World Water Day 2014

by ShelterBox | @ShelterBox | ShelterBox
Friday, 21 March 2014 10:30 GMT

BANTAYAN ISLAND, PHILIPPINES. 4 February 2014. People collect water from their community's well. (Albert G. Camay)

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* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. ShelterBox helps thousands of people each year who are left without access to clean, safe drinking water in the aftermath of disasters by providing water filters.

ShelterBox has been trialling a new water filter in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, having received feedback from disaster-affected families that previous water filter models have been too time-consuming to use.

The beneficiary feedback led ShelterBox to work with a specialist water filtration expert to design a more effective solution. The Thirst Aid Station is the first iteration of this process.

‘The Thirst Aid Station purifies dirty water by filtering out the bacteria,’ said ShelterBox Operations Manager Alf Evans. ‘It also has an activated carbon filter meaning that it removes any strange taste, providing clean, safe and fresh drinking water.’

Safe water for a month

As well as the filter, the Thirst Aid Station is made up of an extremely tough 10 litre ArmourWeave bag that has enough capacity to supply a family of four with safe water for a month, complying with SPHERE humanitarian standards that ShelterBox follows.

‘It’s simple to use so disaster-affected families do not need to undergo extensive training for it, enabling them to use it quickly and leaving us confident that they will be provided with safe drinking water in the emergency stage of the disaster,’ added Alf.

It’s a simple operation. Dirty water is poured into the bag. Turn the valve at the end of the filter and clean water comes out. This quick procedure allows families to access clean water for the likes of cooking and washing and is more practical for them, especially if they are a big family with lots of children to look after. Previous water filters have been too difficult to use therefore families choose to boil water instead.

Need for clean water after Typhoon Haiyan

‘The traditional way to purify water in the Philippines is to boil it,’ explained Alf. ‘However after Typhoon Haiyan hit last November, some islands were left with no wood to burn and wells were contaminated when the tidal surge happened. Water towers were also pushed over in flat rural areas. Consequently there were pockets of need for clean water amongst various communities. We therefore sent enough water filters to help bring safe clean drinking water to 1,000 families.’

An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assemby responded by designating 22 March 1993 at the first World Water Day.