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Water crisis runs much deeper than digging a well

posted 21 Mar 2013, 23:43 by Sekuma Peter

It's easy to tell a powerful and heart-rending story about the lack of clean water that afflicts millions of people. Paint a picture: A young girl must walk miles down a dusty road to collect water from a contaminated well or stream and then haul it home on her back. The journey takes so long that she can't take time to attend school. The water itself is so polluted that it causes illnesses in her family, perhaps keeping other family members from working or attending school.

It's a tragic picture that rightfully elicits funds from well-meaning donors. But it's only part of the story.

For decades aid organizations have been drilling wells and installing taps and hand pumps all over the developing world. But while some progress in improving access to clean water has been achieved, it hasn't been as dramatic as the number of these projects would suggest.

Why? Because a large percentage of wells and hand pumps fall into disrepair and are abandoned only a few years after they are installed. Pipes break, spare parts are unavailable, or people with the technical expertise to make repairs are nowhere to be found.