How does City Water Project improve access to clean drinking water?
We want to make it easier for local citizens to know more about their water quality and for local water managers and politicians to know more about the opinions and ideas of water consumers. We think more attention and conversation can lead to better water quality.
Our motto is “understand, cooperate, improve.”
How might water quality improve?
In some cities, customers have no means of complaining about dirty water. In others, water managers struggle to find support for projects to improve water quality. Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to talk by acting as a platform for collecting and disseminating data and information. In many cities, it is difficult to find information, get responses from the water utility, or know what customers are seeking or missing. Our goal is to facilitate that exchange during a short (one month) campaign that attracts a lot of attention.
Shouldn’t people just drink bottled water?
By “clean drinking water” we mean clean and safe water from a tap located inside your house that can be used for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning and so on. Bottled water can be useful in emergencies, but clean tap water brings additional benefits because its low price (relative to bottled or tanker water) makes it affordable for more uses. The Dutch consider “water as civilization” and we agree. Every human can benefit from clean drinking water, but not everyone has access to it. Access takes time, money and effort.
How does each city campaign work?
Each campaign has three stages.
In the preparation stage, we contact local groups interested in water quality, the water utility, the regulator, and anyone else we can think of to learn more about the city’s water quality situation, local challenges, and plans to address those challenges. We also collect official data on water quality, news stories, and any other reports we can find.
In the active stage, we publish as much information as we can and then invite local citizens to give their opinions on water quality. We use social media (twitter, facebook, etc.) as well as direct and anonymous emails to understand the concerns of locals who experience water quality but lack ways of expressing their views. Our goal is to then publish as much information as possible in a format that allows local journalists to write articles aimed at explaining matters and questioning causes, civil society to understand where priorities might lie, and water managers to respond to the needs of their consumers. Hopefully, these discussions put water quality on the agenda for action, i.e., devotion of more time, money and personnel to improving matters.
In the handover stage, we want to leave local groups with momentum for change and the tools to deliver change. Water quality issues will not be solved in a month, let alone several years, so we want to do as much as we can to support long term, local solutions.
Why do you use the word “campaign”?
There are many potential words we could use to describe how we approach a city to understand and improve its water quality: engagement, crusade, campaign, celebration, exploration, etc. Although “campaign” is often associated with political or advertising campaigns, we think it’s also appropriate to describe a short-term effort to boost local, ongoing efforts to improve water quality.
How do you choose cities?
Every city has some issue with water quality. In some cases, the water is hardly available or dangerous to drink. In others, the water quality is good, but customers do not trust it. Or maybe the water utility could improve quality at a low price but customers are not convinced they should pay more. Given these facts, we choose cities based on potential gains. We are definitely interested working with local groups that contact us to run a campaign in their city. We might also choose a city due to its logistical convenience (i.e., our staff speaks the local language) or engagement potential (e.g., a rich data and social media landscape).
Can I donate to City Water Project?
We don’t have any mechanism yet, but email David and he’ll try to help you out 🙂