Thursday, October 20, 2016

Access to safe water and sanitation in the US

With the events in Flint, Michigan in the US, over the past year, there's been increased attention in the US to the state of water and sanitation across the country. While there has been a focus on the quality of large infrastructure services (the ASCE gives the US a "D" for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure), the recent national conversation has been moving toward discussions of environmental justice and race. As quoted in a recent NY Times article:
Crumbling infrastructure has been a theme of this country’s reinvigorated public conversation about race ...
However, as this same article explores, in rural Alabama, there are still places in the US that have never had adequate infrastructure.
But in poor, rural places like Lowndes County, there has never been much infrastructure to begin with....
Eli Seaborn, 73, a White Hall councilman, said progress would be slow, like the pace of civil rights gains, where legal discrimination is gone but lingers in other forms. Similar patience is required for sewage, he added. 
A paper published earlier this year found, in piped systems in Alabama, associations with GI illness and water quality (lack of total chlorine or presence of E. coli) and service delivery (low pressure or supply interruptions).

The language in Sustainable Development Goal 6 emphasizes universal and equitable access for all:
  1. By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  2. By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations  
Will the US meet the SDG? Can the ongoing public conversation about race and increasing focus on environmental justice bring the US to ensure equitable and universal access to water and sanitation?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Happy Global Handwashing Day!

Read about our work to make handwashing easier for settings lacking piped water:
Sophisticated Handwashing Without Piped Water: Designing the Povu Poa

Friday, October 7, 2016

Climate and health co-benefits in developing countries

On Wednesday, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved and the Agreement will go into effect on Nov 4, 2016. In our recent commentary "Climate and Health Co-Benefits in Low-Income Countries," we make the case for independent monitoring to be required for future carbon emission reduction projects. The Paris Agreement allows for an international carbon trading mechanism to be developed that will allow developed countries to purchase carbon credits from developing countries, where greenhouse gas emission projects usually cost less to implement. We evaluated a carbon financed water treatment filter project in Kenya - the Lifestraw Carbon for Water project - that delivered almost 900,000 filters free of charge to households in Western Kenya. We found much lower levels of usage of the filter than what has been reported by the program - 19% of households reported filter usage 2-3 years after filter distribution compared to program stated usage of 81%. The program is still selling carbon credits online claiming 1 credit is equivalent to 1 ton of C02 emissions reduced and safe water for a Kenyan family for 1 year. Independent monitoring of these types of projects could ensure they are achieving the environmental and health co-benefits they are designed to provide to low income communities.