March/April 2013: Amsha Africa Foundation

Amsha Africa Foundation to Bring Rainwater Harvesting to Rural Kenya

Amsha Africa Foundation
Amsha is a swahili word that means “wake up”. The non-profit Amsha Africa Foundation works to raise the standard of living in rural Africa by working with registered community-based organizations.

Rainwater Harvesting in Rural Kenya
Here’s the difference something as small as one Rainwater HOG tank used to harvest rainwater  can make. Women in rural Kenya often spend as much as 3 hours a day carrying water to their homes from distant sources.

Chibanga two women carrying waterIf a woman can carry 5 gallons of water per day, then one Rainwater HOG storage tank can hold water that would have taken her over 10 days to carry.

If she spends 3 hours per day carrying this water, a storage tank near the home can save her 30 hours of water transport over 10 days. This results in 1,080 more hours a year to do other tasks, such as entrepreneurial activities, daily cooking, cleaning, child care, and schoolwork.

If she spends even half of those 1,080 hours on work that earns even $0.50 per hour of income, this extra time can result in over $250 of income for this woman and her family.

The Amsha Africa Foundation is currently fundraising to purchase and install 130 Rainwater HOG tanks for communities in the semi-arid regions of rural Kenya where one of the most significant issues, with a wide-ranging set of repercussions, is access to clean water.

Some common problems include:

No access to safe water: Residents depend on frequently interrupted central water supply systems from the government.
No adequate waste water management resulting in polluted ground water.
Lack of safe sanitation.

Amsha Africa founder Tony Abuta, a native Kenyan, lives and works in the U.S.A. It was a combination of his childhood experiences and return visits to Africa and other developing countries that inspired him to found Amsha. The organization aims to use common-sense, site-specific solutions to help lift people out of poverty with dignity.

One hundred thirty Rainwater HOGs tanks would make over 6,760 gallons of water available to rural communities in Kenya. Here’s how you can help.

January 2013: Perspectives on Water

Global Warming 

2012 was the hottest year on record in the USA, further establishing the increasing effect of climate change on the planet. With global warming comes an increase of extreme weather events, such as what Australia has been experiencing – flooding fast on the heels of an unprecedented heat wave and bush fires.

The Whole HOG’s much referenced science guy, Robert Krulwich turned us on to what he calls “Miss Piggy’s version of global warming” wherein scientists (at the New Scientist website) published an interactive graph that answers the question, ‘What about me?’ Use the New Scientist App to click on a map of the world, anywhere in the world, and see how the temperature has changed in that location since 1950. A chilling – or should I say fever-inducing – illustration of climate change close to home.

As we enter 2013, we’re thinking about water (in light of global warming) from three different perspectives: personal, national (apologies to our international readers for our American-centric leanings), and global.

We’re taking the Miss Piggy approach direct to your roof with the rooftop rain harvest calculator. This app from Save the Rain lets you find and highlight any roof in the world visible from Google maps (preferably your roof) to figure out how much rainwater it could be collecting annually. A farm in Southwest Colorado, one close to this writer’s heart (it belongs to my mom), where the average annual rainfall is 11.81 inches could be collecting approximately 10,643 gallons a year. That’s 4,447 toilet flushes. How much could you collect?

(*Head’s up, this info is calculated in the metric system. Google provides an easy conversion method, For example, simply type in “300 mm = ?? inches” as your search term. 11.81 inches will come up as the answer.)

In the USA a water main breaks every 2 minutes, resulting in 1.7 billion gallons of water lost every year.  Accessible graphics, colorful stats, and up-to-date data distinguishes the 2012 Value of Water Index from recent reports. The study, put on by Xylem, presents findings from ‘a nationwide poll of American voters detailing what they think should be done about the country’s water crisis and who should pay for it.’

value of water index

©Xylem Value of Water Index

In 2010, 80% of Americans believed our water system needed reform. In 2012, that percentage has grown to 88%. Seventy-nine percent of the American public recognize that demand is growing and water is becoming scarce. But, the factors contributing to a water crisis remain hazy for many. Click on the graph, pictured left, for more.


Sierra Leone

A public latrine in Freetown’s Grey Bush slum where cholera struck. Public bathrooms are generally in poor order and costly to use. ©Mustafah Abdulaziz



Unsafe water sources and poor sanitation make the water crisis in developing countries more visceral. Often there is inadequate infrastructure to serve large urban populations, as in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone where a population of 2 million people live in a city with an infrastructure built for half that many.  Photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz focuses on the role of water as a carrier of epidemic and disease in a thought-provoking project, funded by the Pulitzer Center, called “Water is Gold”. In it, he documents the aftermath of the worst outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone’s history.

The Whole HOG: September 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

“Water is fundamental to our economic vitality and overall quality of life, not to mention our very survival. And, at about a penny a gallon (far less than the cost a gallon of milk – or bottled water), this precious resource is also an exceptional value; especially considering how often we use it every day.”
– Randy A. Moore, President of Iowa American Water

This September, when it comes to water, we’re taking problem-solving seriously. Doctor HOG helps brainstorm solutions for Frank Katz’s two-HOG installation in New Mexico, and we get real-world perspectives on America’s water crisis from a clean energy economy advocate in California and from the president of Iowa’s largest investor-owned water utility.

We also feature an award-winning, student-designed hybrid. Read more about the water-saving Washit in our B.U.G. Design section. And speaking of student-powered solutions, registration is now open for the EPA sponsored Campus Rainworks Challenge!

September 2012: The Case for Fixing America’s Water Infrastructure

The breakdown of water infrastructure in the U.S. is making headlines. Recently, we’ve come across articles with messages that resonate with reports on America’s water crisis posted in our March and April editions.

Want Jobs? Fix America’s Water Crisis

“The most urgent deficit America needs to resolve right now is our job deficit. And fixing our infrastructure — especially the systems that keep our water safe and clean — is one of the best ways we can put people to work,” writes Jeremy Hayes in his recent Huffington Post article, “Want Jobs? Fix America’s Water Crisis.”

Hayes works as the Chief Strategist for State and Local Initiatives at Green For All, a U.S.-based organization “working to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.”

He makes a compelling case for the common sense logic behind fixing the U.S.’s crumbling water infrastructure as a way to boost the economy and create jobs. He goes further to argue that when cities embrace green water infrastructure they can reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants, protect groundwater, improve air quality, and even increase property value.

Water Companies Need to Increase Infrastructure Investment

Meanwhile in Iowa,  the president of the state’s largest investor-owned water utility is making a case for the continued need to maintain and improve a system of aging pipes in his op-ed,  “Water Companies Need to Increase Infrastructure Investment.”

Randy A. Moore, president of Iowa American Water, writes, “The time has come for us as a nation — community by community — to commit to adopting strategies to renew our water infrastructure.”

The approximately $10 million a year that Iowa American Water invests in their water systems helps ensure the continued stability of other infrastructure, such as transportation, roads, homes and businesses.

Echoes Down the Pipe Line

Moore echoes some of the warning from the report on America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge featured in our April 2012 edition. He emphasizes the fact that postponing investment in updating an aging water infrastructure system ultimately increases the expense of repairs.

On a brighter note, Moore also represents, in real-time, some of the solutions suggested by the Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure highlighted in the March 2012 Whole HOG.  An investor-owned water utility like Iowa American Water relies on private, market-based financing mechanisms that can better support local, customer-supported water solutions.

These local water solutions can improve efficiencies, including green infrastructure, closed-loop systems and water recycling, and, as Hayes suggests, create jobs.