It’s often said that a picture paints a thousand words. If that’s true then, 18 years since its inception, the Water Cartoon Calendar has produced enough material for an epic series of novels. A fixture of our water and sanitation products every year since 2000, it features cartoons combining humor with serious messages about important issues.
The calendar began at the start of this millennium under the auspices of the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). Last year, ten partner agencies and the World Bank’s Water Global Practice launched the new Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), an integrated platform for working alongside countries as they rise to their next water challenge. The GWSP builds on the foundations of the WSP as well as its other predecessor, the Water Partnership Program (WPP), and the calendar continues this legacy.
The global water crisis is a crisis of too much, too polluted and too little. At the World Bank, our job is to find and implement solutions to tackle this crisis. In the “Water Solutions” blog series, you’ll read about World Bank-supported projects in different countries which demonstrated solutions to the world’s most pressing water issues, to fulfill our vision for a water-secure world.
Since 2015, when armed conflict began, Yemen's water and sanitation infrastructure has suffered significant damages. Direct attacks on the infrastructure have been exacerbated by the lack of energy (electricity and fuel), spare parts, operation and maintenance funds, and three years of unpaid salaries of civil servant staff. This confluence of factors has undermined the robustness of water and sanitation systems in Yemen and contributed to the worst cholera outbreak in history. According to the World Health Organization, as of November 11, 2018, 1,300,495 suspected cholera cases and 2,609 deaths have been reported.
The upsurge of cholera cases is attributed to several risk factors, including a disruption of basic water and sanitation services, contaminated water sources in affected communities, an inability to treat sewage due to non-functional wastewater treatment plants, and the absence of garbage collection systems. More than 70 percent of the population (22 million people) requires assistance to access safe drinking water and sanitation. Basic water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure is on the verge of total collapse, and many internally displaced persons (IDPs) are at a particularly high risk, due to overcrowded shelters and settlements with inadequate water and sanitation facilities.
As COP24 in Poland reaches its mid-point, it is becoming distressingly obvious that reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Centigrade will be extremely challenging. Recognizing that millions of people across the world are already facing the severe consequences of more extreme weather events, the World Bank Group’s newly announced plan on climate financing for 2021-2025 includes a significant boost for adaptation.
“California, here we come!” I was singing this phrase in my head all morning a few weeks ago as I flew from Washington DC to Los Angeles to accompany a Government of Botswana study tour delegation. The phrase comes from a song by the group Phantom Planet and is the anthemic intro for the mid-2000s television series “The OC” (OC, standing for Orange County).
I know it’s cheesy, but I really love this song. So do my children. They obsess over the melody as we gear up for our annual trip to visit extended family in the great Golden State. To them, it represents a new world, different landscapes, excitement, and that all-too-familiar pull of the western USA…possibility.
To me it represents many of the same things, but for this trip it was ringing in my ears for related, albeit slightly different reasons. On that flight I was still thinking of this lure of the possible, but specifically related to the topic of water. The possibility to thrive with very little water in a semi-arid desert climate. California has mastered this skill, and we were there to learn from some of the very best examples that the state has to offer. Botswana faces many similar threats to water security, such as increasing droughts from climate change, growth in demand, and significant infrastructure needs.
The World Bank Water Global Practice organized this technical exchange at the request of Botswana’s Honorable Kefentse Mzwinila, Minister of Land Management, Water, and Sanitation Services. To meet their request, we organized three strategic stops in California, as well as subsequent meetings with World Bank and IFC staff in Washington DC.
An introduction to the who, what, when, where, and why.
In one of Mexico City’s most populated areas, Iztapalapa, there is a street named Alessandro Volta. With little knowledge about who this man was, we researched a bit and found that Alessandro Volta concluded, in 1776, that there was “a direct correlation between the amount of decaying organic matter and the amount of flammable gas produced”. Sir Humphry Davy determined 32 years later (in 1808) that methane was present in the gases produced during the anaerobic digestion (AD) of cattle manure. The first digestion plant was built at a leper colony in Bombay, India in 1859 (just 83 years later!).
Anaerobic digestion (AD) as a renewable resource has been growing since, in the international context, and has the potential to be a sustainable, affordable solution for wastewater management. In the 21st century, we are still fascinated with the idea of the benefits of biogas production. In modern times, AD is being used as a reliable energy source, and sludge resulting from AD processes can be used as fertilizer. Countries like the UK are producing enough biogas to power 1 million homes, 210 years after Sir Humphry Davy’s discoveries. In fact, according to a new report from the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) of the UK, in 2017 the total energy generation from anaerobic digestion plants reached 10.7 Terawatt-Hour (TWh) / year.
Over the past fifteen years, I have seen a rapid evolution in corporate actors in recognizing water risks to their operations. In response, some have taken measures to ensure that all water is returned to its originating watershed while making sure that returned water is as clean or cleaner than it was before. But to keep the momentum going, we need to think about how we can encourage and motivate companies that will push them to collaborate more with governments, other companies, and civil society toward realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Equally as important, we need to bring forward those companies that unfortunately have yet to prioritize water.
The positive feelings that come from rewarding good behavior are natural in humans. In fact, such feelings can do wonders. I see it every day with my own daughter; when she does well and gets recognition, she feels like she wants to, and can, do more.
In 2016, the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) and its partners created the Blue Certificate, an initiative that is one of the workstreams of Peru 2030 WRG’s multi-stakeholder platform (MSP).
Continue to read the full blog on the 2030 Water Resources Group website.
Over the past 12 months, the world has seen water in its extremes. In the same year, the City of Cape Town, announced “day zero,” the day on which it was predicted the city would run dry, and a million victims of massive flooding were evacuated from Kerala, India. Floods, droughts, infrastructure shortfalls, poor quality and poor water resources management all made global headlines. Countries are facing a new normal where water is either “too much, too little, or too polluted.”
Martin Gambrill, Lead Water Supply & Sanitation Specialist, World Bank
Rebecca Jean Gilsdorf, Water Supply & Sanitation Specialist, World Bank
Ndeye Awa Diagne, Young Professional, World Bank
Today when you go to the toilet, be it in someone’s basic latrine in a rural village you might be visiting, in a public toilet where you work, or on a comfortable water-flushed ‘loo’ at home, take a moment to think about those not as fortunate as yourself.
As you sit (or squat) and contemplate, consider these three hard truths about sanitation: