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Want to help provide clean water? Protect the watershed!

March 9, 2020

Dirty water is one of the biggest hazards to humans around the world

Every year, about 3.5 million people around the world will die from unclean water. About two thirds of them will be children. This is the equivalent of a large commercial airplane crashing every single hour.

For those of us who have easy access to clean water, it can be too easy to take for granted the fact that we don’t have to worry about all the problems associated with unclean water. In Asia, Latin-America, and Africa, polluted or contaminated water frequently leads to cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, and other illnesses. One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of deaths due to illnesses around the world would be to drastically scale up access to clean water.

The amount of times that unclean water leads to disease and death is only just a portion of the problem created by contaminated water around the world. The lack of access to clean water also creates a lot of burdensome costs and missed opportunities for people around the world. Women in particular.

Our goal is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The average distance many mothers will walk for water in Sub-Saharan Africa is 6 kilometers, which on average takes 30 minutes. However, it isn’t uncommon to hear of people taking up to four hours to complete this journey. Along the way, women are especially vulnerable to violence, animal attacks, or accidents.

The time that it takes to get water represents time that people are unable to work on their farms, unable to tend to their small businesses, or unable to get an education. This is why many people estimate anywhere from a 3-to-1 to a 10-to-1 return on investing in clean water.

This is such an urgent matter that the United Nations named improving access to water a priority. UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 is Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Protecting the forest of a watershed protects clean water

Protecting the forest of a watershed protects clean water

What happens in a watershed affects lives downstream

Plant With Purpose is actively invested in helping others improve their access to clean water by restoring, protecting, and transforming entire watersheds. Plant With Purpose bases its work on a watershed model, focusing tree planting and soil conservation activities on watersheds- the area within natural boundaries created by elevation.

To those unfamiliar, the watershed approach may seem like a technical or granular detail. However, it is a big reason Plant With Purpose’s work has seen such far-reaching effects. Rather than planting trees haphazardly across countries as large as Mexico or Tanzania, considering the natural geography allows whole ecosystems to function harmoniously. In the case of water, it helps increase access to clean water.

Water flows downhill, and much of the farming and agriculture activities in rural areas take place on the sides of steep hills and mountains. Typically farmers with fewer economic opportunities end up farming on steeper lands. Activities that take place on these farms greatly influence the quality of groundwater, nearby streams, and ultimately, the communal sources of water. When chemicals are used for farming, or when ash accumulates from field burning, these end up contaminating water sources downstream.

UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 6

Because of this, the UN’s emphasis on water protection includes protecting and restoring the natural environment.

It plays a big role in water flow and delivery.

One of its key Sustainable Development Goal targets is this: By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

Another target further emphasizes the importance of participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management. Plant With Purpose has also seen the importance of community participation in these efforts. We’ve also seen how the addition of seemingly simple solutions. Things like hydroponic ponds, cisterns, as well as toilets, have greatly helped. They've made clean water a widespread norm across whole watersheds. 

Goal: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Goal: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Protecting forests protects water

Many people might associate Plant With Purpose with trees or sustainable agriculture. Those are indeed core areas where we focus our efforts. However, it’s all connected. Ensuring the availability of clean water is also a big part of what we do.

Clean water is more available when the surrounding ecosystem supports the flow of naturally filtered and protected groundwater and streams. In addition, Plant With Purpose’s model can serve as an excellent complement to organizations like Charity:Water, World Vision, and Lifewater International that aim to improve the delivery of clean water to rural communities.

A healthy forest helps ensure clean water

Water is essential for life. Similarly, forests are essential for water. For instance, the way trees attract microparticles of water  make them a source of natural water collection. They also store, filter, then deliver the water into streams and aquifers. The journey downstream takes water from forests to rivers to reservoirs, then to agricultural water and drinking water for millions.

When forests are removed, the ground becomes less permeable. The healthy soil of a forest can absorb significantly more water than dry or solid surfaces can. A healthy quantity of groundwater also allows it to be more easily absorbed.

The cost of using technology to replace the natural role that forests serve is substantial. A study by the Trust for Public Land and the American Water Works Association found that increasing a forest by 10% in size decreased the costs of treating water by 20%.

Plant With Purpose is excited to see the way access to water has improved in the communities where it works.

The time that it takes to access clean water has decreased for participants by 40% on average.

Want to make an investment in clean water through healthy forests and watersheds? Just follow this link!

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