balanced only by high mortality rates, famine, and high levels of emigration. But with falling mortality rates and decreased opportunities for emigration, the country faces a need for increased access to fresh drinking water and significant infrastructural improvement.

In some places, Cape Verdeans have access to water, but this water is not safe for consumption. Furthermore, the cost of implementing water treatment facilities is too high. Wind4Water© aims to provide a sustainable solution to the water crisis in Cape Verde.

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Wind4Water – The Cape Verde Connection

How did a renewable energy consortium based out of Massachusetts get involved with a tiny island nation off the coast of Africa?It turns out that Associated Wind Developers and Cape Verde have a lot more in common than one might think. The small state of Massachusetts is home to the largest Cape Verdean population outside of Cape Verde with close to 45,000 residents.

There are vibrant communities of Cape Verdeans only miles from AWD headquarters in Plymouth. The first Cape Verdeans arrived between the 1880s and 1920s to work in cranberry bogs and the whaling industry. A second wave began emigrating in the 1980s, encouraged by Boston’s rebounding economy and guided by improved communications (international phone service and the internet).

View Cape Verdean Population in Massachusetts and AWD in a larger map

Cape Verdeans have become an important part of the social fabric of the northeast; starting businesses, working in universities and opening restaurants. In part thanks to this successful and generous diaspora (more Cape Verdeans are living outside of Cape Verde than in the country), Cape Verde has successfully met international development goals. It was one of only two African countries to do so.

Julio Rodrigues, a Cape Verde-born Massachusetts resident and founder of Cape Verde Wind (CVW), has experienced the water shortage in Cape Verde and recognizes that the lack of water is perhaps the greatest inhibitor to progress and development. Mr. Rodrigues forged a partnership with AWD to create Wind4Water. He hopes that wind-powered desalination plants will generate enough fresh water to provide sustainability and economic stability to his home country.

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Cape Verde: The Water Problem

The small, Portuguese-speaking country of Cape Verde, which is located off the western coast of Africa, has long faced extreme water shortages. With less than 50mm of rainfall a year and one of the lowest groundwater tables on the continent, the lack of water caused more than 200,000 deaths in the 20th century and forced many to emigrate. Today, more Cape Verdeans live outside the country than inside.

According to a World Bank report, water consumption on Cape Verde is 35 liters per capita per day, which is close to subsistence levels and about half of that found in the country’s low-income peer group. The country is forced to import almost 82 percent of its food due to lack of water, the United Nations reports.

The Cape Verdean government relies heavily on desalination plants to provide fresh water to its people. In fact, desalination accounts for approximately 85 percent of production. The high energy costs to run these plants results in some of the most expensive water tariffs in the world (by far the most expensive in Africa) at $3 a square meter.

The Cape Verdean government, along with the United States government and The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF), are currently working on initiatives to address the high cost of water. Wind4Water is pursuing wind-powered desalination plants in five locations on the archipelago.

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Wind4Water© Team Member Intro – Mark Lampman

I came by my interest in sustainable development because of the very grave context in which I was first introduced to the emerging field of renewable energy. I had the fortune of serving for over 8 years in the Special Operations community during multiple deployments to Iraq, Southern Philippines and Afghanistan. My early deployments were focused on our team’s operations but my last deployment provided an opportunity for me to take in the bigger picture. I learned that one of our greatest sources of casualties – across all theaters – involves the fuel shipments we use for transportation, electricity generation, as well as heating and cooling. This means that one of the best ways to reduce our casualty rates does not involve new weapons or tactics.

Continue reading “Wind4Water© Team Member Intro – Mark Lampman” »

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W4W Team Member Richard Dart

My name is Richard Dart and I am a fulltime employee at Associated Wind Developers, LLC (AWD). Before AWD, I was playing minor league professional hockey for the Cape Cod Bluefins of the Federal Hockey League (FHL). With a season-ending injury, I decided to ‘hang em up’ and pursue my true passion; helping people and the environment through clean energy solutions.

I graduated from Roger Williams University in 2012 with a degree in Political Science and have always had a passion for the environment and energy policy. My first true experience in helping the environment was an internship with the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition (OREC) in Washington, DC.


Wind4Water Team Member Richard Dart

It was at OREC were I put my love for the ocean and environment together to form a voice for the ocean renewable energy sector. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a career in renewable energy and more excitingly a career where I would be able to help the environment and humanity altogether.

I joined Associated Wind Developers, LLC (AWD) on January 2, 2013. I decided to join the AWD team because of the passion I felt from Co-Founder and Team Leader Brain Kuhn to help the environment and better humanity. Brian and I shared many of the same ideas about the future of our planet as well as the global energy and water crisis. Moreover when Brian presented me with the Wind4Water© concept, I was sold. The thought of being involved with such a passionate group who wants to change the world was something that I could not pass up.I truly believe that with hard work, Wind4Water© will change the world and provide sustainable solutions all across the globe.

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Team Leader Matt Glynn on Wind-Powered Desalination Plants

AS I have travelled the world from Mexico, to Haiti, to Africa, to Cape Verde, I have seen many of the same problems. Most of these problems stem from the same issue-lack of clean water.

In these countries, I have seen people pull water from a source where – just 20 feet away – there’s an untreated sewer draining to it; people lined up to take a bath in a tub that has already had 4 people bathing in it; women and children forced to walk miles to get water.

I have seen places where water is running for only two hours per day, while in other places it never runs. I have also seen places where people unnecessarily suffer from Cholera, dysentery, and other preventable diseases and places where plenty of farmland exists, but water is too scarce to grow even a small garden.

One day, I decided that I not only want to make a difference, but I had to work towards making a difference. I was convinced that there must be a way to give clean water in quantities that are sufficient to not only to sustain life, but also to improve it.

There must be a way to provide this water at an affordable price so even the poorest would have access. There must be a way to provide the water in a way that villagers could access it without having to trudge for miles.

We need to make water accessible to people where they live and work in order to really change living conditions. In fact, if we can make the process available to them where they are, we can even turn it into an enterprise to create jobs.

Water could lead to safer living conditions, to available food, to a better economic life. While doing the research, the availability of water was not usually the issue: The clean, safe water was.

The first step was to figure out how to create safe water: Reverse osmosis. The next problem was how to do it for a price the average person could afford. The single biggest expense was energy cost: Our solution? Wind turbines. We can create clean water at minimum costs and, at the same time, help people live in a safer environment-to me this was a no brainer!

Our next challenge is to make sure we have enough resources to make this available worldwide. That is where my resources need the help of others, even individuals from all parts of the world!

IN each of these places I have visited, I have worn my LL Bean boots and walked among the people. Now, it’s my goal to make the world a better place wherever these boots touch the ground.

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