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Researchers from many disciplines, including anthropology, have researched and written about the importance of improving water quality. Water is the single most essential component of life on Earth on is the most crucial part of our environment. Humans cannot live longer than around three days without water; our bodies are mostly composes of water, more than 60% in fact. With water being so crucial to sustaining human life it is important that all people have access to water that will not harm them, sadly this is not the case in many parts of the world. In many parts of the world water quality is severely lacking, many families are forced to drink and use water that is contaminated by pollution and a plethora of pathogens that cause severe health issues. Anthropologists have studied water quality issues around the world and have published a number of articles detailing the gravity of this problem and also providing possible solutions to anyone who will take the time to read.
This article begins with a presentation of facts and statistics related to the issue of water quality. Karanja states that only 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh water and that one billion people lack “improved water quality” with two million deaths a year directly due to a lack of water quality. The author also states 745 million of those without improved water quality, live in rural areas. After the presentation of these facts the author describes the specific problems facing the people living around Lake Victoria in Western Kenya. The research shows that Lake Victoria has high levels of pollution including heavy metals and that much of the population in Western Kenya resides around the Lake. Interviews with the local population show that individuals report high levels of gastro-intestinal disease. Diarrhea is the leading cause of childhood death in the area with malaria, typhoid, cholera and amoebiasis following; all of these issues are directly related to water quality. Karanja argues in the article that there is a high need for quick solutions that do not take up a large amount of other resources; for example a large pipe and plumbing system would not work because the local people have other immediate needs that need their attention such as crops and livestock. Informal interviews show that there is a lack of on sight disinfectants available and they are often not used when available. Karanja argues that it is important to develop community cohesion to solve these issues and that advocacy for policy change is very important.
“Water Quality and Human Health in a Changing Environment—a Rural Community Perspective” argues that water quality is one of the largest issues facing individuals in the area of West Kenya. The Lake Victoria that provides most of the water for this area has been highly polluted which has led to decreased public health in the region. Most of the major diseases that plague the people in this area are directly related to poor water quality. The author argues that community involvement and cohesion is important to developing policy and methods that will solve the issue of water quality in the region. It is also important to conduct further research to determine who the most vulnerable individuals are so that solutions can focus on these individuals in greater detail. The role of women is also very important in this specific situation. Culturally women are responsible for the provisions of the household and this of course includes water. Women are responsible for gathering water, transporting it and sanitizing; women are also responsible for completing chores such as baths and laundry that greatly utilize water. It is important to involve women in the policy development because women are exposed to poor quality water much more frequently than other individuals.
“Climate Change and Related Effects on Water Quality” is an article that discusses how climate change has had lasting and drastic effects on Lake Maggiore in Italy and Switzerland. The lake is the second largest in Italy, and provides the local population with drinking water, transportation, sport and commercial fishing, recreation, tourism irrigation and hydroelectric power. The authors Mosello and Lami make very specific points to prove the importance of this lake to the local socio-economic system. In the last 45 years there has been an increase in lake temperature of 1.4 degrees Celsius, and it is likely that this temperature increase will soon extend to the trophogenic layer, which will cause cyanobacteria blooms. These blooms will create effects similar to eutrophication, which will have negative effects over the entire ecosystem. These higher temperatures have also lead to increased non-native species, both plant an animal. These new species have led to a decrease in native species that help balance the biological system and also a decrease in animal species that are fished for commercial purposes.
Mosello and Lami’s article shows just how important it is that the quality of water is maintained in this area. If the lake is not maintained and temperatures are not steady there will be dramatic effects that will affect the surrounding environment greatly. This article is also important because it shows that water quality is not just an issue facing rural and poor populations in the third world; there are western communities that struggle with water quality and conservation as well. The article also brings in the point of global climate change that will continue to affect our environment if nothing is done. The authors advocate in the article for new policy to be developed that will halt or slow the effects of climate change and a changing ecosystem on the lake and the surrounding area.
Schuster-Wallace’s article discussing the Millennium Development Goals and the issues facing the efforts to achieve the goals related to water quality. Schuster-Wallace states that we are on track to meet the goals of drinking water but not for sanitation, we are off by one billion people on the sanitation goal. The author argues that sanitation and hygiene directly limit the ability of waterborne illnesses to be transmitted, and states that diarrhea is second leading cause of death in children under the age of five and kills approximately 1.5 million people every year. Schuster-Wallace then goes on to explain that women have it particularly hard because they are exposed to water all day in these communities. It is necessary to include women in decision making to promote equality. The author argues that there are 3 barriers to uptake of new technologies, namely; an information deficit, a capacity deficit and an investment deficit. Article argues that “sustainability is about balance of appropriate affordable and effective hardware and it’s acceptance and maintenance. The author argues that local people will need to be able to maintain and utilize whatever recourses are provided to them.
In this article we begin to see some developing themes in the importance of women in developing policy and sustainability, and in the importance of involving the community. Schuster-Wallace explains that in order to solve these issues we will need to learn more about the local population and their cultural reasons for doing things the way that they do. By working with the local community and learning about their background we can develop policy and create technologies that coincide with their beliefs and practices. It is also important to develop these technologies in such a way that the local people will be able to teach future generations how to use and maintain them. Development of educational programs that teach people about why this issue is so important are also necessary at the local and governmental level. If policy creators do not understand that issue in full, it is unlikely that they will develop effective solutions.
Traditional Recourse Management (TRM) is defined as “the application of local ecological knowledge (LEK) through customs rituals and social norms for the equitable utilization, distribution and regulation of natural resources.” In this study Strauch and Almedom utilized interviews and chemical analysis to collect social and ecological data in the Sonjo village of Samunge. The data presented by the authors shows that diarrheal diseases and illnesses are very common and that E. coli and Coliform are both present in significantly higher numbers in the downstream sections of the local rivers and streams. The interviews with locals also determined that water is the hardest resource to maintain, with issues of quality and quantity being equally hard to control. In this village there is a community based leadership called the Mwanamijie that is in charge of defining forests boundaries, maintaining and cleaning the surrounding landscape and monitoring water supply and decontamination. The Mwanamijie is also responsible for creating rules that limit how and when water can be used, such as “no contaminating practices upstream from the village”.
Again this article brings in common themes of community involvement and traditional methods. The authors argue that the local leadership is important in developing policy and systems that can combat the issue of water quality. In this case allowing local communities to use TRM to develop and utilize their own maintenance methods was immensely effective in combatting the issue of water quality. Encouraging TRM would be useful in many other communities because it allows them to develop methods that coincide with their cultural practices. It is also important to mention that again the issue of diarrhea was cited in this article. Diarrhea is the most common illness when discusses issues of water quality. This article shows that without the enhancement of water quality there will not be a decrease in deaths related to diarrhea illnesses.
As is stated in the Karanja article, there are nearly one billion people that are living without access to “improved water quality.” With diarrheal illnesses being one of the leading causes of death in the world, and these illnesses being directly linked to poor water quality it is important that we find solutions to this issue. Humans living with poor environmental conditions cannot sustain life as easily as those in improved conditions can. Water quality is also important in maintaining the socioeconomic and ecological environments in certain areas as authors Mosello and Lami explain in their publication. With water covering most of our planet and being an essential component of our environment, it is immensely important that we find ways to improve water quality around the world to protect not only other people but our home as well.
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