|Nonprofit International Organizations|
An international organization is a group that includes two or more countries and that operates in more than one country. Non-profit organizations operate for the public good, rather than for monetary gain.
Many international non-profit organizations share the latest techniques and knowledge about managing the water resources of the world. These international organizations focus mainly on improving the water supply, preventing and treating water pollution, and educating the public about conserving water.
A significant part of humanity, especially in developing countries, lives in areas where water is in short supply. Over 1 billion people in the world are without access to enough water, and over one-third of all people on Earth lack proper sanitation facilities, including the means to purify water and wastewater (water used by humans, animals, or industry). As a result, more than 3 million people die each year from diseases caused by contaminated water.
Reasons for water shortages
In large portions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, the climate is usually arid (dry). Human life in desert and semi-desert regions of the world can be difficult due to lack of rain. Some regions of the Atacama Desert in Chile, for example, have not had rain for over 400 years!
Although few, if any, people live in the Atacama Desert, the overall dry climate affects regions nearby where people live. When rain does fall in some desert areas, such as in many parts of Arizona, the soil cannot absorb the rainwater quickly enough to contribute to the water supply.
This results in fast-moving floods that further erode (wear away) the soil surface, contributing to desert conditions. Lakes in arid areas, such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah, sometimes contain water that is too salty to drink or water crops. Because water evaporates faster in dryer conditions, the concentration of salt increases in the water that remains in the lake.
Regions that are not arid can also experience shortages of fresh water due to natural and man-made causes. In karst (areas of soluable rocks) regions, rainwater often does not have the chance to accumulate on the surface, as it sinks into porous (leaky) beds of rock such as limestone and gypsum.
Limestone and gypsum can partially dissolve in water, and the water that seeps into these rocks often forms channels (passages for flowing water) and caves. Little water remains on the surface in karst regions, and although stores of water remain deep inside the rocks, technology must be used to reach the water.
Other areas of the world with sufficient rainfall do not have suitable technology to purify their water. In some remote areas of India and Indonesia, for example, surface waters naturally contain enough pathogens (disease-causing organisms) to be deadly to some people. Some of these organisms can survive at extreme conditions (such as high temperatures) and it is difficult to disinfect the water containing them.
Besides climate, the most common reasons for water shortages are caused primarily by human activity. Water pollution can occur from both industry and leaking of septic (waste) water into the water supply system. In both cases, the water may become dangerous for the health of the people and unusable for industry. Purification of industrial waste is expensive, and sometimes, economic interests may conflict with protecting the environment.
Many developing countries cannot afford proper water purification because their main concern is survival rather than the quality of the environment. Pollution, however, is a global concern and affects people in other countries besides the source of the pollution. People everywhere hope to secure a clean and safe environment for their children, therefore international efforts are underway to reduce pollution in the world’s waters.
Working for sustainable water supplies
The goal of any international water-relief agency is to help to achieve sustainable (able to be replenished or workable for the long term) water projects in the community. International organizations such as the International Water and Sanitation Center, Water and Sanitation Program, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, and WaterPartners International help to solve problems in countries where water is in short supply.
Other organizations receive the help of the United Nations (UN), an international organization dedicated to promoting peace and security, to aid in water supply efforts. The United Nations Development Program and the United Nations International Children’s Fund are two examples of UN agencies that deal with providing relief from water shortages.
Managing the water supply
In order to achieve a sustainable water supply, it is necessary to carefully manage the water resources that are available. Purifying wastewater is important so that available water can be reused. Systems for irrigating (watering) crops must also be efficient in arid (dry) areas to prevent salts from building up in the soil and local waters.
International organizations such as the United Nations Environment Program- Fresh Water Unit, the International Water Management Institute, the Global Water Partnership, the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement, the International Hydrological Program, and the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage help to manage water resources by bringing new technologies for building a water supply, reusing it, and keeping the water clean.
Additionally, the Water Resources Program of the World Meteorological Organization predicts upcoming floods and droughts (extended periods of dry weather), allowing scientists to respond before the water becomes contaminated or in short supply.
When irrigation, drainage, and flood control systems are improved in developing countries, then land can be used more efficiently. Farmers can grow more crops, and the food supply is increased. This, in turn, reduces poverty and allows farmers to devote more resources to maintaining a clean and efficient water supply.
Pollution prevention and conservation
Many international organizations are focus on water quality throughout the water cycle, causes of water contamination, and preventing water pollution. Their goal is to protect and conserve the environment by controlling pollution at its source, and to development new treatment processes. These organizations promote environmental cleanup and help restore the natural balance of plant and animal life to lakes, rivers, and the oceans, along with preventing further pollution.
Such organizations include the United Nations Environment Program-Water Branch, the International Water Association, the International Association for Environmental Hydrology, the International Commission on Water Quality, the Worldwatch Institute, the World Water Council, and the World Conservation Union.
Water that has been contaminated with pathogens can cause major outbreaks of illnesses such as cholera and typhoid. Organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) quickly send teams of scientists and physicians worldwide to care for the sick, identify the cause of the outbreak, and stop the spread of disease, often by treating the water.
When efforts to manage the world’s fresh or salt water supplies and environments are questioned or politically charged, international citizen groups such as Greenpeace have sometimes become involved. On occasion, one or more of these citizen groups has resisted beyond established laws, by actions such as blockading other ships or entering unauthorized waters.
Some international organizations provide education, training, and share research in the fields of water and the water environment. The International Water Resources Association, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Water Environment Federation, and Global Water all develop public education programs in classrooms, forums, and businesses to publicize water problems and encourage the public to invest in resolving the world’s water needs. WaterWeb also seeks to create a global community, bringing together educational, governmental, nonprofit, and commercial groups interested in water research, conservation, and management.