Water and Work

Whether you are a fisherman, a farmer, or a factory worker, your livelihood depends on water.

If you make your living fishing, your harvest could be greatly diminished by water pollution. As a farmer, your crop yield might suffer from water scarcity. As a factory worker without access to good sanitation, you may contract diseases due poor water quality.

Each year, the United Nations observes World Water Day on the 22nd of March. This year’s World Water Day theme, “Water and Jobs,” explores how many jobs depend on having enough safe water. 2016’s World Water Day goal is, “Better Water, Better Jobs.”World Water Day Logo - 2016

Water quality and quantity directly affects workers in all fields. Unsanitary conditions and unsafe water lead to illness and absenteeism.

Water and work intersect in the management of water resources for agricultural and industrial use.

Some water management jobs are so crucial that they must be performed without fail—even without pay. Continue reading


Innovations in Sanitation: The Future of Sanitation

Innovations in sanitation can be something as complex as self-contained waste recycling technology, or something as simple as a reusable cloth sanitary napkin.

Many of the innovations discussed in this series on sanitation are already in use in India. Some of them are just in the pilot phase; others have become integrated into the daily lives of city dwellers and rural villagers. While many strides have been made, millions of Indians every day are still negatively impacted by poor sanitation. Continue reading

Innovations in Sanitation: Toilet Tech

Picture a toilet. Is it made of porcelain, perhaps? Does it have a water-filled bowl to collect the waste? Is the waste then flushed into a sewer system?

Does the toilet you imagined have a tank, fed by indoor plumbing? Does the tank hold clean water that is used to refill the toilet bowl?

If you pictured something like this,


chances are that you live in a part of the world where water is relatively plentiful. It’s a fair bet that you have indoor plumbing. And probably all of your neighbours do, too.

Flush toilets are a familiar part of everyday life for many. However, some areas of the world lack the resources to support flush toilets.

India’s water crisis makes flush toilets an impractical solution for the country’s sanitation needs. While flush toilets need no electricity to operate, their water requirements would be impossible to meet.

Continue reading

Innovations in Sanitation: New Waves in Water Management

Kancheepuram Canal, Tamil Nadu (Photo credit: McKay Savage, Wikimedia Commons)

Kancheepuram Canal, Tamil Nadu (Photo credit: McKay Savage, Wikimedia Commons)

Overflowing Problems

Disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens lurk in much of India’s water supply. This is largely caused by the improper disposal of waste, including agricultural runoff.

Although access to drinking water has improved, the World Bank estimates that 21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water. In India, diarrhea alone causes more than 1,600 deaths daily—the same as if eight 200-person jumbo-jets crashed to the ground each day.

– water.org: “The Water & Sanitation Crisis in India

India’s water crisis is caused by a combination of factors, including poor government planning, government corruption, and mismanagement of human and industrial waste.

India is certainly not alone in facing a water crisis. However, as the second most-populous nation on Earth, the magnitude of India’s water crisis eclipses that of most other countries. Continue reading

Innovations in Sanitation: The Challenge of Menstrual Waste Management

School Hygiene Day

LEAF Society: School Hygiene Day

Getting Past Taboos to Tackle Environmental Issues

Menstrual waste presents its own special challenges. And the first challenge is opening the dialogue in a country where menstruation is generally not openly discussed. Continue reading

Innovations in Sanitation: Transforming Waste into Assets

Waste and Sewage Management: A Swiftly-Expanding Problem

The Indian coast of the Arabian Sea is littered with for miles with trash. (Photo credit: Rajanish Kakade, Associated Press)

The Indian coast of the Arabian Sea (photo credit: Rajanish Kakade, Associated Press)

India is seeing record population increases, particularly in urban areas. Five states alone—Maharastra, West Bengal, Chennai, Uttar Pradesh, and Kolkata—generate nearly twenty-five tonnes of municipal waste annually.

A chart depicting the top 5 states in India that generate the highest municipal waste, by million tonnes per year

The existing waste-management infrastructures cannot keep pace with this rapid population growth, and all the corresponding waste. Continue reading

Innovations in Sanitation: An Introduction

In these days of smartphones, streaming, online commerce, and telecommuting, it may seem strange that something as basic as sanitation would still need to be improved. But the reality is bleak: From the time you started reading this post until roughly the end of this sentence, another child will have died from poor sanitation. Continue reading