GangaJal for Sale

In the orange
It’s in the orange
It’s the red
Sun red
Passing behind

Matchstick Delhi
Behind the apartments

With scraggly rebar hair

Workers pounding rocks

Pouring rocks
It’s the orange

The red

The bhindi

Drawing my eyes

Towards the center

Of a woman’s forehead

A red mark of life

Marriage too

I am told
It’s the orange

The redolent

Food carts

Broadcasting flavor 

Into the city

Flushing cheeks

Filling bellies
It’s the red

It’s the orange

That makes a

Green-black river

Burst when

The Puja fire

Is set afloat
It’s the red

It’s the orange

The life
It’s a city
In the orange

Delhi has given me a place for near three weeks now as I have prepared to paddle with GangesSUP for 8 weeks down the Ganga. Other travelers warned that the big cities of India would overwhelm, that the crowds and the noise would be too much.

I understand what they were talking about. When I first arrived I was staying with Shilpika Gautam, the main force behind the trip that we are about to undertake. She and her family, Dr. Sudhir and Usha Sharma from the last entry live in Noida. Delhi is like Washington DC, it’s known as Delhi NCR, the National Capital Region. Just to the north and east is Uttar Pradesh, literally “northern state,” while to the west lies Haryana. Noida lies just across the Yamuna River from Delhi, and it is in Uttar Pradesh. 
Noida would be a half hour drive from Delhi proper without traffic. With it can take one or two hours, impossible to predict. Traffic here is trucks belching around the streets with vibrant hand painted signs on their tail ends asking you to “honk please”; a whir of tuktuk engines bumbling left and right trying to weave around the cars; motorcycles doing near acrobatics to find the path of least resistance even on the sidewalk; cycle rickshaws and peddlers carrying 30 foot long rebar; pedstrians walking in the expressway and cars going the wrong way. All honk and shout and ring bells to make themselves known to the masses.

The endless car horns play to personalities. Some earsplitting and overpowering like a diva with bronchitis and a megaphone, some  deep like James Earl Jones at a boxing match,  others high pitched and squeaky–Missy Mouse inhaling helium,  the funniest are muffled by overuse, an Oompa Loompa singing, head in a fishbowl.
Watching this traffic it’s astonishing that anybody gets anywhere, but sure enough the people move steadily like a river with incalculable bifurcations, eddies, and directions, a fuel powered river of metal winding ceaselessly around the city. 
About halfway to Noida, the road climbs up a small ways onto a bridge. It is at that point that one sees the Yamuna River, a stoic river, blackish in color, revealing no sign of flow. The Yamuna is born very close to the Ganges in the Garhwal Himalayas. The Yamuna flows from the bowls of the high peaks just west of those that are the beginnings of the Ganga. The two rivers flow parallel, twins, out of the mountains, through the hills, and into the plains. Between them is some of the richest agricultural land in all of India, and like the Ganga, the Yamuna is considered a goddess to Hindus, a sacred river. 

Also like the Ganges, the Yamuna is highly polluted with industrial effluents, agricultural runoff, sewage, and garbage. Shilpika went to the Yamuna about two weeks ago to film a sequence for an Indian media station called Zee News. They filmed it at the banks of the Yamuna, and just as she was beginning to speak, a pig corpse came floating into the picture. Just then a man began dumping garbage from the bridge above her into the water. Upset with the pig, another man, picking trash around the river to resell, paddled out onto the water in his makeshift float made from scavenged material to try and push the pig out of the way. After all of that, another man arrived to make an offering, a puja, to the river and to take a small bath in the waters. 

There is so much activity on the river, so much connection with the waters, so much love for them. But the way of treating the river as a repository for offerings to deities, garbage, sewage, and the holiest place for the dead baffles me. So much converges there. Why would anyone dump their garbage or dead pig in the Yamuna? The same water required for drinking and growing food?
 I realize that I think of this as a violation of an environmental code. It’s engrained in me, but in muh of India there is a different code completely. The river is a different being. The river is meant to clean all and wash it away. In some sense it does, but 1.3 billion people in India all sharing in the watercycle is a lot to consider. One small bag of garbage X 1,300,000,000 is a lot of garbage everyday not to mention 1,300,000,000 people’s sewage.
What is water?

A question abstract as color

Liquid in a sense
With all this in mind, finally Pascal, Spike, Kumaran, Shilps, and I are all in Delhi with all of our equipment. 
On Sunday morning, Shilps, Pascal, and I went to make a little video to thank Starboard, a sponsor who gave us our paddleboards, for supporting our trip. We decided to film at India Gate which is India’s equivalent of the National Mall in Washington DC, you know long pools between a monument a official buildings, a big park for people to wander around. The difference here is that people were playing cricket all over the park in the morning, people swim in the fountains all day, kids playing all about. It’s quite an image. And rather than an obelisk, a huge gate rises up in the center like the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a beautiful site.

We arrived early, around 7 and already the cricket games were in full swing. Kids were shouting and birds were everywhere, a few Chai Wallas wandered about with their big huge kettles. 
We started to prepare our boards by the ponds, and drew quite a crowd of curious onlookers. We got out on the water and started shooting video, and the crowd grew. Policemen showed up as well, and though at first we feared we were going to get in trouble, perhaps have to grease palms or worse, they just came to take pictures of the funny looking standup boats.
Not long after we began paddling, Shilps asked one of the people looking on if they wanted to try. Pretty soon all four of us were off our boards and locals were riding around with such joy and hilarity on our boards. None had ever seen a paddleboard or done it before, and we got such a kick out of it.
A little boy who was shirtless came wading through the water to ask me if he could ride. Once I got him on the board, we couldn’t get him off. For an hour he was either paddling around or chasing other boats through the water, even climbing on board with others. It made for a great spectacle.
Spike loaned his board to a guy who turned out to be a yoga instructor. Spike told the man that some people do yoga on stand up paddleboards, and the guy immediately started. He did some amazing poses and we were all quite impressed. 

The image that has been burned on my mind from that morning was Shilpika as she got three little girls onto her board, all under eight years old, one of them might have been four. As she was paddling around speaking with them in Hindi, she looked up at me where I was taking pictures on the shore and told me that one of the girls had never been on a boat before. All of them were beaming, and I couldn’t help but feel in awe to be on this adventure with a pioneering Indian woman, so supportive of her native place, encouraging a cleaner river, the source of life, and helping the new generation to take onto the adventure.

Last night waiting in the postoffice to mail letters to district magistrates all along the river, I was surrounded by guys trying to, like me, beat the very slow mailroom, and get their parcels off. Feeling quite frustrated I looked up and saw a sign that said “Gangajal for sale here” or “Ganges Water for sale here.” In Delhi, far from the Ganges, that sign gave me plenty to think about as I finished mailing. 

Tomorrow the five of us will head towards Rishikesh, and then up to Gaumukh, the headwaters of the Ganges to begin our journey downriver. 


Turbid air


My lungs

Holding them

Two balloons


In the hands

Of a nervous

In awe

Of all he sees

Through the


I had read of the smells of India. The potency of sewage and spice, railing through the hefty air, dancing like beauty and the beast through the racket of rickshaws and the rich color of streetlife.
I walked out of the metro from Indira Ghandi International Airport in New Delhi, which I found marvelously clean and timely, at 5:30AM. What I found splayed before me was a very different scene from the orderly metro. A few hundred meters from the station door rose a while building with a blaring red sign that read “New Dheli.” Between me and that beacon at the center of India, there was a groundbreaking turbulence.
A sea of green and yellow tuk-tuks bounced and beeped around a maze of police gates. Thousands of rickshaws, as though ants building an enormous colony of asphalt, concrete, and fake leather seats. 

The street carts where occupied by blanketed bodies sleeping atop the store of goods, young boys guarding the merchandise with their bodies, veiled from the world in sleep. A chai wallah waited with a steaming pot for the next bleary eyed stranger to get a cup of tea. A cow nearby sniffed a murky pothole, it’s neckbell tolling the hour, 5:37, another day in the pasture. 

This scene, reflecting back, caused me some shock. I knew it was coming, but it was like being fired out of a canon into a world that seemed, at first, to only want my money. Dozens of drivers and more salesman offered me various services and goods as I walked around trying to find my way through the onslaught of traffic. 
It was obvious to me that I was a walking stock of money, with my western-wear and big blue rucksack, my cap and not-Indianess. But this was only true until I inquired for help. As soon as I asked for something, the offers and insights for a transaction evaporated, and within minutes, I had 5 or 6 men providing me detailed instructions on where I had to go, how to avoid being ripped off, and even offering to show me the way to my next stop.
The warmth of those reactions soothed me and put my anxieties of being in the city to rest: just ask. Like a hot-springs of humanity, simultaneously offering unknown and dangerous depths and abundant healing waters,
Delhi is India’s major governmental hub, it’s largest city. It is home to well over 20,000,000 people, 200 lakhs being the typical measure here, a lakh being 1,00,000 or 100,000 for the western minds.

Though many had cautioned me not to spend too much time in the overwhelming rough and tumble of Indian cities, I was here on a mission, to meet up with Shilpika Gautam, the impassioned and relentless mind behind the stand up paddleboarding trip down the Ganges River. 
I arrived a day before Shilps came in from London, though her parents live in Noida, a city that abuts Delhi from the opposite bank of the Yamuna River, a holy tributary of the Ganga. 
Shilps father, Dr. Sudhir Sharma, was busy through the day, and I was to meet him at 5PM, so I scheduled a meeting with Mrs. Chicu Lokgariwar, a writer and activist in India with the India Water Portal, the leading news outlet for all things water. 
I made my way by metro to the Defense Colony Market in a district of the city called Lagpat Nagar. When I arrived, I found a nice place to sit, and I watched a morning cricket match run its course in the parking lot down the way, behind me a group of men practiced some sort of marching excercise, at once looking professional and completely goofy. 
The businesses of the market slowly opened, shopkeepers swept dust off the entryways and stray dogs came sniffing, curious to see if I could give them scraps, but always shy, staying a few feet away. 
At one point some children, not more than 9 or 10 years old came up to me begging for money. The trio looked quite rough, and I wanted to help, though I felt out of place giving them money. My intuition told me no. They hung around begging, asking, reaching out, sometimes touching me. I had to be quite direct, “Nahi” I said authoritatively, one of the few Hindi words I know, “no.”
When it was finally time to meet Chicu at a very nice cafe in the market, I asked her about these kids. She told me not to give money, that they are part of gangs, often it causes more harm than good. Later a new friend Brendon who lives in Mumbai explained to me that one time he saw a group of kids begging in traffic. Someone gave them some cash and they began to scamper towards the woods by the roadside. Just as they got close, he saw a man with a stick of bamboo emerge from the trees and lash the kids, hard. They fell and gave him the money. As Brendon began driving away, the kids ran back out towards the road to beg again. 

The toughness of street people is no surprise. The hardship that affronts those kids juxtaposed sharply against Chicu and I enjpoying our beautiful coffees in the air conditioned cafe as she taught me about her ideals and passions concerning water in India. Her mission is to hear the silenced voices, the voices of muslims and women who get such little attention in Indian press. I thought of Amy Goodman, “go where the silence is.” I watched the kids running around outside the window. Playing and trying to beg a living all at once.

I felt so grateful to be speaking with this progressive, fascinating woman within the first hours of my stay in India. She offered loads of insights and leads. Chicu and I parted ways and I rambled about the city for a few hours before getting in touch with Dr. Sudhir. He told me he had already gone back to Noida and I was to take a metro to meet him. 
I did as he said, arriving a bit before he did. Outside the metro stop was a McDonalds. I went in, thinking about the odd reality that I was in an American corporate chain that I never visit in the USA. The people there seemed dignified and many were families eating out all together, there was a birthday party as well. I sat next to the bust of Ronald Mcdonald with my water, reading a book that rested against his goofy red plaster shoe. 
A minute later Dr. Sudhir arrived. A tall and slender man, Dr. Sudhir has a trim mustance and a stoic demeanor, he seemed extremely ordered and immediately with little formality we walked off towards the car. We spent a moment in the chaos of the another rickshaw clogged artery before Dr. Sudhir found his driver and his white sedan. After some quick directions we whizzed off through the disorganized city streets, Dr. Sudhir commenting that Delhi was more organized than Noida. 

We stopped in the road unannounced to me, and Dr. Sudhir asked if I wanted to join him. I said OK, and we got out. On turning I saw a truly lovely scene, something that filled me with happiness. Beside the road was a line of vendors with vegetables arranged in the most wonderful arrays and vendors shouting their bounty. I thought of Saturday farmers markrts with my mom at home… Fresh vegetables, open air, good conversation.

We walked through as Dr. Sudhir aptly navigated the vendors, picking the cream of the crop from each one. At a certain point he executed the most skillful banana purchase I’ve ever seen. We walked past about 5 banana stands, then Dr. Sudhir did a double take. A moment later, he was examining a bouquet of bananas with as much care as he might a patient, feeling for bruises and identifying which pieces needed amputation. The vendor arrived from nowhere and they began to negotiate. Dr. Sudhir showed the man the unfit fruits and they took them off the bundle. The vendor complaining all the while. After 2 minutes the deal was settled, and we had a beautiful bunch of 10 perfectly spotten bananas, the last purchase at market. 
Still, burned into my head is an image from behind the banana stand; a boy of perhaps 12 sitting before a bunch of potatos and onions, behind him a cycle-cart and a cow stood idly in a field of garbage, between them ran a drain of horrifying cloudy water. The goodness of life, the hardship of work, the refuse of civilization, and the Gai, the Hindu cow, the mother, all standing together in one frame, set against the skeletons of concrete skyrises. 

In the car on the way home Dr. Sudhir and I indulged in some bananas. He explained that he and his wife are fully vegetarian. When we arrived at their place, a series of highrises that Dr. Sudhir referred to as a “society,” we ascended to the 26th floor where Mrs. Usha, Dr. Sudhir’s wife greeted us warmly at the door. Inside was an extremely clean, decorated living room with shrines of hindu Gods and a large statue of Ganesh. 
The smell of spices rolled out into the living room from the kitchen. Mrs. Usha brought out some tea and we spoke for a while about the nature of my visit. That I am to be one of the team that will paddle down the Ganga with their daughter, a plan they seemed wholheartedly unimpressed with, they want her to be married and settle into a job. 
I didn’t know what to say, I just nodded and appreciated my rich cup of black tea with ginger. 
I bathed and rested before super, when Mrs. Usha brought out the first of what was to be a week full of masterpiece meals. Her passion for cooking and food was wonderful. She taught me about what was in each dish and told me a bit about Hinduism, about how now was the time to celebrate Ganesh, the elephant headed God. She told me that she had worked as a computer programmer for many years, but was now retired, taking care of the house and her family. 

With each bite I took I could feel the care and time in the wonderful preparations. I felt relaxed from the maze of city that I had navigated all day, suddenly able to realize the immensity of India. 1.3 billion people and growing. 
I wished at that moment, as Mrs. Usha delighted in Dr. Sudhir and my enjoyment of her food, that all the world could eat like I was eating, could steady to the masala dal and the fresh chapatis, could feel such calm after a day in the storm of the world. 

World Water Week

“¿Cuándo vas a aprender,

Hombre de papel?

¿Cuándo vas a entender,

que la vida no se puede vender?”
“When are you going to learn,

Man of paper?

When are you going to understand

That life cannot be sold?”

Those are the carefully crafted words of my dear friends Angela Valenzuela and Augustin Martz, written by the pair as they explored the role of music to encourage social change around climate, specifically around international climate negotiations. In their thoughtful words are the roots of frustration at the veil that sits between burgeoning humanity and the rich, delicate earth. Why must we buy and sell the things that give us life? Aren’t these our rights?
You can listen to their music here:
Part of a group of students from College of the Atlantic called Earth in Brackets or [E], Angela and Augustin wrote this song as they prepared to go to COP21, the “Conference of the Parties” in Paris in December 2015, when the Paris Agreement was written. The intent of [E] was to encourage the policy makers there to make sound and responsible decisions and to coalesce with a massive body of NGOs and social movements to seek the political atmosphere the globe needs to move towards a sustainable and just future.
Sharing a bit in this mission and the feelings that Angela and Augustin so passionately express, I attended World Water Week in Stockholm from August 28 to September 2, a conference specifically designed to discuss the role of water and sanitation in global environmental politics. The aim of the conference, hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute is to bring together important voices who deal with water related issues from across the globe to create clear discourse and vision about what must be done to bring fresh drinking water and sanitation to everyone in economically viable ways, not to mention to encourage environmental justice, good science, and to promote creative projects. 

The event was chock-full of people in suits and environmental NGOs trying to get their agendas across to the masses, bundles of young professionals networking, and ministers and officials from the world over. Behind all the rhetoric, I found it trying to figure out which groups were really doing the work they claimed and making strides towards the ideal world that was spoken about all week. Though water, along with air, is one of our most fundamental resources, it is no easy task to provide 7.25 billion people and growing with healthy water, good sanitation, and healthy environments.

Through my ignorance and naivety, my strong opinions and curiosities, I waded through the conference as if dipping my cup in the world’s water bodies, just getting a taste for what’s going on there. Ultimately I left feeling motivated and encouraged by the fact that even though water, the elixir of life, is abstracted, bought and sold, and manipulated by humanity, there are many, many people seeking real ways to make a better future for all of us. 
I asked another friend of mine and integral member of [E], Aneesa Khan, if the group would like a report from the week. She said they would, so the rest of my entry will take it’s form as that report. I hope you enjoy. Please write me with concerns, questions, criticisms. 
Report from World Water Week, Stockholm, August 28-September 2, 2016
“Water for Sustainable Growth” — What are we talking about here?
“We need a circular economy,” a different model, one that defies the structures that our lawmakers are accustomed to. To achieve water security and sanitation, we need a model that will create self supporting systems, an economy based not on linear growth, but on natural cycles like that of water. This was the resounding message at the finale of World Water Week, spoken by Pablo Bereciartua, Argentina’s Undersecretary for Water Resources, and Torkil Jonch Clauser, of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) who hosted the event.
Bereciartua, Clauser, and myriad other speakers outlined the need for clear action to be taken in water and sanitation worldwide. In the last year, water and sanitation were finally given status as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). SDG 6 states that by 2030 there must be access to clean drinking water and sanitation for all the world. But SDG status does not mean much without implementation, Bereciartua said “there is consensus on the issue but no course of action.” And to create actions that are economically feasible and can be implemented functionally is a major hurdle.
Before I go on, I will just say that “water” in this context generally applies to drinking water and water for agriculture, and “sanitation” applies to wastewater treatment, clean facilities, clean rivers, lakes, and aquifers, and so on.

During the opening plenary, Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs gave a grounding speech that lit upon the scale and complexity of achieving SDG 6; as a representative of Sweden’s “feminist government,” the first ever government proclaimed as such, Wallstrom highlighted the challenges that women face with water and sanitation, a preface to one of the keystone issues that was discussed during the week.
Wallstrom spoke of how one in four Indian girls drop out of school in 10th grade because of family and home duties, and many more have to skip school every time they have a period, missing up to a week each time. She explained that as many as 60% of women working in major textile factories in Bangladesh do not have access to proper, sanitary menstrual materials and had to use rags from the factory floor during their periods leading to enormous rates of illness and infection. This can be prevented, she said, and it is, already this situation is being addressed in Bangladesh, but there is so much to be done.
What Wallstrom struck on, to the quiet awe and recognition of the audience struck by the agency in her words, is one of the myriad examples of unbalanced consequences that result from water insecurity and unsanitary living conditions. That imbalance, between rich and poor, between genders, between regions of the world, is why water and sanitation present challenges that requires global collaboration. The majority of those most affected by water insecurity, poor sanitation, and resulting injustice are those with the least apparent power to make the needed changes. The mantra of the week looking towards these challenges was “implementation, implementation, implementation.”
India and Bangladesh were frequently used as examples, especially since Indian Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was elected on a platform of environmental rejuvenation, in particular with his promises to clean the Ganges River and provide sanitation to all of India by 2019, an extremely ambitious goal. I am also in India now, preparing to travel along and learn about the Ganges River, so I went to many events focused on South Asia.

I attended a special session on Modi’s program Swachh Bharat, a national sanitation effort to encourage clean water and sanitation for all of India. Led by Parameshwaran Iyer, Secretary of India’s Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, a panel presented on the project and discussed the plans to make India ODF, open defecation free, by 2019. In India only 10% of wastewater is treated, the vast majority of India’s sewage flows unhindered into waterways, creating immense pollution that leads to water borne illness and ecological troubles. 
Over 400 children below 5 years die per day in India of illness related to unsafe waters. The panel discussed the challenges of getting people to participate in Swachh Bharat. Efforts are well underway to provide toilets and facilities to villages over all of India, but the greatest stumbling block is getting people to use them. Just building a toilet isn’t enough. What is involved is a shift of culture and consciousness, which is consequently much more difficult to create than a new john. The Indian government provides various incentives such as a program to provide piped drinking water to any village that can prove that it has become ODF. These sorts of incentives are an important facet of implementation everywhere because sanitation generally requires a change in people’s ways of life, and we are creatures of habit. 
The issue of changing practice was discussed in many seminars. At “Sigmund Freud: The Missing Link in Water and Sanitation?,” a panel of development officials and activists discussed held a creative forum to discuss ideas about how the understanding of the subconscious from psychoanalysis might be able to help those who work in sanitation. Using strategies to change thinking habits perhaps one can learn to motivate the sort of life-changes it requires to achieve sanitary living. At one point the group cleverly staged a conversation between a man and his poop, and the poop reminded the man of its value as a resource for fertilizing and contributing to a growing world (did someone say sustainable growth?). Jack Sim, “The Toilet Guy” who started the World Toilet Organization (yes, WTO, not to be confused with the world trade o), spoke about making toilets and sanitation sexy, making it more than fashionable, making it a trend, and thus creating the impetus for people to demand toilets and to use them effectively. 
We all know that what follows a toilet is pee and poop and what to do with them. As those of us who know Lisa Bjerke and her work in “discarded resources” know, it’s key to treat “waste” not as waste, out of sight and out of mind, but as a valuable resource that can be utilized or minimized, upcycled in some way (If you don’t know Lisa’s work, watch her TEDx here: Part of Lisa’s message is also part of the point that the panelists wanted to make… Let’s make use of these resources in creative economical ways!
From what I learned speaking with scientists and engineers working in sanitation, the most promising way of treating excrement in places developing their sanitation services is some sort of biodigester or composting toilet. With these technologies, the solids become either methane gas that can be collected and used for cooking or they become useful, sanitary fertilizer in around five years and for things like forests it can be used even sooner after two or three years. 
There is a lot of evidence from the field and science supporting composting toilets and biodigesters as sanitary, on site, and economical ways to make excrement into something readily useful. Though there is also evidence that they can cause groundwater pollution as the liquids seep out of the basins. I spoke to Nishita Sinha at her poster presentation “Experimental Studied in Developing Safe Sanitation Solutions.” As an 11th grader, Nishita was a runner for the Junior Water Prize during the week, and she devoted tremendous time and energy to finding cheap and accessible ways to filter the harmful materials out of the liquid waste in composting toilets. As the technology advances and the benefits are clear, the trouble is, how to get farmers on a large scale to use humanure? Any ideas?
I just learned that the Rich Earth Institute in Vermont partnered with the University of Michigan have gotten a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the potential to use urine for fertilizer on a large scale. They are honing the science and technology now and testing for the effect of pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in the urine. Check it out:
I won’t go further into wastewater treatment, but I will just point out one very good question that was proposed during the conversation between the man and his poo: why are humans the only terrestrial mammal that pumps our excrement into bodies of water?

The newly founded High Level Panel on Water was present at WWW for a series of meetings to discuss the group’s role in international water governance. The HLPW is a panel that was formed as a heads-of-state panel to advise UN bodies and federal governments who are making water-related decisions. In the seminar the HLPW delivered, which was the first of their efforts to communicate their work publicly, they asked for recommendations from the participants as to what they should focus on. 
Resoundingly, it was clear that those present at World Water Week want the HLPW to make strong recommendations to international and national bodies in order to act quickly and diligently and make the success of SDG 6 a reality. Recommendations included using the frameworks from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a framework to head start work on the SDGs, and to serve as a checks and balances agent, making sure that the allocation of funds and the implementation that is happening is effective and well executed. 
One of the best examples of why it is important to have proper implementation is hydropower. There were presentations about dams ranging from small sand-reservoir dams that provide just enough power for a few hundred villagers in Botswana, to those as large as the Three-Gorges Dam in China producing 18GW of power.
 A real hot topic now is Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, a 6GW project currently under construction on the Blue Nile, the largest tributary of the Nile River. Ethiopia’s government, managing a very water-stressed nation, is building the dam in hopes of creating major economic growth and new opportunities for the country in addition to having new water-storage capacity to provide for the thirsty nation. However, Sudan and Egypt are concerned with the outcome of this project, the Nile being the major water source for both nations. If the dam is poorly implemented there will be catastrophic outcomes for the nations downriver, including dramatic loss of riverflow, draught, and famine. Transboundary issues are some of the most contended in water governance, and in a number of seminars it was clear that international legal frameworks are challenged by lack of regulators, corruption, and unsatisfactory science and environmental impact statements.
This brings me to the final point that I will summarize from the conference: finance. Water projects are costly, but how do we pay for them? Charging for water is often discussed as a violation of human rights, but already, the world over, people are buying water all the time.The infrastructure to provide clean water access and effective treatment is a major cost, particularly to less wealthy nations, but if water and sanitation are in good shape, the potential for growth is enormous. 
The figures vary widely, but in the UN’s “World Water Development Report 2016,” they estimate that up to 115bil USD could be saved if irrigation farming worldwide switches from flood irrigation to water-conserving technologies by 2030. In a report put forward by SIWI in 2005, “Making Water a Part of Economic Development,” they estimated that an 11bil USD investment in water infrastructure worldwide would have an 84bil USD return. The potential to create new opportunities across the world with improved water infrastructure and governance is tremendous, but it takes a strong initial investment, and where is the money? There were non-stop calls during the week for engagement on the part of the public sector, but also the private sector for investment in water. 
I attended a seminar on the Jordan River where I learned of work that SIWI is doing with Ecopeace and the governments of Jordan, Israel, and Palestine to formulate a working plan for an investment package in the Jordan River valley that will turn a 4 billion dollar initial investment into a 75 billion dollar return by 2050 from agriculture, tourism, and other industries. It all may sound well and good, but in a region with unstable political relations and potential drought at any time, the risks to investment are significant, not to mention that the initial investors must make inglorious payments for things like wastewater treatment facilities. 
With all of that considered, the group presented a compelling model that allows for investor mobility and strong public-private partnerships to get the brunt work investments made like the infrastructure projects in order to get to things like promoting a vibrant tourist industry, growing recreation, agriculture, and industry. The best part is that one of the pillars of the plan is to insure the sustained health of the Jordan River, one of the world’s most threatened waterways. This is a big step for a region that had no water in its river in 2009.
This project exemplifies the potential for water to be a unifying factor rather than a dividing force. With patience and careful planning SIWI and Ecopeace created a model that might be an impetus for areas in many places to structure investment models that can promote sustainable economic growth with an environmental priority. That sort of innovation, we can expect, will become more and more common as population growth and pressure on water increase. 
At the close of the week, Dr. Abdeladim Lhafi, the High Commissioner for COP22 in Marrakesh said that water and sanitation would be dedicated one day at the conference. As we look forward to that and what else is to come, it is evermore important that we see water as a nexus point where the expanse of environmental indicators comes together, where the whole earth is tied together in the water cycle, where health meets agriculture meets energy meets pollution meets fisheries, meets, well, a goose. 

It can leave a bitter taste to address such staggering figures and difficult challenges, let alone to put a price to water, a most poetic fluid that makes life possible for all of us. The issues in water are often elementary; we are not sending someone to mars, engineering lab-grown beef patties, or creating cars that drive themselves, we are providing comfortable, clean places to go relieve ourselves, turning excrement into food, ensuring that rivers are not overrun with industrial sludge or dammed to oblivion. What is truly sweet is a good glass of water, an enjoyable poop, carrots and hummus (especially grown from pee fertilizer), and a swim.
The work goes on!
Works Cited:

SIWI. 2005. “Making Water a Part of Economic Development: The Economic Benefits of Improved Water Management and Services.”

SIWI. “2016 Finalists, Stockholm Junior Water Prize.”

SIWI. 2016. World Water Week — Various Seminars.

UN. Sustainable Development Goals.

UN. “2016 World Water Development Report: Water and Jobs.”

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