In the Samburu region of Kenya, dried river beds are called "luggas."

In the Samburu region of Kenya, dried river beds are called “luggas.”

Clean water seems limitless for those of us who live in places like the U.S, Norway, and other developed countries. Whether it’s for washing our hands, cooking a meal, flushing a toilet, taking our medicine, or enjoying a cold drink on a hot day, clean water is at our disposal without a moment’s wait.

The truth, though, is that 884 million people lack access to clean drinking water (source).

The Joint Monitoring Programme on Water and Sanitation reports that Sub-Saharan Africa represents more than a third of that number. What is worse, the main impacts of climate change on humans and the environment occur through water (source). This means that more and more people will experience clean water scarcity in the years to come. An estimated 90% of the 3 billion people increasing the world’s population by 2050 will be in developing countries, many in regions where the current population lacks sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, exacerbating the existing problem. 32 % of the world’s population growth between 2008 and 2100 will be in Sub-Saharan Africa (source).

Water today and tomorrow

Despite the seemingly endless stream of clean water in many developed nations, the global fresh water supply is not only limited, but also in danger of decline. Water is used not only for drinking, but for agriculture and manufacturing as well. Industry and energy account for 20% of water demand, and about 70% of all freshwater goes to agriculture (source).

  • The total usable fresh water supply for ecosystems and humans is less than 1 percent of all freshwater resources (source).
  • With rapid population growth, water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years (source).
  • Drought, desertification, and other forms of water scarcity are already estimated to affect as many as one-third of the world’s people and are predicted to worsen (source).
  • Higher average temperatures and changes in precipitation and temperature extremes are projected to affect the availability of water resources…these factors are expected to lead to further deterioration of water quality as well (source).
  • By 2025, it is estimated that about two thirds of the world’s population – about 5.5 billion people – will live in areas facing moderate to severe water stress (source).

Adapting to climate change

A reliable source of clean water is fundamental in coping with the effects of climate change. In the short time we’ve been working in Sub-Saharan Africa, severe droughts have already occurred in Ethiopia and Kenya. The Horn of Africa is currently suffering from the region’s worst drought in 60 years. Water and hunger are intimately related; find out why here. Despite the various water shortages, however, our wells have continued to pump clean water daily. Access to water during times of drought allows communities to stay hydrated, continue practicing proper hygiene and sanitation, and keep their livestock healthy. Our well in Urra, Kenya, provides water not only to local community members, but also to nomads as well as herds of migratory animals.

Better water management is vital to climate change adaptation. According to UN Water, there is in fact enough fresh water on the planet for 6 billion people,[singlepic id=1251 w=320 h=240 float=left]but “it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.” With that fact in mind, we at the Voss Foundation approach the water needs of rural Sub-Saharan communities with an eye towards long-term sustainability. We teach the members of the community best water usage practices to ensure the clean water is used effectively and responsibly.  We also train water bailiffs and/or water management committees to help maintain the sources and conserve water after our initial implementation is complete.

Learn more about our efforts to provide clean water in an environmentally sustainable manner by reading about Voss Foundation water projects.