Friday, October 11, 2013

Getting rid of New York City's poop

If you haven't heard the story of NYC's biosolids management saga before--or even if you have but would like an entertaining 20-minute re-telling--I recommend this Radiolab podcast (in spite of the somewhat wanting economic 'analysis' at the end!)

Friday, October 4, 2013

US government shuts down. Venezuelan government seizes toilet paper factory.

Venezuela Is Running Out of Toilet Paper 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The real future of clean water, D. Bornstein

Nice piece about the limitations of traditional philanthropy models to expand sustainable access to water supply services.

The Real Future of Clean Water

What would it take to ensure that everyone in the world had access to clean water? I’m prompted to ask this question in response to a recent New York Times Magazine article, which focused on Charity: Water, an organization that has reportedly raised $100 million to finance water projects in the developing world, making it the largest water-focused nonprofit in the United States.

The message that wealthy donors can solve the world’s water crisis is misleading.

Charity: Water has done an important job raising public awareness about the world’s water crisis and demonstrated remarkable fundraising ability — engaging both “micro-philanthropists” and wealthy entrepreneurs. The organization’s fundraising is guided by the imperative of giving its donors a satisfying experience. However, to do this, Charity: Water has had to simplify the problem and narrow in on one piece of the solution — the piece with the most potential to deliver that experience: individualized water projects, like wells or purification systems, that can be photographed, located on Google Maps, and commemorated with plaques featuring donors’ names. To get the work done, the organization identifies partner organizations across the developing world with track records of delivering results, and provides flexible funding to meet local needs.

Charity: Water aims to show through the growth of its philanthropic work that the world’s water crisis is solvable. The message it effectively conveys is: if enough affluent people in the West were generous enough to pay for water projects in poor countries, we could fix the problem. This message is misleading — and it doesn’t serve the interests of the organization’s donors, other water organizations, or people who are beyond the reach of Charity: Water.

Let’s put this problem in perspective. The World Health Organization has estimated that it would require investments totaling $535 billion between 2011 and 2015 to provide universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This problem cannot be solved by scaling philanthropy. It’s like using an “adopt-a-highway” approach to solve the world’s transportation problems. To fix this problem, governments and businesses must take the lead...

Read the full piece here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New paper on 'sense of ownership' and sustianability in rural water

Does sense of ownership matter for rural water system sustainability? Evidence from Kenya

Sara J. Marks, Kyle Onda and Jennifer Davis
Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development Vol 3 No 2 pp 122–133 © IWA Publishing 2013 doi:10.2166/washdev.2013.098

Community sense of ownership for rural water infrastructure is widely cited as a key factor in ensuring sustainable service delivery, but no empirical investigation has evaluated the relationship between sense of ownership and sustainability outcomes. This study examines the association between system sustainability and sense of ownership among households and water committees, using primary data collected throughout 50 rural communities with piped water systems in Kenya. Data sources include in-person interviews with 1,916 households, 312 water committee members and 50 system operators, as well as technical assessments of water systems. Using principal components analysis we create composite measures of system sustainability (infrastructure condition, users' confidence, and ongoing management), and of water committees' and households' sense of ownership for the system. All else held constant, infrastructure condition is positively associated with water committee members' sense of ownership, whereas users' confidence and system management are positively associated with households' sense of ownership. These findings stand in contrast with much of the published literature on rural water planning, which assumes homogeneity of ownership feelings across all members of a community and which suggests a consistent and positive association between households' sense of ownership and sustainability.

Full paper here!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sad news: Parveen Rehman killed in Pakistan

The long-time director of the Orangi Pilot Project in Pakistan was murdered this week. Parveen Rehman was a tireless champion for Karachi's low-income households. Under her leadership the OPP helped communities design and install sanitation facilities and low-cost sewerage for tens of thousands of households. The OPP's work has been controversial, and certainly not perfect from a technical standpoint, but it has made a real difference on the ground and also challenged the notion that low-income communities have little or no demand for improved sanitation services. Parveen Rehman will be sorely missed.

Impacts of biodigesters in Tanzania

This new paper in Energy for Sustainable Development by Jeannette Laramee & Jenna Davis quantifies the differences in fuelwood use and CO2e emissions between Tanzanian households with and without domestic biodigesters.
Abstract: Despite substantial programmatic investment in domestic bio-digesters across sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, little empirical evidence has been published regarding the existence or magnitude of socioeconomic or environmental benefits accruing from bio-digester implementation. A cross-sectional study of 40 households in Arusha, Tanzania, suggests that bio-digester adoption has the potential to reduce fuel-wood use, energy-related expenditures, and time-costs of energy procurement; to lower CO2e emissions; and to increase farm incomes. No significant differences in synthetic fertilizer use were observed between households with and without bio-digesters. Domestic bio-digester investments were found to have a positive net present value across a wide range of discount rates. Further, we estimate that domestic bio-digester implementation at the country wide level in Tanzania could potentially access $80–$115 million annually in carbon emissions reduction (CER) financing through the Clean Development Mechanism.
Read the full paper here.