Philadelphia Global Water Initiative 5th Annual Conference Brings Together Global Leaders to Explore Challenges and Solutions



Vesko Kostic, for GPA -- Since its foundation in November of 2006, The Philadelphia Global Water Initiative (PGWI) has featured many innovative solutions and the “water heroes” that are making safe and accessible water a universal and indispensable human right. The PGWI has grown out of many Philadelphia non-governmental and government organizations, businesses, and universities with participation from various water professionals and committed individuals. It offers a platform for a serious and collective discussion on water safety and sanitation solutions in developing nations.

This year’s PGWI conference focused on project management and sustainability, highlighting successful projects such as Dr. Arun Deb’s water purification pumps in West Bengal, India. These pumps were implemented to reduce dangerous arsenic levels in drinking water. Other speakers included Bob DiFilippo, the Principal Hydrogeologist with Engineers Without Borders-USA, Northeast Region, and Dr. Andrew Trevett, Senior Adviser for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) at UNICEF, who previously worked as an Environmental Health Adviser in Bangladesh and Nepal for the the World Health Organization. His presentation aligned very well with this year's conference central theme, a theme that permeated many of the conversations at this year's event: Performance Indicators for Sustainable Water and Sanitation Projects.

Dr. Trevett discussed the various indicator programs responsible for monitoring the water crisis and the performance of projects, iincluding Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) and International Benchmarking Network (IBNet), along with U.N. Millennium Development Goal #7.C, that seeks to reduce by half the percentage of people without access to clean water by 2015. He also mentioned the challenges the go along with any project, including the issues of access, sustainability, policy, planning, budget, impact, quality, use, functionality, and the overall value of projects. Mary Rodgers, with H2O for Life, highlighted the importance of water crisis education in both children and adults.

A panel discussion by Susan Davis, Elynn Walter, and John Sauer took a deeper look at how development projects are running on a local level in developing nations and the challenges associated with them. They also provided many project and organizations that have done well in the field, and how their success could be replicated by future projects. As with all development work, cost is a major factor that can determine the success or failure of a project, no matter how much good it may be doing. Howard Neukrug spoke on this issue, discussing the “value” and “cost” of water and how difficult it is to determine. Alexander Danilenko, from the World Bank, Sasha Koo-Oshima from the EPA Office of Water, and Shannon Marquez from the Drexel School of Public Health, offered their knowledgeable insight into the development of global sustainable water security.

Along with a lunch and a visit to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, those in attendance were able to peruse various exhibits set up by students and organizations showing not only the problems of the water crisis, but the solutions that are currently being implemented across the globe, solutions in which PGWI is playing an important role. PGWI and this days' conference are exemplars of how the Philadelphia community, with its large university and humanitarian population, can reach around the globe and make a positive difference. As the international water crisis continues to develop, the PGWI and dedicated individuals continue to fight and find solutions that work and make a real difference in the lives of many.