Karen Burton Mains, author

In my original special report for Gospel for Asia titled The Global Water Crisis, I explored worldwide solutions to humanity’s need for pure, safe water. This update explores tap water safety concerns in the United States and what to do about those, plus clean water solutions in Asia and practical ways you can help.

“The orchids are really doing well this year,” commented my husband, David, who usually doesn’t notice these sorts of things. Every year, I yield to temptation and purchase a few orchids in November around Thanksgiving time, hoping they will last through the Christmas season, maybe even longer. Greenhouses, I am told, cultivate orchids all year round.

Generally, I choose orchids with the most buds on them, calculating that there is some energy for growth hiding in these promises of future blooms. My scheme, however, generally degenerates in a wilting kind of reality. The bulbs dry up, turn to tissue-like paper and fall into the potting soil.

This year, however, I affirmed my husband’s comments with some surprise. Even in January, the orchids seemed still to be doing really well. The butterfly-like blooms were all strong, white and crisp. There was no browning around the edges nor had any died. I’d trimmed back some dried-up roots, but that wasn’t too different from previous years. What seemed to be making the difference was that I had changed the water I used to keep the plants fresh.

I had stopped using tap water and used bottles of distilled water instead. This idea was stimulated when I observed an older gentleman loading up the trunk of his car with at least 20 to 30 gallon-size bottles of water.

“You’re going to do more than just drink the water, I hope?” I said as I moved past him toward the grocery store.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “My wife is having trouble growing orchids, so we’re going to try distilled water for a while.”

“I have trouble growing orchids,” I called back. “Maybe I’ll pick up some bottles.”

Like my orchids, people around the globe are affected adversely by the water they consume. On one continent, dirty water pollutes whole communities. On another, tap water contaminates our kitchens.

Which, indeed, I did and have been using that to water my plants every week since, with the results that even my husband noticed and commented on how well the orchids were doing.

Distilled water, for those who don’t know, has been boiled in a vat, leaving impurities behind. This process removes harmful microbes (and also beneficial minerals such as calcium and magnesium). The steam eventually re-condenses, leaving a liquid behind that apparently helps my orchids thrive.

Most people will not deny this truism: Certain kinds of life thrive with certain kinds of water. Of course, this applies to human well-being as well as to plant health.

Like my orchids, people around the globe are affected adversely by the water they consume. On one continent, dirty water pollutes whole communities. On another, tap water contaminates our kitchens.

People collect water from wells and rivers

Photo left: Clean water from the local Jesus Well is used for drinking, cooking and hand washing, while water from other local wells is used for washing vessels, clothes or bathing. || Photo right: A mother in South Asia carries her son and a pail of fresh, clean drinking water form the local Jesus Well in town.

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Despite the Safe Drinking Water Act,
3,000 Areas in the U.S. Have Lead-Contaminated Water

President Clinton signs the amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act as children and others watch.

On August 6, 1996, President Clinton signed amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act to implement comprehensive public health protection from the source to the tap.
Photo by US Environmental Protection Agency

To ensure water safety, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was originally passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974 to protect public health by establishing regulations about drinking water. According to a paper issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, “The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources—rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells. … SDWA authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water.”1

Unfortunately, today, much of the water supply in the United States, despite the SDWA, is at risk. The Environmental Protection Agency urges that drinking water safety cannot be taken for granted: “There are a number of threats to drinking water: improperly disposed of chemicals, animal wastes, pesticides, human threats, wastes injected underground, and naturally occurring substances can all contaminate drinking water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or which travels through an improperly maintained distribution system, may also pose a health risk.”2

Some 3,000 areas of the United States recently recorded
lead-poisoning rates at least double to those in Flint
during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis.

The most notable example of U.S. water source contamination, which captured the attention of much of the nation, was from Flint, Michigan, where analysis revealed that the town’s drinking water was lead-contaminated and was poisoning much of the citizenry of that community. However, even more shocking was the discovery that Reuters, the international news agency, reported: “Nearly 3,000 areas [of the country had] recently recorded lead-poisoning rates at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis. And more than 1,100 of these communities had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher.”3

Different kinds of iron corrosion and rust in Flint's drinking water pipes.

Insightful pictures examining Flint's drinking water pipes, showing different kinds of iron corrosion and rust.
Photo by Min Tang and Kelsey Pieper

How Lead Poisoning Affects the Human Body

How does lead poison the human body? The World Health Organization (WHO) released a paper titled “Lead poisoning and health,” which listed the key facts:4

Hilary Godwin

Hilary Godwin, a chemist at Northwestern University near Chicago, studies the chemistry of lead poisoning on the human body. Photo by National Institute of General Medical Sciences

  • Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
  • Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.
  • Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing fetus.
  • There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.
  • Lead exposure is preventable.

The symptoms of lead poisoning are varied and alarming as WHO warns. These include behavioral changes because brain development is affected: reduced attention span, increased antisocial incidents and failing educational achievement. Anemia, hyperactivity, toxicity to the reproductive organs, blood-pressure-level impacts and renal impairment are some of the signs of lead exposure. Experts believe neurological and behavioral effects are irreversible.

Consequently, not only is the former statement a truism—certain kinds of life thrive with certain kinds of water—but we can logically agree with the experts that polluted water is not the optimum nutrient for mankind. Poisoned water creates life-diminishing conditions for most and particularly for the developing brains and neurological systems of the young.

Group of women drawing clean water from Jesus Well.

A Jesus Well installed in South Asia has become a blessing for the local residents. Not many clean water wells are available in rural villages and people typically have to fetch water from sources far away or consume muddy water nearby.

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Reasons for Unsafe Water Supplies in the United States

Workers laying new water pipes

Effective lead‐and‐copper sampling plans allow water utilities to make critical corrosion‐control and water quality improvement decisions to protect public health.
Photo by American Water Works Association

If there is no acceptable level of lead in drinking water, the question must be posed: Why are so many municipalities, homeowners and schools still finding lead in their systems today?

An article by Rachel Layne in MoneyWatch concludes: “One reason may be aging infrastructure and the cost to replace old water pipes and lead solder used in household plumbing. Drinking water is delivered via 1 million miles of pipes across the U.S., much of them laid in the early- to mid-20th century with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that those pipes are being replaced at an average rate of 0.5 percent a year.

“At that pace,” Layne notes, “it would take roughly two centuries to renew the whole system at a cost of around $1 trillion, according to one estimate by the American Water Works Association.”5

As many as 63 million people—nearly one-fifth of the United States—were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade

In fact, as many as 63 million people—nearly one-fifth of the United States—were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water-quality and monitoring violations as reported by the EPA.

That finding highlights “how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems.” According to this report, many local water-treatment plants are not equipped or can’t afford to strain out contaminants. In addition, much of the corroding water-distribution systems are susceptible to lead contamination, leaks in the lines, and consequent bacterial growth due to the instability of this aging infrastructure.6

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What Can One Concerned Citizen Do?

So, what is to be done? At this point, it behooves a water-drinking citizenry to act responsibly.

My husband and I live in an unincorporated area of a western Chicago suburb, and we have lived here for more than 40 years. Our water is pumped from our own well, which I have assumed to be “safe” water. However, after research conducted for this article, I realized I was relying too much on what might turn out to be unfounded assumptions, so I ordered a complete water-testing kit. When the kit comes, we can test our own water from the tap to determine what minerals exist in this liquid and whether or not there are contaminants. Then we will make plans—perhaps to install filters on certain faucets. If needed, that will require additional Internet research.

A citizen, concerned about his or her municipality’s water supply, can look up reports online as to the status of local sources. The mayor’s office of our little town of 27,000 has published a comprehensive “state of the water” report, which was mailed to all the addresses in our community; that report is also published on the Internet and identifies any possible trouble spots or any deep water reservoirs that may be problematic. If there are problems with our local water supply, then I have at least informed myself as to their existence. Our mayor also invites citizens who have questions, concerns or suggestions to meet with him once a month; questions about the safety of water supplies can be brought up in such a forum.

The point of this is:

Do not remain ignorant about your community’s water supplies, which most of us drink so casually without considering the quality of its content. (Remember my orchids.)

The following instances should give us all a heads-up warning:

  • In Waukesha, Wisconsin, 18 miles west of Milwaukee, decades of radium contamination from the city’s underground aquifer prompted officials to draft a proposal to draw water from Lake Michigan for its 71,000 residents. The Great Water Alliance, a $200-million project, is expected to be completed by 2023.
  • Thousands of rural towns have the most problems because communities often lack the expertise and resources to provide safe drinking water.
  • In several Southwestern states, 2 million people received groundwater tainted with arsenic, radium or fluoride from their local water systems, with many exposed to these chemicals for years before hundreds of small, low-income communities could afford to filter them out. Some still haven’t cleaned up their water.7

Ever wondered what’s causing those puzzling health problems—headaches, stomach troubles, your kids’ irascibility and/or inability to pay attention in class? Maybe there’s something in the water. Check it out.

Healthy water—clear, clean and pure—is one of the great gifts of the Creator to the inhabitants of earth. However, as part of our God-given mandate as caretakers of this remarkable planet, we need to be responsible to guard our water sources, its supply and delivery systems, and to not take for granted what pumps from our wells or flows from our kitchen taps. We have all too often—I certainly am a guilty party—been sloppy stewards of our creation.

Despite the safe water, we assume, we are drinking, we need to be responsible and check out municipal reports or order water-testing kits to make sure. The Environmental Protection Agency has a paper online titled “Ground Water Rule: A Quick Reference Guide” (it’s a dense and comprehensive two pages of analytics, but helpful).8 If you feel better after changing the water you’ve been drinking, then drink more of the new supply. Health gurus insist that hydrating our bodies is a key principle to achieving better health and more productive daily function.

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While the U.S. Struggles with Contaminated Tap Water,
Millions in Asia Remain Without Access to Any Clean,
Safe Drinking Water

In Asia, when water is scarce and miles must be traversed in order to attain it, then carry or haul it, pure and clean community wells become nearly miraculous when they are engineered and maintained.

One organization helping with this situation is Gospel for Asia, which has installed more than 30,000 clean water borehole wells in villages across South Asia, including 4,856 in 2019 alone. Gospel for Asia estimates that its clean water projects, consisting of wells in communities and BioSand water filters for families, are providing clean water to more than 37.5 million people to date. Yet the need is so great, much more has to be done.

Mother carrying water home with her children.

This mother in South Asia needed almost ten pots of water each day for domestic purposes, so she walked a two-mile round trip several times a day to fetch water from the only well close to this village. After school, her sons helped her fetch water too. This well was the only source of water for the entire village of more than 200 people, until a Jesus Well was built within their town.

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The Impact of a “Jesus Well” on One Community

Women drawing clean water from Jesus Well

This Jesus Well is in constant use, serving up to 300 people a day!

I love the story from the Gospel for Asia archives about the life-changing impact of the “Jesus Wells” they help provide.9 Jesus Wells are most often sponsored by donors and installed in communities where access to clean water is difficult or non-existent.

A group of villagers huddled around a large hole, peering into the darkness. Feathers. Again. They let out a groan—not in grief over the dead chicken, although it was a loss for someone’s flock, but because it meant their well was contaminated. They gathered buckets and emptied the well late into the night. All that precious water wasted because of one little hen.

This well and a small pond had the job of providing water for this village, but they frequently failed their task. In summertime, the well and pond dried up and had to be dug deeper. When the heavy rains came, water filled the pond again, but it was accompanied by leaves, garbage and cow manure. The families in this community needed water, but using dirty water exposed them to bouts of typhoid, diarrhea and other dangerous waterborne illnesses. Something had to change—but none of them could fix their deadly problem.

In Asia, when water is scarce, and miles must be traversed in order to attain it, then carry or haul it, pure and clean community wells become nearly miraculous when they are engineered and maintained.

The community’s water crisis began changing when Aarnav, one of the young men in the village, met a GFA-supported pastor, Saadhik, serving in a nearby area. Aarnav built a strong relationship with Pastor Saadhik and joined his congregation regularly to worship the Lord. Pastor Saadhik visited Aarnav’s family frequently to encourage them in the Lord. During one of those visits, the pastor learned of the village’s extreme need for water.

Although countless other communities in Aarnav’s nation face water shortages every year, Pastor Saadhik felt a special burden for Aarnav’s village. His compassion grew into a commitment to pray for the community’s need—for several years.

Little girls taking a bath using clean water from Jesus Wells.

Seeing the need for safe, clean water, GFA installed three Jesus Wells to supply this village in Asia with pure water for drinking, cleaning and washing their hands.

After four years of faithful intercession, Pastor Saadhik’s prayers were answered. Thanks to the generosity of people around the world, GFA-supported workers arranged for Aarnav’s village to receive a Jesus Well at no cost to the community. Sitting atop enclosed pipes that dive deep into the low water table, the bore well now gushes clean water all year long.

Aarnav’s community finally has the change they needed! Overjoyed, around 100 people fetch their water from the Jesus Well instead of the compromised pond or open well. It doesn’t matter how many chickens or cows gather around the Jesus Well; nothing can contaminate their water anymore.

Let’s support organizations like Gospel for Asia that are bringing thousands of bore wells that supply life-giving water to people—water that is available in little villages and crowded slum communities and not miles down some dusty or muddy road. What a gift clean water is, and what a gift to make it available to thirsty people worldwide.


Give Towards Clean Water Projects

Provide life-saving water through Jesus Wells and BioSand water filters, and help support ongoing maintenance of these clean water projects.


Woman drawing clean water from Jesus Well.

Until a Jesus Well was installed in her village, this woman in South Asia often struggled to find safe, pure drinking water. Previously, she had to walk two kilometers round trip to the river near her village, to get unsafe, dirty water.

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Jesus Compares Himself to Fountains of Water

Perhaps, even more remarkable, Christ used water (let us assume it was pure, clean and healthy water) as a metaphor for His own life-giving capability.

“Jesus answered and said to her: ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’” (John 4:13–14).

Little girl drinking clean water from Jesus Well

Even young children were happy to have a Jesus Well installed to get clean, safe water in their own village. Now they don’t have to walk to the distant well several times a day carrying heavy water pots.

Several summers back, my family attended the Iowa State Fair with my brother and his wife (who live in Des Moines). I’ve rarely bought tickets to popular music concerts—David and I are more the Chicago Symphony Orchestra types—but this summer, we did sit in the grandstands to hear a live concert featuring Carrie Underwood. Carrie, an avowed Christian, basically gave a gospel-music concert, with most of the people in the audience singing along to the lyrics they obviously knew by heart.

One of her songs that has stuck with me since that summer was “Something in the Water,” with water baptism being the theme:

No way out, no one to come and save me
Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me
Then somebody said what I’m saying to you […]
They said, “Just a little faith, it’ll all get better”
So I followed that preacher man down to the river
And now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger
There must’ve been something in the water
Oh, there must’ve been something in the water

Yep, even the orchids know what kind of water they need and flourish when it is supplied. Humans are the same.

Yep, even the orchids know what kind of water they need and flourish when it is supplied. Humans are the same.

How wonderful that local churches all across Asia use clean water to meet physical need and employ the powerful life-giving metaphor for the One who supplies those He loves with everything they need spiritually. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst . . .” Believe me, there are no toxins or poisons, no arsenic or radium in this spiritual gift. 

There is no lead in this Living Water. This, indeed, is the water we all need to thrive.


Give Towards Clean Water Projects

Provide life-saving water through Jesus Wells and BioSand water filters, and help support ongoing maintenance of these clean water projects.



This ends the update to our original Special Report,
which is featured in its entirety below.


Karen Burton Mains, author

The “Blue Marble” photo of Earth shot from Apollo 17, the last of NASA’s Apollo missions as the rocket ship was hurtling toward the moon, wasn’t the first satellite image of our planet, but it was the first full image—stunning in color—taken from some 18,000 miles in space, with the sun fully illuminating Earth. The south polar ice cap, despite heavy cloud cover, was clearly captured, and the photo showed almost the entire coastline of Africa, extending from Antarctica to the Mediterranean Sea. Most of us who saw it at that time were stunned with how much water covered our planet.

The Blue Marble photo of earth from Apollo 17

The "Blue Marble" photo of Earth, taken on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. (Public domain)

This one single dramatic image eventually gave the name “Blue Planet” to our Earth10, due obviously to the abundant water sources we could see on its surface. The photo was taken on December 17, 1972 and for all of us at that time, caught up in the exploits of the space discovery, it forever altered the comprehension of our planet. Now, when I think of Earth, and when hundreds of millions of others think of Earth, this is the iconic image that comes to mind.

This is an article about clean water, about water from a tap or from a glass, hopefully free of pathogens that bring disease. This is an article about clay pots and large plantain leaves and cupped dried gourds that hold rainfall hopefully untainted by acid effluviums. This is an article about pole wells drilled beneath polluted soil, and the unintended arsenic poisoning of villagers. This is an article about drying water reservoirs, about waste and sewage and chemicals polluting streams and rivers and major waterways. It is about encroaching urban development laying acres of implacable concrete and miles of roadways over land where rains can now no longer replenish water tables. It is an article about taking responsibility for that Blue Planet spinning alone, and as far as science now knows, unparalleled in our universe. No liquid water has been confirmed as existing on any other planet in our solar system. As yet, not a single drop of water has been detected anywhere in interstellar space. Scientists have determined that only a planet of the right mass, the right chemical composition and the right location can support liquid water; in other words, a planet like ours, the Blue Planet, this Earth.

People collect water from wells and rivers

663 million people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water as of 2015C1. This is the first time the number has fallen below 700 million.
Right image by giulio napolitano/Shutterstock.com

That information alone should evoke awe when we look again at the ubiquitous reproductions of the Apollo 17 photo (identified by NASA as AS17-148-22727.) This image is perhaps best described in the spare language of Genesis 1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters ... And God said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.' And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.” The Creation account then proceeds with the regular, rhythmical and dynamic pronouncement of the Creator, “And it is good. And it is very good.”

Just imagine: God looking at the actuality of what that splendid photo AS17-148-22727 replicates. Who can refuse to admit to experiencing a similar and deep soul sigh, it is good. It is very good . . .? According to United States Geological Survey (USGS), “The Earth is a watery place. But just how much water exists on, in, and above our planet? About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. Water also exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in you and your dog.”11 I’m not sure about water content in the animal species, but data informs me that adult males are about 60 percent water and adult females are about 55 percent water.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” captures the analysis of contemporary oceanographers, “Water, water everywhere.” And unfortunately, due to the stresses of climate change, rising seas, urban sprawl, lack of urban planning, spoiled springs and creeks and raging rivers overwhelming their banks and flooding, the rest of that poetic lament is becoming all too real, “And not a drop to drink.”

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A Quarter of Earth’s Major Cities Face a Water Crisis

At the time of this writing, the world is watching the water distress in Cape Town, South Africa12, where the taps are scheduled to run dry due to extended drought that has emptied the water reservoirs. In fact, experts tell us that this coastal paradise city is not alone in its water depletion extremity. Literally millions of people around the world live without sufficient access to water; over 1 billion people lack water supplies, and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year. A 2014 survey of the world’s 500 largest cities estimates that one in four are in “water stress.” In fact, right now, there are 11 major cities on the Blue Planet that are most likely to run out of drinking water13—exactly like Cape Town. Those cities are:

  1. São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital.
  2. Bangalore, India, where rapid growth as a technological hub outstrips advancements to the city’s plumbing, resulting in half its drinking water lost to waste.
  3. Beijing, China; the country is home to some 20 percent of the world’s population but whose continent has only 7 percent of the world’s fresh water.
  4. Cairo, Egypt, where the major water source, the River Nile, is the increasing destination of untreated agricultural pollutants and residential waste.
  5. Jakarta, Indonesia, where rising sea levels with saline water have resulted in 40 percent of Jakarta to be below sea level.
  6. Moscow, Russia, where 70 percent of the water supply is dependent upon surface water, but pollution, a leftover from the USSR industrial legacy, has contributed to the fact that 35 percent to 60 percent of total drinking water reserves do not meet sanitary standards.
  7. Istanbul, Turkey, which is now technically in water stress. Experts have warned that, if not checked, the situation could worsen to water scarcity by 2030. The city’s reservoir levels declined to less than 30 percent of capacity in 2014.
  8. Mexico City, Mexico, where 1 in 5 residents have tap water only a few hours a week, and another 20 percent have running water just part of the day.
  9. London, England, where the city draws 80 percent of its water from the Thames and the Lea rivers, has a waste rate of 25 percent, and consequently is predicted to have serious shortages by 2040.
  10. Tokyo, Japan, which is now initiating plans to collect rainwater due to its high precipitation—some 750 private and public buildings in the city have water collection and utilization systems.
  11. Miami, Florida, is suffering from an earlier project to drain its swamps, causing the unforeseen problem of the Atlantic Ocean rising as water warms and now contaminating the Biscayne Aquifer—the city’s main source of fresh water—and causing closure of nearby outlying wells due to saline infusion.

Studying this list makes one point crystal clear: Even if I (or you) may not be personally affected by water emergencies in the areas where we individually live, modern urbanized cities across the entire Blue Planet are now under water duress. They serve as the early warning systems that demand global attention! Attention! Attention! In addition, problems that were ignored 20 years ago are in need of urgent correction now, as are other situations that now need corrections in order to prevent water disasters in the near future.

The World Health Organization has made clean water a priority. According to the WHO Drinking Water Fact Sheet14, “In 2010, The UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a yearly grade for infrastructure for the United States as well as a grade for each state. They gave the United States a grade of D+ for the year 2017. According to their report15, this assessment for roads, bridges, airports, water systems, etc. is determined by measures like capacity, funding, operation and maintenance, and public safety. Read More

  • Capacity: Does the infrastructure’s capacity meet current and future demands?
  • Condition: What is the infrastructure’s existing and near-future physical condition?
  • Funding: What is the current level of funding from all levels of government for the infrastructure category as compared to the estimated funding need?
  • Future Need: What is the cost to improve the infrastructure? Will future funding prospects address the need?
  • Operation and Maintenance: What is the owners’ ability to operate and maintain the infrastructure properly? Is the infrastructure in compliance with government regulations?
  • Public Safety: To what extent is the public’s safety jeopardized by the condition of the infrastructure, and what could be the consequences of failure?
  • Resilience: What is the infrastructure system’s capability to prevent or protect against significant multi-hazard threats and incidents? How able is it to quickly recover and reconstitute critical services with minimum consequences for public safety, health, the economy, and national security?
  • Innovation: What new and innovative techniques, materials, technologies, and delivery methods are being implemented to improve the infrastructure?

These are the analytics that need to be explained in any discussions of America’s infrastructure hazards, and they are the modes for diagnosing our failing and crumbling public systems, upon which we are all dependent. Consequently, because of its looming water emergency, the thriving city of Cape Town has become the poster city for what, if the necessary correctives are not applied, will be water-scarcity crises duplicated in other large cities worldwide. Even now, that crisis is a reality for millions living in a world where the alarming estimate is that by 2025 half the world’s populations will be living in water-stressed areas.

“We are now limited to using 13 gallons of water per person per day. That’s enough for a 90-second shower, a half-gallon of drinking water, a sink full to hand-wash dishes or laundry, one cooked meal, two hand washings, two teeth brushings and one toilet flush.”

TIME Magazine’s reportage as to the causes of Cape Town’s severe water depletion point to several realities, which are also relevant to other urban centers. Climatologists at the University of Cape Town recognize that man-made climate change is a contributing factor in continuing drought patterns and warn that a drier future with increasingly unpredictable rain supplies is likely. It is generally agreed that the current water problems is a result of what writers Mikhael Subotzky and Johnny Miller report is “a combination of poor planning, three years of drought and spectacularly bad crisis management. The city’s outdated infrastructure has long struggled to keep up with the burgeoning population. As dam levels began to decline amid the first two years of drought, the default response by city leadership was a series of vague exhortations to be ‘water aware.’”

An aerial view of Cape Town, South Africa, where acute an acute water shortage has required water crisis solutions.

Cape Town, South Africa (population 433,688), where the taps are scheduled to run dry due to extended drought that has emptied the water reservoirs.
By Alexcpt_photography/Shutterstock.com

In February 2018, Cape Town’s mayor’s office announced more stringent water restrictions: “We are now limited to using 13 gallons of water per person per day. That’s enough for a 90-second shower, a half-gallon of drinking water, a sink full to hand-wash dishes or laundry, one cooked meal, two hand washings, two teeth brushings and one toilet flush.” The warning in the TIME article is this: “What is happening to us in Cape Town might not be an outlier. It could happen to you too.”

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The Water Crisis Exists in America, Too

In her master work titled Dirty, Sacred Rivers: Confronting South Asia’s Water Crisis16, Cheryl Colopy, a prize-winning environmental reporter specializing in water systems and clean water restoration, makes a wry observation about the Western form of household waste management:

“But the system I have known and used, quite unconsciously ever since I was potty trained, is nuts. In a world where the supply of clean drinking water is becoming an almost universal worry, why would anyone put clean water into a toilet? For South Asia, flushed toilets and the treatment systems they require have become untenable long before they have become universal. For the Western world, the system as it is currently practiced will surely become untenable before too many more years have passed.”

Water Shortage Solutions in Orange County, California

Any discussion of clean water inevitably introduces the twin dilemma on the matter of how the world handles human waste. Author Colopy’s point is even now an issue with the state of California, which has concluded that intermittent periods of drought may be the predicted future for its residents. Recycled and purified toilet water (and other grey water from washing machines, dishwashers, showers and sinks, gutters and sidewalks) is the basis for the Orange County Water District pioneering wastewater treatment facility that basically recycles sewage and returns it directly to the drinking supply. Soon, some 100 million gallons per day will meet the water needs of some 850,000 people. When mixed with the groundwater supply, this treatment reaches more than 70 percent of Orange County residents.

Admittedly, the concept of “from toilet to tap,” as the phrase goes, has met with determined resistance, but due to a three-year water shortage crisis and to determined public education, negative reaction seems to be lessening. A public campaign17 has carefully explained the three steps of the water reclamation project.

“The first is a micro-filtration of the treated waste water to remove solids, oils and bacteria, before the resulting liquid goes through reverse osmosis.” Phase Two means everything is pushed “through a fine plastic membrane that filters out viruses and pharmaceuticals.” Phase Three: “The water is then treated with UV light to remove any remaining organic compounds, before joining the main groundwater supply, which must pass strict quality controls to meet legal standards and distribution to households.” Mike Marcus, the general manager of the Orange County Water District (OCWD) explains that once wastewater goes through this three-step process, “we basically have distilled water.”

Water Reclamation Process

Phase 1

Micro-filtration removes solids, oils and bacteria, all before the water goes through reverse osmosis.

Phase 2

Everything is pushed through a fine plastic membrane that filters our viruses and pharmaceuticals.

Phase 3

The water is treated with UV light to remove any other organic compounds.

The OCWD assures the end-user that the re-treated water exceeds all state and federal drinking standards. As the technology is adapted to other places in the world, water-insecure Singapore, for instance, in addition to new state-side additions launched in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, the president of the World Water Council, Benedito Braga, reports, “The quality [of effluent water from a sewage treatment plant] is very good, as good or better than the tap water in any city in the developed world.” Thomas Quinn, the head of the Association of California Water Agencies insists this process is a central strategy to drought-proofing modern urban economies.

For those who shudder at the possibility of drinking recycled toilet water, sometimes it is all a matter of what’s in a name. An interview over National Public Radio18 acknowledged the “yuck” factor many in the public might naturally feel at the thought of recycling water from the toilet to the tap, and that resistance might be helped by a newer nomenclature such as the “the potable reuse project.” The Orange County Water District is being far more upfront in their public campaign by using the hashtag #GetOverIt. NPR Reporter, Nathan Rott, insists that recycled water is and will remain California’s single largest source of new water supplies as the state moves forward into the 21st century.

“The quality [of effluent water from a sewage treatment plant] is very good, as good or better than the tap water in any city in the developed world.”

Then before we turn to the water dilemmas of the two-thirds world and point a finger and tsk-tsk over spoiled rivers and sewage-polluted streams, perhaps we should look hard at the infrastructure inadequacies of our own nation. The news cycles in the States and the headline-oriented emphasis of major networks and cable outreaches leaves little time for in-depth reporting. We have heard, for many years, much discussion regarding the national need for infrastructure renovation—Roads are in disrepair, bridges are crumbling, airports all need upgrading. Rarely—rarely—do we hear that our water infrastructure systems are also in red flag conditions.

Water Crisis Solutions in Flint, Michigan

The sad result of what is essentially a violation of public trust can be encapsulated by the Flint, Michigan, water saga that happened in April 201419. The drinking source for this city was diverted from the treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. This change was influenced by the fact that an estimated $5,000,000 in savings was projected over the next two years. In August and September of 2014, city officials detected levels of coliform bacteria, and a bulletin was issued for Flint citizens to boil their water. In October 2014, General Motors complained about the corrosivity of the water, explaining that car parts were actually corroding. The request was made that GM be able to switch back to the Detroit water source. (It turns out, that corrosive capability of the Flint River water would be determined to also corrode upon lead pipes, leaching lead levels into the water supply of individual homes. An early investigation by one “whistle-blowing” worker determined that, despite standard practice, officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the Flint River water.) In January 2015, in a public meeting, citizens complained about bad water—murky tap water; there was a bad smell and taste as well as the questionable appearance. These complaints appeared to have gone on over an 18-month period before a local physician, taking it upon himself, found highly elevated blood lead levels in the children of Flint.

880×

Some homes in Flint, Michigan had lead levels 880 times higher than the federal allotted level.

Eventually, with city officials dodging complaints, issuing false reports to state regulators indicating that “tests at Flint’s water treatment plant had detected no lead and testing in homes had registered lead at acceptable levels,” and with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality eventually being pegged as the major player in denying the problem and refusing to take action, major players, too numerous to mention, finally stepped in. Scientists and physicians and medical schools and environmental organizations, both private and governmental, determined that the proportion of infants and children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had nearly doubled since the switch to the Flint River.

In September 2015, Dr. Marc Edwards, notified by a Flint resident whose alarms had been ignored by city officials, began testing Flint water with a team from Virginia Tech to perform lead level testing. Working with a grant from the National Science Foundation, he and his student team reported that at least a quarter of Flint households had levels of lead above the federal allotted level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) and that in some homes, lead levels were at 13,200 ppb. Edwards summarized the Flint Water Crisis by stating: “It was the injustice of it all and that the very agencies that are paid to protect these residents from lead in water, knew or should have known after June at the very latest of this year, that federal law was not being followed in Flint, and that these children and residents were not being protected. And the extent to which they went to cover this up exposes a new level of arrogance and uncaring that I have never encountered.”

The National Guard delivers bottled water to Flint, MI

The National Guard delivers bottled water to residents of Flint, MI.
By Linda Parton/Shutterstock.com

This all, of course, has resulted in countless hearings, investigations, and continued studies on the local, statewide and national levels. Emergency centers for distributing water and home filters, then replacement cartridges, have been established. Testing water and lead levels in the blood of children continue. The water supply was diverted back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Numerous Class action suits have been filed against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and 13 other state officials, including former Flint mayor Dayne Walling. The complaints allege that the officials acted recklessly and negligently, leading to serious injuries from lead poisoning.

Needless to say, major funding has been found and pledged for comprehensive water infrastructure improvement, all to be carried out over the next few years. But what is immeasurable is the damage done to the brains of small children, most of which cannot now be determined but which bodes ill for the future of these kids. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters along with Representative Dan Kildee called upon the state of Michigan to “make a sustained financial commitment by establishing a Future Fund to meet the cognitive, behavioral and health challenges of children affected by lead poisoning.” All fear that those challenges will be real and life-lasting.

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World Water Crisis Facts: Problems Around the Globe

So let us take a deep breath. Let us think a moment about that peaceful and stunning NASA photo: AS17-148-22727. Let us remind ourselves that of all the spinning planets in our solar system, it alone has been created uniquely to sustain water, and that not one other drop has been discovered anywhere else in interstellar space. Let us remember that 75 percent of our planet is covered with water, some 96.5 percent of that in its oceans. Then let us say a prayer for its water resource preservation and purification, and let us remember that some religious systems view water to be holy. Only then, let us absorb the fact that an investigative report20 by Reuters released December 19, 2016, found nearly 3,000 areas in the United States with lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint.

This headline tagged a report21 released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC): “Both Public and Private Studies Find Astounding Gaps Between Current Spending and Projected Needs.” The analysis determined: “Modernizing and replacing aging water infrastructure may be the single largest public works endeavor in our nation’s history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap analysis found a $540 billion gap between current spending and projected needs for water and wastewater infrastructure (combined) over 20 years. Other public studies conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and a private study produced by AGC partner, the Water Infrastructure Network, have similarly estimated the nation’s water infrastructure needs to range between $400 and $600 billion over a 20-year period.

The 2014–2017 Flint, Michigan lead-poisoned water problems highlights possible impacts on communities if warnings are ignored and if appropriate budget planning is not prioritized. (“What is happening to us in Cape Town may not be an outlier. It could happen to you too.”) We need to understand that water degradation and evaporation and infrastructure decline is happening to us now.

In Gayo village, Ethiopia, a group of women and young girls collect water from a rain water pool. They use tablets to purify the water before they drink it. When there is water scarcity or a water shortage, mostly women and children bear the burden of collecting clean water for their families.

In Gayo Village, Ethiopia, a group of women and young girls collect water from a rain water pool. They use tablets to purify the water before they drink it. Around the world, mostly women and children bear the burden of collecting water for their families.
By Martchan/Shutterstock.com

So what is the status of clean water worldwide? According to the World Health Organization22, some of the global facts regarding safe water usage are these:

71%

of the global population in 2015 (5.2 billion people) used a safely managed drinking-water service—that is, one located on premises, available when needed, and free from contamination.

89%

of the global population in 2015 (6.5 billion people) used at least a basic service. A basic service is an improved drinking-water source within a round trip of 30 minutes to collect water.

840 million

people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 159 million people who are dependent on surface water (water from rivers and ponds).

2 billion

people globally use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.

502,000

deaths every year are caused by diseases transmitted by contaminated water such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

38%

of health care facilities lack an improved water source in low- and middle-income countries. 19 percent do not have improved sanitation, and 35 percent lack water and soap for handwashing.

In addition to these above statistics, WHO also notes that “Yet diarrhea is largely preventable, and the deaths of 361,000 children aged under five years could be avoided each year if these risk factors were addressed. Where water is not readily available, people may decide handwashing is not a priority, thereby adding to the likelihood of diarrhea and other diseases.”

Is Anyone Doing Anything?

Certainly, organizations somehow, somewhere, are doing something about this? Right? This is the natural response of those of us who unthinkingly use clean water to flush our toilets and allow grey water to be piped into the sewer systems of our communities.

Actually, that thought many of us have when we read about water-distressed systems worldwide is right. Well-meaning help of all kinds, from missionary groups to hundreds if not thousands of non-government organizations to the World Bank and the United Nations to the World Health Organization to inter-agency coordinated efforts to private foundations with substantial granting means to individual governments to the largess of western countries—all of them are players in attempting to solve the water problems of the world.

50,000 wells drilled in Africa now lie broken

Many wells drilled by well-meaning organizations now lie broken or in disrepair.
By astudio/Shutterstock.com

However, even the best laid plans of sophisticated systems often go awry. Evidence of this is the estimated 50,000 wells in Africa dug by well-meaning organizations that now lie broken, abandoned and non-functional; a dismal testament to good intentions gone bad. Really bad. Jamie Skinner of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development reported at the 2009 World Water Forum23, a triennial summit, on the state of wells in Africa. He is a water development specialist with particular emphasis on West Africa. His report on “water points” included some of these disturbing facts:

  • The equivalent of up to $360 million USD has been wasted on building borehole wells that break because they are not maintained or repaired.
  • Only one third of water points built by NGOs in Senegal’s Kaolack region are working, and 58 percent in northern Ghana are in disrepair.
  • Disrepair occurs because NGOs often do not fully consult with local people before beginning a water project to determine what it will cost to clean and maintain the well.

Some naysayers have deemed this come-do-your-thing-and-go approach as “non-government organizational malfeasance.” Skinner gives the example of a badly constructed and poorly maintained shallow well, dug by a charity in Katine sub county in north-east Uganda, that was full of soil and animal feces and was making the local population sick. The African Medical and Research Foundation’s strategy to solve this well deficiency was to set up a local committee responsible to operate and maintain a new borehole with trained hand-pump repairmen available in case of breakdown. “There is no point in an external agency coming in, putting in a drill-hole and then passing it over to the local community if they can’t afford to maintain it over the next 10 or 20 years,” concludes Skinner.

People washing clothes at the Ganges River. A water crisis in India, and a clean water shortage has created the need for water scarcity solutions.

The Need for Clean Water in Asia

In her book Dirty, Sacred Rivers: Confronting South Asia’s Water Crisis, Cheryl Colopy takes us on nearly every footstep of her arduous investigation starting in the headwaters high in the Himalayas.

“This book chronicles my travels in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, countries that are knit together by the Ganga and her various tributaries. I explain what I learned about glaciers melting in the mountains, sewage gluts and water shortages in the vast cities, and plans for engineering rivers that will have unknown consequences and perhaps limited benefits,” she writes in her introduction.

Interviewing hundreds of Asian water conservation experts who are concerned about their countries’ water shortages and misuse, we have a chance to listen over her shoulder to their love for their land and their attempts to solve water distress issues. Clean water, indeed, is the goal, but working through past mistakes, the consequences of climate change and its unknown future, population explosions, and unintended engineering mishaps gives the reader an extraordinary feeling of being party to all the discussions. As the flap copy explains, “Many are reviving ingenious methods of water management that thrived for centuries in South Asia and may point the way to water sustainability and healthy rivers.”

Simple is often best. Ancient civilizations solved their water needs in ways that speak to us today.

Here too, as with Jamie Skinner’s reporting on Africa’s abandoned wells, a theme emerges, one the author confesses she discovered during her essentially seven-year journey. “There is no way that I—a former medieval scholar turned environment reporter rather later in life—can claim to have answers to South Asia’s water difficulties, if there are right answers. So I give you many highly intelligent, trained, sane, and committed water experts from that region. These authorities more often argue for the lighter hand, the softer path; not no engineering at all, but less invasive engineering, and techniques that are localized, decentralized, and draw on traditional methods along with the almost-lost wisdom of local people.”

A child of the Himba tribe carries a bucket of water in Kamanjab, Kunene, Namibia

A child of the Himba tribe carries a bucket of water in Kamanjab, Kunene, Namibia.

The themes of the book are: Simple is often best. Ancient civilizations solved their water needs in ways that speak to us today. The people who are most affected by water stresses are most often the ones who can solve the problem.

Indeed, the problems are real.

Sewage in the rivers: “Estimates of the amount of untreated raw sewage that enters the Ganga every day are hard to grasp: apparently something in the neighborhood of a billion liters. Much of it comes from homes that do have toilets, where relatively clean water is being flushed away and turned into sewage, which then turns rivers into sewers, a further loss of clean water.”

Climate change: “This lack of snowfall is the chief problem Dobhal (a glacier specialist) has seen in the high mountains in recent years. As a consequence, the glaciers are depleting, not developing. With good winter snowfall, they stay in balance, and the melting rate is not cause for alarm. Melting glacier ice accounts for 30 percent of the water in the rivers. The rest is from snow and from the monsoon. Now that there is less snow, the spring flow in the rivers comes directly from the older ice. When glaciers lose their volume, the rate of melting increases. It’s the difference between a melting block of ice and a melting ice cube. Big glaciers create their own climate. They make cold weather. Big glaciers can be more powerful than the sunlight that reaches them. But as glaciers shrink, the power of the sun to melt them grows.” Unpredictable behavior is ahead from flooding due to increased glacier melt to drought to drying rivers. One expert sums up the uncertainty, saying, “Climate change will manifest itself through water. It will affect every sector of life through precipitation, snow, rain, whatever. Livestock, forestry, soil, sanitation, disease, everything. But we have no idea how it’s going to happen.”

Agricultural water scarcity

The global water scarcity problem is not limited to providing potable drinking water for humans, although without it we would not exist. Water is necessary for agriculture, for both crops and animal husbandry.

An uncanny sight in a first-world country: Lines of people waiting to collect natural spring water during the drought in Cape Town, South Africa

An uncanny sight in a first-world country: Lines of people waiting to collect natural spring water during the drought in Cape Town, South Africa.
By Mark Fisher/Shutterstock.com

In water-starved South Africa, the first restrictions on water usage were levied upon the agricultural sector. Now, farmers are renegotiating their leases because they cannot produce enough income. Current economic forecasts anticipate that within the next five years as many as 98 percent of farms will have a negative Net Farm Income24.

China’s Ministry of Water Resources recently declared a need “to fight for every drop of water or die.”25 Twelve northern Chinese provinces suffer from water scarcity. In eight, the scarcity is considered acute. This is particularly significant because those provinces provide 38 percent of the country’s agriculture. The rapid economic expansion in China has placed so much demand on water supplies that 28,000 rivers have disappeared over the past 25 years. The flow of the Yellow River has dwindled to a tenth of what it was prior to 1950. Pollution is so rampant in China that almost 10 percent of the groundwater is not even fit for agricultural use.

These countries and others are in a catch-22. Water for agriculture is limited, but it is needed to grow the crops and animals required to feed the demands of growing populations.

The rapid economic expansion in China has placed so much demand on water supplies that 28,000 rivers have disappeared over the past 25 years.

Recognizing the importance of water conservation, the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) in India is making a concerted effort to bring dramatic reform in their own jurisdiction. Infrastructure can cause as much as 45 percent water loss, far above the national average of 15 percent systemic water loss. As the KWA brings improvements to its clean water delivery system, the potential for positive impact is significant26.

On the national level, Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi began promoting the implementation of a decades-old clean water initiative in 2014. One part of that project alone, linking the Ken and Betwa rivers, would make drinking water available for 1.35 million people plus provide enough to irrigate 600,000 hectares of farmable land27. The project is pending approval from the environmental ministry, but nonetheless, we’re hopeful of the efforts making strides to resolve India’s water problems.

In 2016, 330 million Indians were affected by drought28, and the government is taking action to respond.

“We are working on a big scheme to bring water to farmlands. We need to have a permanent solution to the drought,” the Prime Minister said29.

There is a plan underway for 25,000 villages to get clean water wells, and 5,000 wells have been started, as of April 2017.30

Dr. K.P. Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia and Metropolitan of Believers Eastern Church, met with high officials in the government in March 2016 to discuss ways in which India’s Christian community could collaborate with the government for the good of the nation. Believers Eastern Church has since been able to work together with the Indian government to work on cleaning up some of the nation’s rivers.

One of those voices Colopy interviewed—a highly intelligent, trained and committed expert—Sudhil Chaudhary, a professor of biology at Bhagalpur University has a plan. His is for forestry restoration, which also involves water reclamation. Sudhil would like local communities to be part of each and every decision about the plan. This is a theme that seems to be emerging all over the world. I find it stated more and more as I research world development needs and particularly, the Millennium Development Goals and its companion the Sustainable Development Goals. Things work when there is community buy-in, and often fail when there is none.

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What Scripture Has to Say About Water

It is intriguing, in light of the fact that 71 percent of our Earth is covered by water, that Scripture has a great deal to say on the topic. One commentator suggests that water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible. This total is less than the mentions of God, Jesus, heaven or love, but more than faith, hope, prayer or worship. In Genesis it says: “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters The name of the first is Pishon … The name of the second river is the Gihon … The name of the third river is the Tigris … And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

For those of us with a Sunday School background, the stories dealing with water are memorable: Moses parting the Red Sea as the children of Israel fled the pursuing chariots of the Egyptians. Moses striking the rock at Horeb so that water flowed in the wilderness to satisfy the thirst of the people and of their flocks.

A Picture of the Global Water Crisis where refugees who experience water scarcity are waiting to get clean water and satisfy their thirst in a camp in Dadaab, Somalia.

Refugees waiting to get water and satisfy their thirst in a camp in Dadaab, Somalia.
By hikrcn/Shutterstock.com

Wells are central stages for story-telling dramas: Abraham’s servant finds a bride for Isaac after praying near a well, “Oh, Lord God of my master, Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my master.” Jesus declares His spiritual authority to a Samaritan woman by a well. “Will you give me a drink?” He asks, to begin a dialogue with her, and then eventually He declares, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, NIV).

Rivers are forded, oases with pools satisfy weary nomads and their families, and always, over and over, water is used as an example of God’s blessing. “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones. And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11, NASB).

Water is used as an example of the sacramental, where the holy mixes mysteriously with the physical. People flock to John the Baptist in the wilderness to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11, NIV).

The heavens open after Jesus is baptized, the Spirit descends in the bodily form of a dove, and a voice is heard declaring, “You are My beloved Son; in you I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22, NKJV).

Water is a symbol of cleansing, not only in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. Jesus walks on the water. He teaches by the shores of the seas. Some of His disciples are fishermen who gained their livelihood from waters’ depths. In the last chapters of Revelation, which many theologians feel is a prophetic picture of Eden being restored again, these words bring the water theme to a close. Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, the first verse: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

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A Christ-like Response to the Global Water Crisis

It is a comfort, to know the fragility of our water sources around the globe is taken into account. Because of community involvement and the compassion of pastors from Believers Eastern Church and other affiliate organizations, Dr. K.P. Yohannan spearheaded the “Jesus Well” project among some of the neediest regions in India, even small villages across Asia, spanning multiple Asian nations. In 2016 alone, Gospel for Asia was able to help provide 6,822 wells. That is 6,822 sources of clean, fresh drinking water. GFA supporters around the world have allowed the rate of installation of Jesus Wells to continue and to remain consistent, with tens of thousands of wells drilled and constructed in the past several years. Now, the Jesus Well project is one of the largest clean water initiatives in the world.

A Jesus Well is being drilled next to a church building. This is the first well dug in the village

A Jesus Well is being drilled next to a church building. This is the first well dug in the village.

Here, there are no broken wells laying waste and abandoned because well-meaning but neglectful charities dug wells that villagers could not maintain or repair. Jesus Wells are maintained in good repair by GFA-supported local pastors. In fact, wherever possible, the wells are dug near local churches, not simply so that they will be maintained, but so that the beneficiaries will recognize that our love for them is genuine, because everyone is able to drink freely—no matter their income or social background.

Digging a Jesus Well supports the local economy, because local labor and materials are used to drill the wells. This keeps costs low, often even seven times lower than wells installed by other organizations.

Jesus Wells are drilled up to 650 feet deep to ensure a continuous supply of clean water. They can last for 20 years and provide clean water for an average of 300 people every day. Some wells serve even more.

Watch a time-lapse video of an Asian village using a Jesus Well »

Women get clean water from a BioSand water filter

Though simple in construction, BioSand water filters are easy to use and provide water that is 98 percent pure.

In regions where water might be available, but it’s just not safe to drink, GFA-supported workers provide BioSand water filters. These simple structures—locally built from concrete, sand and rocks—filter the water to remove impurities, providing water for drinking and cooking that is 98 percent pure. In 2016, GFA provided 14,886 BioSand water filters for families and individuals.

Gospel for Asia published a story in 2016 that shared the paradox faced by four villages in one region of South Asia. These communities faced severe water shortage during the hot, summer months, but in the rainy monsoon season their water sources were contaminated by chemicals. Their situation was an echo back to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem: “Not a drop to drink.” Local congregations in the region were concerned about the people and their need for clean water, and in 2014, GFA helped drill four Jesus Wells to provide safe, pure water for these villages. By God’s grace, there are now more than 5,000 people who benefit from these wells!

A woman gets clean water from a Jesus Well. India water crisis issues require practical water scarcity solutions to provide people with access to safe drinking water.

A Jesus Well Transformed Salil’s Family

Salil and his family

Salil (pictured) lives in a northeastern region of Asia with his wife and three children.

The staggering weight of the global clean water problems is beyond the ability of most of us to wrap our minds around. Still, more than 150 million people in South Asia alone have either no immediate access to clean water or drink from polluted sources.

But the clean water problem can be devastating for a single family. We see this illustrated in the story of a gentleman named Salil, his wife and his children. Until a Jesus Well was installed in their village, all the water for the community came from a nearby contaminated pond. Salil’s family and the other villagers were sick with a plethora of illnesses and diseases. They suffered because of the very water they depended on for life.

The situation drove them even deeper into poverty as their illnesses kept them from work, and their meager income was not adequate to provide for the medicines they needed—let alone their other essential needs. Salil did everything he could think of to provide for his family, but nothing he did was adequate.

When a local pastor requested and received a Jesus Well for the community, everything changed. A thankful Salil said, “Our family is blessed both physically and spiritually. We are free from problems and sickness.”

How appropriate: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 10:42, NIV). Those who receive are blessed, and those who give are blessed. The accompanying video will give you a feel for just what that means.

So, our Blue Planet spins in space, obedient to its determined orbit. Its surface is covered by 71 percent water. So far, there has been no verification of liquid water existing on any other planet in our solar system. As yet, not a single drop of water has been detected anywhere in interstellar space, and scientists have determined that only a planet of the right mass, the right chemical composition and the right location can support liquid water. Let us remember that it is good. It is very good.


Give Towards Clean Water Projects

Provide life-saving water through Jesus Wells and BioSand water filters, and help support ongoing maintenance of these clean water projects.


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  23. IOL, #EveryDropCounts: Drought affects us all, it isn’t discriminatory. February 15, 2018. https://www.iol.co.za/capeargus/opinion/everydropcounts-drought-affects-us-all-it-isnt-discriminatory-13304437
  24. Financial Times. China’s acute water shortage imperils economic future. February 27, 2018. https://www.ft.com/content/3ee05452-1801-11e8-9376-4a6390addb44
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  26. Chaudhary, Archana. Narendra Modi pursues 1980s plan to solve India’s water shortage. Live Mint. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/f0JrBub3F88aATney45ciI/Narendra-Modi-pursues-1980s-plan-to-solve-Indias-water-shor.html. September 24, 2014.
  27. Doshi, Vidhi. India set to start massive project to divert Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/18/india-set-to-start-massive-project-to-divert-ganges-and-brahmaputra-rivers. May 18, 2016.
  28. Centre working for permanent solution to drought: PM Modi. DNA India. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-centre-working-for-permanent-solution-to-drought-pm-modi-2199692. April 8, 2016.
  29. Khapre, Shubhangi. PM asks states to replicate Jalyukta Shivar to tackle water problems. Indian Express. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-asks-states-to-replicate-jalyukta-shivar-to-tackle-water-crisis-4616038/. April 17, 2017.
  30. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Report. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/monitoring/jmp-2015-key-facts/en/. 2015.

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