By the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST)
Water is something few of us give much thought to in Alberta, unless of course it involves flooding. But how often do any of us think about where our next glass of clean, safe water will come from? The truth is, likely never. That’s because water is readily available with the twist of a tap, the flush of a toilet, or the push of a button from our fridge dispenser.
The truth is water is something none of us can afford to take for granted because it is a necessity of life, a human right, and it can be here today and gone tomorrow. All it would take is an issue with water safety or the effects of climate change and H2O would be at the forefront of our thinking. While that may be less likely in Canada, it’s a reality for millions around the world: lack of safe water and sanitation.
CAWST is a Calgary-based NGO which helps people in developing countries to access safe water. So far, it’s helped 13.1 million people in 82 countries. But raising awareness about conserving and protecting this important resource is also something it champions here in Alberta.
Last June, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) helped CAWST to educate Albertans through a grant that supported several workshops at CAWST’s Beyond the Tap: Water Workshops and Networking event. People learned how to spot water waste in their own homes and how to correct the issue. They also learned about water contamination, rainwater harvesting and global water issues.
Four workshops were offered which drew dozens of people. The Handy Home Water Solutions workshop, hosted by the City of Calgary, taught Calgarians how to identify and repair leaks in their homes and to reduce household water consumption with simple solutions.
The Protecting the Source workshop, offered information about what can be done at the grassroots level to combat water contamination.
Rainwater Harvesting touched on harvesting what falls naturally from the sky, both locally and globally, and the different ways precipitation can be used around the world.
Finally, the Approaches to Development workshop enlightened people on how best to help communities in developing countries with issues such as access to water.
The grant by AREF to CAWST made the workshops possible, ensuring more thought is put into our most important resource, and into ensuring it’s there for years to come and accessible to humans everywhere.
CAWST is a huge Alberta success story. It was founded after a U. of C. engineer, Dr. David Manz, invented the household biosand filter, which revolutionized the ability of families to access their own safe water. A woman named Camille Dow Baker saw this invention and, knowing it could change the world, she started CAWST. CAWST doesn’t build solutions for people, it teaches people how to build solutions themselves using local materials. The household biosand filter was just the beginning of empowering people through knowledge.
Now, 15 years since it began, CAWST is a leader in solving world water issues. March 22nd is World Water Day, a day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to water issues. And this year, it’s being marked by CAWST’s “Paint the Town Blue for World Water Day”. Landmarks across the country will light up in blue, including Niagara Falls, BC Place, Edmonton’s High Level Bridge, the Calgary Tower, and Calgary’s Reconciliation Bridge, Telus Spark and Galleria of Trees.
In addition to the illumination of landmarks, Albertans are urged to:
- Snap a photo of a landmark lit in blue on March 22nd, and to share it on Twitter @cawst #paintitblue.
- Pick up a special “CAWST Paints the Town Blue for World Water Day” button, outside of Blink restaurant in Calgary on March 21st.
- Attend the World Water Day celebration at the Telus Spark in Calgary on March 22nd, 4:30 to 7pm. To register, check out: http://www.cawst.org/worldwaterday
AREF helped CAWST get the message out about why we should all think twice about water. Now, we can all help CAWST spread the word so that every human being has access to safe water.