Posted by: whatrosewrites | August 26, 2010

Clean, Safe Water a Human Right

NEW UPDATE: Hurrah…an extension! We all have until October 3rd that the Canadian government will match contributions dollar-for-dollar to a registered Canadian charity (please read more at end of this blog).

On Wednesday, July 28th, 2010, the UN affirmed the right to safe and clean drinking water. Previously, access to safe drinking water merely meant that governments need only guarantee that water is available for purchase and not a fundamental right. Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians and the Washington, D.C.-based Food and Water Watch and former senior advisor on water to the president of the UN General Assembly explains: “It means governments have to provide the water even if people cannot pay for it…it’s an important distinction.”

In the wake of the flooding in Pakistan, the cries from mothers who plead for help to save their children’s lives, I humbly realized just how much I take for granted clean, safe drinking water, here in Canada. We could wipe out 80% of human disease if we could provide clean drinking water worldwide. It is astounding that over 1.1 billion people don’t have safe water to drink, 1.6 billion don’t have adequate electricity and, in Pakistan, currently less than 10% of the 20 million people have access to safe drinking water.

Calling all those with a spare dime, $1, $5, $7.50, $30 or $1000…

Since 1995, Proctor and Gamble (P & G) collaborated with the Center of Disease Control (CDC) to develop safe drinking water systems. Dr. Greg Allgood of P & G is on a mission: to save the lives of children and educate the world about the benefits of clean drinking water. The PUR packet is a powder mixture (therefore smaller and easier to ship in mass quantities) that removes pathogenic microorganisms and suspended matter to the order of (at least) 99.9% of intestinal bacteria, viruses and protozoa. One packet turns 10 litres of dirty water into clean and drinkable water. PUR packets have decreased diarrheal disease in developing areas of the world by up to 90% and are considered an effective technology by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Allgood has posted P&G’s response to the flooding in Pakistan and you can view the PUR packet at work here. If you want to contribute, you can make a donation at P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water project.

By the way, here is the breakdown of what pocket change can buy: 10 cents – 1 PUR packet which can clean 10 litres of water; $1.oo – provides a child with clean water for 50 days; $7.50 – provides a child with clean water for 1 year, and $30.00 provides an entire family with clean water for 1 year.

A Swiss firm, Vestergaard-Frandsen invented the LifeStraw which filters out 99.99% of bacteria and contains an iodine element to kill viruses and parasites from any water source. An estimated 1.5 million children die needlessly from diarrhoea due to unsanitary drinking water. This kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles COMBINED. It is a staggering statistic that 43% of the global population is deprived of household piped water that is safe to consume. The Cochrane Reviews (revered as the best single source of evidence about the effects of healthcare interventions) found that it is not enough to treat water at the point of source, but also at the point of consumption. Sometimes it is during transport that water is badly contaminated – even if the ground water site has been treated.

The LifeStraw costs us only $5, filters particles as tiny as 15 microns and kills disease-causing bacteria and viruses. It safely filters 700 litres of water – about a one year supply of clean drinking water for one person. There is also a family model which provides up to 17,000 litres of water and can keep a family of 6 alive for up to 2 years (it produces one litre of safe water in under 5 minutes).

Segway creator, Dean Kamen came up with a dual purpose invention. A water vapor compress distiller (named Slingshot) and a Stirling cycle-based 1-kW electric generator. Collectively, it purifies dirty water (without filters) and makes 1000 litres of clean water a day while it generates about 200 watts of power. The generator is powered by cow dung – easy to find in many third world countries. The machine currently costs about $100,000 to manufacture. However, with mass production and design improvements, Kamen hopes to make it for $1000 – $2000 per machine. Great key features are: it can supply a village with 1000 litres/day of clean water; can use ANY water source: ocean, puddle, chemical waste site, hexavelent chrome, arsenic, poison, or 50 gallon drum of urine; has no filters to replace, no charcoal, nothing disposable to change (works on distillation); can use half the waste heat (450 watts) to boil water; weighs less than 60 lbs and can produce 200 watts of power. Even for light bulbs, this would be useful in many areas for economic growth. More information can be found here.

Perhaps we should celebrate this milestone – what is finally recognized as a human right – clean and safe drinking water for everyone. Reminds me of the phrase, commonly misattributed to Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake” – only it sounds much more enlightened to now say, “Let them drink water!”

UPDATE: There are 85, 312 registered Canadian charities. Here are my top 4 picks and easiest way to ensure that your contribution will be doubled  (by the Canadian government until September 12th) and your donation will be put towards helping those with the greatest need in Pakistan:

Canadian Red Cross – donate $5 by texting REDCROSS to 30333 and a one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill. You can also call 1-800-418-1111 or donate on-line at:

Plan Canada – formerly known as Foster Parents Plan, founded in 1937 – renamed in 2006 to simply “Plan”. Please call 1-888-219-8835 to donate or on-line at: – just google and click on the “Give Now” icon – google and click on the “DONATE NOW” prompt

If you wish, you can simply google Canadian Relief for Pakistan and find these and other registered charitable organizations.  To check if a charity is registered, go to:

Final note: On August 18th, the Toronto Star published an article by Allan Woods of the Ottawa Bureau. In it, he mentions that Canada has promised $33 million in aid to Pakistan. His article begs the question (which I am also trying to find out), has or will Canada dispatch DARP – our military’s Disaster Assistance Response Team? DARP provides medical assistance and clean water to disaster areas around the world and was deployed to Haiti some 8 months ago. Canada must first receive a formal request from an individual country or the United Nations in order to initiate this response. Please feel free to comment if you have any further information about this or any Canadian relief response worthy of note. Thank you for re-checking my website for updates.


  1. Hi Rose,

    I linked here through Squidoo (aesta1) and found the information really useful. I did a feasibility study with PLAN International last June and found their work here in Cambodia really effective. I am happy you are helping them.

  2. I like all the lenses on your squidoo ! very informative. thanks for share 😀

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