The Freshwater Crisis: Ethiopia

There is nothing more abundant on this planet than water, yet somehow places around the world seem to be running out of it.  California’s been in a drought for at least a decade now but because of their first world privileges children aren’t dying at an unacceptable rate, not like they are in Ethiopia.

Droughts have been a problem in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa for the last twenty years or so but it hasn’t been a severe issue until recently.  Water sources like lakes, rivers, and wells have become so shallow that when collected it is infected with feces and that causes waterborne illnesses like cholera.  When there is barely enough water for a person to consume there’s definitely not enough for someone to bathe and that’s another large factor for causing disease, specifically in young children.  If they’re not shallow they’re dried up entirely preventing people from having access to water completely.

Freshwater 2000 (Arlington Institute)

Although the map above is from 2000, it gives you a good look at what the water shortage in Africa is like.  Ethiopia sits within the horn of the continent where it’s colored orange.  If you bring your eyes down to the key you can see that orange represents 0-1000 m3 of water per capita which is next to nothing.  “Water stressed” is a term used when there is only 1,700 m3 of water per person within an area and Ethiopia falls drastically beneath that statistic.

Aside from the large problem of Climate Change that factors in to Ethiopia’s serious drought, another component is that 90% of developing countries water is dedicated to agriculture.  Top agriculture companies such as Karuturi and Ethio-Agri-CEFT acquire most of the farmland which is dedicated to growing crops like tea and coffee, which is then exported to other countries.  This leaves 10% of the water for the people in these developing countries.

Arturo Vittori and partner Andres Vogler, industrial designers, have come up with an idea to provide fresh drinking water to the people of Ethiopia, and many other developing countries that areas that are struggling as well, without importing expensive, hard to make, development technologies.

warka tower2 warka tower

The image above shows Vittori’s invention, it’s called a Warka Tower.  It can be made by people in their own communities out of materials like bamboo.  What it does is it feeds off of the air and collects the condensation from the atmosphere in it’s net, giving the people gallons of freshwater at a time.  These water towers can be places anywhere therefore someone doesn’t have to hike forty miles to retrieve buckets of contaminated water to drink and bathe in.

It may take a long time to implement these towers throughout Ethiopia and other developing countries struggling with the freshwater crisis,  but I think it’s worth it.  In blog posts following this one I will be looking at different ways to solve climate change related problems in developing countries that are inexpensive and helpful to the peoples of these places.