By Dr. Mercola
"Carbon for Water," a film by Evan Abramson and Carmen Elsa Lopez, reveals a reality most people in the Western world cannot fathom — a world where a large portion of each day is devoted to finding drinkable water.
In the Western Province of Kenya, 90 percent of the population have no easy access to drinking water. In order to make the available water safe to drink, they must first search for firewood, and then boil the water.
Alas, firewood is an equally scarce commodity, and locals resort to illegally cutting down and stealing wood from the ever-dwindling forest — a practice said to contribute to deforestation, which makes the threat of water shortage even more severe.
At present, Kenya's forest covers less than 2 percent of the land, but as noted by the filmmakers:1
"Just six or seven decades ago a beautiful forest covered most of Western Province. Today, a lot of the forest is gone. Forest degradation and the reduction of rainfall are connected.
Once the forest is destroyed, the rainfall is reduced. In order to avoid conflicts that might lead to civil wars, Kenya's forests need to be protected urgently, but that can't happen if people rely on firewood to boil the water they need to drink."
Children Risk Life and Limb in Search of Wood and Water
In Kenya, it is the woman's role to collect firewood and water, and young girls are expected to perform this chore by the time they're 6 years old, even though the source of water and wood may be miles away from home.
Many spend so much time on this chore, they do not have time to go to school. It's also a rather dangerous task. Wild animal attacks are a constant danger. Some drown while crossing rivers.
Many young girls also end up getting raped while out alone in the woods. They must also keep a lookout for rangers who roam the forest, as getting caught stealing firewood can have very serious ramifications, including incarceration.
How the LifeStraw Program Saves Lives
An estimated 5,000 Kenyans, mostly children, die from drinking contaminated water and/or smoke inhalation each year.
As explained by Vestergaard CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen in the video below, whenever a consumer in the developed world buys a LifeStraw water filter, a student in the developing world receives a one-year supply of safe drinking water.
The LifeStraw personal on-the-go water filtration system,3 which is perfect for campers and hikers, for example, removes bacteria and protozoa, and reduces chlorine taste and odors.
The same type of dual-stage filtration systems are dispatched into Kenyan and Indian homes and schools when you buy these products.
Follow the Liters
By eliminating the need to boil water, it reduces deforestation from the fires. Vestergaard, which has offices in Switzerland, India, the U.S., Kenya and Vietnam, has teams of trained personnel — some 8,000 individuals in all — that service hundreds of schools and nearly 900,000 homes.
More than 4 million individuals have already been given easy access to clean water through this program.
When the water filtration system is installed, they also educate the families, teachers and students on safe hygiene and hand-washing, the importance of clean water and how to properly use the filtration system.
The company's staff also perform maintenance on the systems, and there are over 30 free service centers available, should an unscheduled repair be needed.
To engage and inspire consumer confidence, LifeStraw's Follow the Liters program4 is set up to be completely transparent. The website offers detailed real-time statistics on the number of schools and children being reached, for example.
At the time of this writing, 664 schools in Kenya and India have received LifeStraw's water filtration systems, providing more than 369,000 students with clean drinking water.
The healthcare workers in the field use a smartphone app to input the data in real time, providing GPS locations that then end up on a map showing exactly where and when water filters were installed.
According to survey data, over 90 percent of households using the LifeStraw water filter report saving money on medical expenses.5 They also save money on fuel, since they no longer need to boil water.
Naturally, it has a significant impact on education as well, as children who don't have to spend all day fetching water and wood now have time to attend school.
Ceramic Water Filtration Provides Inexpensive Solution to Clean Water in Rural Mexico
Last year, after previously visiting them in Mexico, I partnered with CATIS-Mexico,6 another organization focused on providing water-stressed areas with clean water. CATIS is a non-profit organization based in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. Its mission is to improve health, local economy and environmental sustainability by providing training and technical assistance to economically limited communities, providing them with practical and economical solutions for water treatment.
The Independence Watershed in Guanajuato State, located in the heart of Mexico, has struggled with declining water quality and quantity for decades due to overexploitation and pollution. The region began drilling and extracting water at unsustainable rates starting in the 1940s. As a result of over-drilling and extraction, naturally occurring minerals, such as fluoride and arsenic, are being concentrated to toxic levels.
The levels of fluoride are more than 12 times the allowable level in some communities. Levels of bacteria in the water are also high. CATIS-Mexico is committed to providing communities in these regions with access to safe and clean drinking water. One major project that has met with great success has been the development of ceramic filters that can provide clean water for drinking, free of bacterial contamination.
The filters used by CATIS-Mexico are made in a simple hand mold using locally available clay and burn-out material (such as waste sawdust). They are fired in a kiln and then treated with a colloidal silver solution to kill pathogens. One CATIS filter produces about 24 liters (6.3 gallons) of water a day, requires little maintenance, and lasts two to three years.
It can reduce the cost of potable water from 10 cents to .001 cents per liter. They also provide training and resources for local communities to set up their own kilns and make their own filters and, in the process, create sustainable micro-businesses. If you are able to I strongly urge you to make a donation to this fantastic organization today.
How You Can Make a Difference
If you're as thankful as I am that we don't need to spend hours each day to secure drinkable water, you may consider aiding others who are stuck with this plight.
As mentioned, each purchase of a LifeStraw7 water filtration product will provide a year's worth of water for one student in a developing community. You can find their products on LifeStraw.com, Amazon.com and other websites. To support CATIS-Mexico's mission, please make a donation. As a way of acknowledging your support, I will donate a dollar for every dollar you donate to CATIS-Mexico to match and leverage your donation.
Mind Your Own Water Quality as Well
Last but not least, while most people in the developed world have easy access to water, the quality and purity of that water is another matter entirely. Many areas of the U.S., for example, have exceptionally poor water quality due to toxic contaminants. The sources of pollution are many, ranging from agricultural runoff and industrial releases to outworn pipes, firefighting foam and pharmaceutical drugs, and even the chemicals used during water treatment.
Clean, pure water is essential for health, and I strongly encourage you to filter the water you use both for drinking and bathing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water in the U.S., but while there are legal limits on many of the contaminants permitted in municipal water supplies, more than half of the 300+ chemicals detected in U.S. drinking water are unregulated.8
If you have well water, it would be prudent to have your water tested for arsenic and other contaminants. If you have public water, you can get local drinking water quality reports from the EPA.9 As a general rule, I recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water.
To be certain you're getting the purest water you can, filter the water both at the point of entry and at the point of use. This means filtering all the water that comes into the house, and then filtering again at the kitchen sink and shower. Unfiltered water can also expose you to dangerous chlorine vapors and chloroform gas. The FDA and other U.S. government agencies report that most homes in the U.S. have measurable levels of chloroform gas, courtesy of chlorinated tap water.
If you get your water from a municipal water supply and don't have a whole house filter, it really is important to open up windows on opposing sides of your home so you get cross ventilation. Keep the windows open for five to 10 minutes a day to remove these gases.
Ideally, use a whole house filtration system. One of the best I've found so far is the Pure & Clear Whole House Water Filtration System, which uses a three-stage filtration process — a micron sediment pre-filter, a KDF water filter and a high-grade carbon water filter10 — to filter out chlorine, disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and other contaminants.