A day in Dominica….

Being in the Caribbean in February is usually a reason for envy, but this time the temperatures in Tennessee felt so springlike, it was actually difficult to leave the States!  These first pictures are from Dominica, the Nature Island, where rainforests cover much of the interior and the rainforests of the sea are vibrant and alive….except when they aren’t..  Nearly two years ago, Tropical Storm Erika dumped something like 27 inches of rain on the island in ten hours causing massive flooding and river erosion.  That sediment from the rivers is still heading out to the reefs near Coulibistrie, where my friend Izzy showed me the new deltas that have formed and the small, winding, tree covered streams which are now wide river beds devoid of trees.  Our plan is to evaluate the reefs and work on stream bank stabilization so maybe, just maybe, we can save these reefs.  We will need lots of help.

We also are working with the Dominica Water and Sewerage Authority on reduction of sewage from communal septic tanks which flows into the rivers, potentially impacting human health. Dowasco officials are very keen on implementing pilot projects so communities will know how to address these issues.  Can you see the wastewater draining directly into this street drain?  The river is just across the road.  When we work together with our local partners, real solutions can happen and be sustained so Dominica remains the beautiful Nature Island we all love.

Bill Gates: Changing the way we poop

Even though waste disposal is something that we take for granted in America, 4 out of 10 people worldwide don’t have an environmentally friendly way to poop. Or health-friendly either – poop in the water can spread many viral and bacterial diseases, and can distribute some fun parasites too.  But of course we can’t stop pooping, and it’s not realistic or even possible to put in sewer or septic tank systems in every home (and without proper maintenance and care, those sewers and septic tanks may be worthless anyway), so what do we do? 
Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set out to answer that question – through a call for submissions for a completely reinvented toilet that minimizes water use and works efficiently and cheaply enough to put into homes worldwide.  Now they are going through submissions and announcing the winners.  Check out the new toilets and more about the Gates Foundation’s work at http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Topics/Development/Reinvent-the-Toilet-Challenge-Photo-Gallery

Would you put any of them in your home? 

 

Drinkable Danish Water

The latest addition to the list of places with E. coli-infested drinking water is a surprise: try Denmark. The city of Copenhagen just gave the okay to drink tap water without boiling it first. The boil order was on for about a week. What a hassle! And in Europe, even! Just goes to show that we can’t take clean water for granted no matter how wealthy our nation. At the same time, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate, as it coincides almost perfectly with World Water Week and the WaterAid conference being held in Stockholm.

Local E. coli

Yuck! I just read through an August 2010 report on impaired streams in Tennessee, and guess what I found? Escherichia coli, and lots of it in the Lower Tennessee River watershed. In Hamilton county alone, there are tens and tens of miles of creeks and streams with medium to high E. coli counts, some due to septic tank leakage, some due to livestock. Saint Lucia and other developing nations aren’t the only ones with poo in the water! Just keep that in mind if you’re ever out in a creek and thinking of drinking the water straight-up; there could be cows just upstream! And if you’re curious, you can check out the detailed PDF of water-quality-challenged Tennessee waterways here.

Domestic Water Woes

Contrary to popular belief, the US is not free from the water quality problems that plague many developing nations! After a water supply breach due to extensive flooding, the city of Minot, North Dakota issued a “boil order” for all residents. Imagine how different your life would be if drinking or even using your tap water put you at serious risk for nasty infections! That was June 25, and now 3 weeks later, a large part of the city still doesn’t have safe water coming out of their faucets. You can check out what constitutes a “boil order” here. If you live somewhere you don’t have to boil your own drinking water, take a moment to send some good vibes to your local water quality department, and then enjoy a refreshing glass of agua.