Throughout the world, 783 million people do not have access to clean water. That’s partly because 80 percent of the sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated into bodies of water, such as ponds and streams.
One result of that is that every 20 seconds a child dies because of poor sanitation. Access to sanitation and a safe water supply, plus good hygiene, could save 1.5 million children a year.
These are just some of the statistics that will be handed out on small cards to people who take part in Saturday’s seventh annual “Walk for Water” at Rocky Mountain College. The free event is organized by Hope 2 One Life, a Billings faith-based nonprofit, in recognition of World Water Day 2014.
The goal of the event is to raise awareness and money for projects that improve access to clean water, especially in Africa.
During the 1.5-mile walk on campus, participants will see simple types of water technology, such as life straws, which inexpensively remove 99 percent of bacteria from the dirtiest of water, and drip irrigation, which grows crops with very little water.
They can also carry a jug of water, to get a feel for what it’s like for many other people in the world. In other parts of the world, women and girls often spend up to six hours a day fetching water.
A variety of booths also will be set up in the student union building by organizations that sponsor water-related projects around the world, said Tom Osborne, vice president of Hope 2 One Life and a hydrologist and president of HydroSolutions Inc. in Billings.
“We’ll be able to share with people the excitement of the work we do through our mission to bring water and medical assistance to impoverished places in the world,” Osborne said. “There’s a small group of ambassadors from our region to Africa, in this case, bringing peace through water projects to, really, thousands of people.”
An average family in Africa uses five or six gallons of water per day to wash, drink and cook, said Nadine Hart, co-founder and president of H2OL. In contrast, the average American daily uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water.
In November 2011, with the $27,000 it raised, Hope 2 One Life completed a water supply well and solar pumping system at the Family Empowerment Uganda — Canaan Farm in Rwakayata Village. The farm is home to many refugees who were forced to flee their homes by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
That well serves a medical clinic H2OL built there, and pipes water to latrines, the community kitchen and homes in the nearby community. It also provides drip irrigation during the dry season.
The ministry provided a $500 microloan to the farm to raise tomatoes as a source of income. That’s money they will repay, Hart said.
“They’re just ecstatic to be able to generate income,” she said. “They don’t want handouts. They’re extremely hardworking people.”
The idea, she said, is to eventually make the clinic self-supporting.
In December, a well was drilled by H2OL in Kampala village, a town of 5,000 people. Hart showed a short video captured on her cellphone of women laughing and dancing and splashing water on themselves from water that poured out of a pipe from the well.
The clean, clear water is a stark contrast to the muddy, polluted ponds that they had to resort to in the past.
“It’s really about life and the future of their children,” she said. “They know the water in the ponds is poisonous, but if they’re dying of thirst, they’re going to drink it.”