It’s estimated that a child dies somewhere in the world every 15 seconds because of diseases carried by water. That means 4,500 deaths every day. But the Kalamazoo-based group Clean Water for the World hopes to change that grim statistic. It will hold the fifth annual “Walk for Water” Saturday, March 22. That’s the day the United Nations has proclaimed as “World Water Day”.
Western Michigan University art professor Paul Flickinger is the coordinator of Clean Water for the World. He says the UN estimates that 1.1 billion people around the world don’t have access to clean water or must travel miles by foot every day to get it. Fourteen years ago the UN said it wanted to cut that number in half by 2015. But Flickinger says he doesn’t think much progress has been made. However, he also says Clean Water for the World and similar groups are having an impact.
Flickinger says he hopes this year’s “Walk for Water” will draw about 150 participants and raise $10,000. That will pay the cost of 15 water purification systems to be installed in places as far-flung as Central America, Africa, India and China. Clean Water for the World hopes to deliver 50 systems this year to be installed with help from various humanitarian groups and other NGOs.
The purification system was developed by students and faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2002. The device uses ultraviolet light to render bacteria that cause water-borne diseases inert. It was adopted by an Otsego couple, Judy and Jerry Bohl, who became interested in the clean water issue after seeing first-hand problems during a trip to El Salvador in 1995. They and Flickinger co-founded Clean Water for the World a few years later. Flickinger says the systems, which come in 110-volt, 220-volt and 12-volt solar-powered versions, are easy to set up and maintain and should work reliably for at least 25 years. About 200 of the units have been installed so far worldwide and most are still operating.
The 2014 “Walk for Water” starts at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Miller Auditorium Plaza at Western Michigan University. The route around campus runs six miles – the average distance that many people in developing countries must travel, often on foot, to get clean water. Shorter walks are also available. To get more information about how to participate, visit the event’s Facebook page or call (269) 254-2851.