Children and Youth Seek Solutions for Clean Water

Guest post by Alan Parker

Alan Parker, based in New York City, writes about alternative energy, green business, sustainability and climate change. Follow on Twitter @AGreenParker.

With the focus this week on World Water Day, it’s good to step back and recognize that approximately 1 of every 6 people on the planet has difficulty accessing sanitary water. The problem exists primarily in developing countries, where water is a day’s walk from home, is polluted or is buried deep underground. There are a number of charities that teach people of the importance of clean water and have helped countless villages and towns attain water, yet many people still fail to comprehend how immense this problem really is.

Photo by Jake Lyell

Enter the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), a worldwide event sponsored by some of the leading international chemistry institutions. The centerpiece event of the IYC is a worldwide chemistry experiment called Water: A Chemical Solution. It’s geared toward elementary and high school students and has two main goals. The first is to get students excited about science, especially chemistry. The second is to teach the importance of clean water for all. As Andrew Liveris (head of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), one principal sponsor of the event) claims, the experiment “encourages young people to respect water as a vital resource and how science can help make it cleaner and more available to everyone.”

Through the experiments, students will help to complete the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal of greatly improving access to safe drinking water before 2015.

The global experiment contains different projects where students will complete water-themed chemistry tests to distill water so it can be consumed. The first tests teach students to measure the acidity and salinity of their local body of water. They can then upload their conclusions to the IYC’s website, and compare their results to those from all over the world. Students will also have the chance to develop filtration systems and solar stills from readily available materials to learn about alternative approaches of sanitizing water.

Experiments are tailored for students of all age groups, so elementary school students perform simpler tests, while those in high school can run more complex and challenging tasks. Further, to ensure as many students participate as possible, the experiments will cost very little, if anything at all. The IYC’s experiment runs through December 2011, so if you think that your child or local school would have fun contributing to the experiment, visit the website.

The IYC’s Global Experiment on water could not have come at a more important time in the resource’s history. According to Global Issues, roughly 1.1 billion people in the developing world lack adequate access to water, more than 660 million people lack access to sanitation and survive on less than $2 a day, and children are absent from school around 443 million days due to water related sickness and disease. Water is unquestionably a human issue, and the global experiment is using chemistry to stimulate young students to find solutions.

Liveris, with ICCA, notes that water scarcity means “the world is searching for sustainable, innovative solutions that can only be realized through the advances of chemistry.” Through the awareness that the IYC is raising, it may well be students who will help develop these solutions and aid in getting clean water to those who need it most.

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