Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home page No. 45, Spring/Summer 1999
Water in Cities

Selected resources of interest

Annotated by Elaine Cubbins


Water for the Future: The West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel, and Jordan
by the Committee on Sustainable Water Supplies for the Middle East, U.S. National Academy of Sciences with the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Palestine Health Council.
National Academy Press, 1999. 242 pages. US$35.00 paper, US$28.00 paper (online order).

National Academy Press
2101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Lockbox 285
Washington, DC 20418
Tel.: +1 (800) 624-6242

The result of a joint research effort initiated in 1994 by the authoring groups, this book investigates the critical need to enhance and protect sustainable water supplies in the Middle East. This work is remarkable for several reasons. Little prior research had been conducted that determined the criteria needed to develop sustainable water supplies while maintaining environmental support systems. The study also broke new ground in that it identified "scientific and research components of such an appraisal without linking them to specific development plans and allocations...." Also the study was one of the first collaborations between the U.S. National Academy of Research and scientists and engineers from other nations, and was completely unprecedented for cooperation among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian organizations. The study's final report was unanimously approved by all the Committee members, an unprecedented event for the four political communities.

The study confined its research to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel and Jordan. The region's social, physical and biological elements were canvassed and examined for their effect on sustainability of regional water resources. Written and oral data were collected from local people, as well as from the body of research conducted by academic institutions and research groups located in the cooperating countries. Consideration was given to intergenerational equity in sustainable use of water resources for both current and future residents, the natural ecosystem as a "critical legitimate user of the study area's water resources," and the hydrological connections of water quality and water quantity as shared among the countries of the region.

Options for sustainable development were analyzed for their current practicality or the need for further research. The Committee carefully avoided making any specific recommendations for political policy or project development, although general scientific and technological recommendations were identified that would be effective for any sound water management program.

The book contains a comprehensive bibliography of the research consulted, and chapters on the pattern of water use in the region and the effect on the environment, and on numerous options for the future. The appendices include treaty and agreement excerpts relevant to water issues, guidelines for rehabilitating the region's rivers, and the effects of water use patterns on the biodiversity of the study area.

Ecological Sanitation
by Steven A. Esrey et al
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, 1998. 92 pages. US$35.00 paper, US$28.00 paper (online order).

Sida/Svensk Specialdistribution
Finspångsgatan 51
S-163 53 Spånga, Sweden
Tel.: +46 (8) 795 23 44
Fax: +46 (8) 760 58 95

The two most commonly used toilet systems used in the world today are the "drop-and-store" pit toilet and the "flush-and-discharge" method. The former system is the most prevalent sanitation system in the world and has many limitations that cause it to pollute groundwater; the latter system is considered more modern and therefore more desirable, but nearly 90% of these systems release sewage directly into surface waters because of inadequate sewage treatment. As fresh drinkable water becomes ever more scarce in both developing and developed countries, particularly those in arid and semi-arid regions, eco-san (i.e., development of alternatives for the sustainable management of human waste) becomes more critical.

Safe products can be produced from human excreta (particularly urine, which is usually sterile) that can be used to fertilize crops, but certain sanitation criteria for human solid waste must be met before it can be safely used. Nature, the sanitation process, culture and society, and the actual elimination device must all be considered when finding a solution to the sanitation problem.

This work is aimed toward municipal authorities, grassroots and community leaders, the private sector, international institutions, engineers, practitioners, and scholars, and anyone else interested in eco-san options. The practical suggestions provide a discussion of the available options, useful for both urban and rural dwellers, and for a wide range of socio-economic conditions.

This work is organized to present information on:

  • How pathogens are destroyed in human waste, and how nutrients are returned to the soil
  • The two primary methods for sanitizing human solid waste: dehydration and decomposition
  • Designing and managing a system, graywater, and cautions
  • Advantages of eco-san and future visions

Included in the book are diagrams, illustrations, and charts that add much to the text, a short glossary of sanitation-related terms, and references for further reading. Examples from around the world are used in this easily-read and sometimes humorous work.

Multi-Stage Filtration: An Innovative Water Treatment Technology
Gerardo Galvis, Jorge Latorre and Jan Teun Visscher
Technical Paper no. 34, ISBN 90-6687-028-1
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and CINARA, 1998. 179 pages. Dfl 45/US$24.00 (Developing countries Dfl 31.50/US$16.80).

Publications Department
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
P.O. Box 93190
2509 AD The Hague
The Netherlands
Fax: +31 (70) 358-9964

To insure good quality drinking water in the face of increasing environmental degradation, adequate selection, improvement, and protection of surface water sources becomes very important. Yet even with the best water source protection, some form of treatment may still be required. this book introduces multi-stage filtration (MSF) as a sustainable technology that is in harmony with local conditions and available management capacity of most communities. The community can operate and maintain the system with a minimum of external support at an affordable cost to the users. It is a combination of coarse gravel pre-filtration and slow sand filtration (SSF) and can treat water with levels of contamination well above the levels that can be treated by SSF alone. Although experience with the technology is still new, it already has a good track record of sustainable performance in the communities in Colombia where it has been installed, and the experience is now being replicated in other projects, regions and countries.

The authors discuss the necessity for a good link between agencies and communities to ensure sustainable water treatment; and the efficiency of the MSF technology in water quality improvement in relation to key public health parameters. They present information on costs and considerations for technology selection; detailed information on different gravel filtration systems; and examples of different MSF systems selected to treat water sources with different levels of sanitary risk.

Multi-Stage Filtration is aimed at professionals, managers and design engineers involved in the water supply and sanitation sector, particularly those working in or for rural settlements and small and medium-sized municipalities.

Tables and figures provide a wealth of additional information throughout. The work contains an extensive bibliography, technical specifications, design criteria and theoretical calculations, and monitoring, operating, and trouble-shooting guidelines.

1978 - 1998 Learning What Works: A 20 Year Retrospective View on International Water and Sanitation Cooperation
by Maggie Black

UNDP-World Bank
Water and Sanitation Program
1818 H Street NW
Washington, D.C.
Tel.: +1 (202) 473-3970
Fax: +1 (202) 522-3228

The UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, managed by the World Bank, focuses on helping poor populations to access improved water and sanitation resources, emphasizes participation by multiple donors, and uses field-activities to implement new ideas and to analyze and share results developed in the field. The 1980s were declared to be the Water Decade by the participants at the World Water Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1977, to initiate international cooperative efforts in developing systems to meet the basic needs of water and sanitation for people around the world, and which planted the seeds for the Water and Sanitation Program. This work is a retrospective look at the first twenty years of the Program approaches to water and sanitation issues, and how developments in these two areas have influenced and been influenced by the Program.

Most people without water and sanitation services are poor, living in countries with water shortages and little resources for infrastructure development. Funding entities focused on supporting projects that were based on the expensive standard Western model. This marginalized the majority of peoples in need of such systems, particularly those living in rural areas. Experts in the field began to acknowledge that more sustainable systems were needed based upon "intermediate technology" to meet the social, economic, and technological requirements of the developing world. Shifts in thinking to make this possible continue to be made into the present.

The work begins with an historical introduction, and then is divided into three parts (each with Lessons Learned and Evolutions in International Thinking):

  • An historical introduction
  • Part 1: The appropriate technology phase 1978-88: Key issues are urban sanitation and community water supplies, and program activities included low-cost sanitation and water supply projects, and the handpumps project
  • Part 2: From "hardware" to "software" 1988-94: Key issues are sustainability, community participation, the role of women, institution-building, and human-resources development. Program activities include the International Training Network (ITN), "Scaling up," demonstration projects, and the promotion of participation, and synthesizing lessons from the Water Decade (1980s)
  • Part 3: Promoting the new agenda 1994-98: Key issues are the growing urban sanitary crisis, capacity building, and demand-responsive service provision. Program activities are concerned with structured learning, urban sanitation, and demand-responsiveness on a global scale.

Field photographs, maps, and charts enhance the text. The work also includes a listing of written and oral sources, and management names from 1978-98.

The following two books are available from:

Scientific Publishers
5-A, New Pali Road, P.B. No. 91
Jodhpur 342 001
Tel: +91 (291) 433323
Fax: +91 (291) 613480

Man in the Desert: Drought, Desertification and Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Development
by L.P. Bharara
Scientific Publishers: Jodhpur, India, 1999. 394 pages. US$40.00 ISBN: 81-7233-193-2

For thousands of years, the people, animals and plants of Rajasthan, India, have maintained delicate symbiotic balances to enable a diverse variety of life forms to flourish in its arid regions. In recent times, overgrazing, deforestation and eroded agricultural areas, combined with reoccurring drought and famine, have contributed to a break-down in the ecosystem and a degradation of the land, primarily from human factors.

Man in the Desert is the product of an intensive multi-stage study that covered the years 1984-86, updated to 1996, in twelve Rajasthan northwestern districts. The study was led by Dr. L.P. Bharara, of India's Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), whose arid lands research is important for understanding the human socio-economic factors that influence the causes, as well as, the mitigation of desertification. Bharara states in this work that an "appropriate mix of new technologies and traditional wisdom is extremely important" to protect fragile lands from desertification.

In contrast to science's acquisition of knowledge through theories and methods, "Indigenous knowledge is acquired know-how and wisdom by observation of specific natural and social phenomena connected with the experience of supernatural powers that influence life." Rather than be replaced by scientific knowledge, indigenous knowledge remains strong throughout developing countries, particularly in rural areas, to form a, "holistic, more often than not sacred, world view and a valuable source of self-reliant cultural persistence in a period of rapid social change."

Through case studies, sampling, interviews and groupwork, this study examines the traditional knowledge, skills and practices used in agriculture, conservation of natural resources and livestock management that comprise this region's Indigenous Technological Knowledge (ITK) for sustainable production and conservation of desert resources. Some of the ITK areas analyzed in this study include weather prediction for coping with drought and other climatic events, conservation of land resources, agroforestry land use, sustained productivity, management and use of common property resources, rainwater harvesting, and indigenous peoples' perceptions of development in the desert.

Each chapter is illustrated with black and white photographs, charts and tables, and relevant bibliographies. The Hindi lunar months translated into the English calendar and a glossary of local terms help to clarify local epistemological concepts.

Fifty Years of Arid Zone Research in India (1947-1997)
by A.V. Rao, D.C. Ojha and Anurag Saxena
Scientific Publishers: Jodhpur, India, 1998. 637 pages. US$80.00 ISBN: 81-7233-188-6

Approximately 12% of India is arid, made-up of hot and cold desert environments. Desertification in India is both natural and accelerated, through wind and water erosion, water logging, and increased salinity and alkalinity of the soil. Growth in human populations, agriculture and livestock continue to put further strain on fragile ecosystems. During the past fifty years Indian scientists have conducted research with a focus on helping to protect and improve the environment, while encouraging sustainable lifestyles for the country's hundreds of millions of citizens.

This publication seeks to collect annotated citations of all journal articles, and those books and monographs in series considered to be the most pertinent by the authors, that are published about India's arid lands. Annotations range from one sentence to nearly half a page, and primarily present study findings. Journal articles are arranged alphabetically by author under the following subject areas in relation to arid lands research:

  • natural resources and desertification
  • crop improvement
  • crop production
  • fruits and vegetables
  • forage production
  • forest and economic plants
  • alternate land use systems
  • watershed management and soil conservation
  • livestock production and management
  • wasteland management
  • energy management
  • socio-economics and agricultural extension
  • wildlife
  • miscellaneous

Books and monographs in series are each in their own chapters, and arranged alphabetically by author.

An alphabetical author index with associated page numbers, an alphabetical source index, and a plants index that identifies flora by their botanical, English, and local names, provide readers with additional useful information.

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