Social Enterprise – Part 1

Presented by: Center for Balanced Development


Focus: Water 


Conceptual Framework:


History and background

Water is the essence of life. Early civilizations were established along rivers and bodies of water to have easy access to water for basic needs, seafood, agriculture and later on for industrial use. Earliest forms of transportation were rafts and boats made of wood and animal skin.  Wars have been fought by nations and tribes throughout history to have more access to water and oceans. Water covers more than 70% of earth’s surface. 65 to 90% of our human cells are made up of water. Today, some medical researchers believe that illnesses are primarily the outcome of water depravation and cellular dehydration.  


Present Status & Needs

Today having access to clean and drinkable water is a major issue in many parts of the world. It’s shocking to realize that some 1.1 billion people do NOT have access to drinkable water. In Africa, some 50% of the population do not have access to drinkable water. Global warming is also causing draught and less rain in many parts of the world which in turn contributes to dryness and more frequent wild fires that each year burn our forests and habitat. On top of that, pollution from manufacturing, sewage and other waste material are finding their way into our oceans. In fact, water contamination and pollution threatens marine life and our sources of seafood. According to UN statistics, up to some 50% of seafood in some parts of the world have high levels of toxic materials such as Mercury and Lead.      


Future Outlook

As scientists search other planets for signs of life, primarily by looking for traces of water, here on earth, water is increasingly becoming an issue for us and life as we know it. Truly,  having access to water is critical for our survival in every sense of the word. Unless we take measure to conserve and protect our water resources, there could be serious consequences in terms of human health, hygiene, sanitation, agriculture, food production, marine life, manufacturing, wild fires, wars and life on our planet will be threatened.    



Application for Social Enterprise Focused on Water:


Quality check

First and foremost we need to have the means of checking the quality of the water that we drink in various parts of the world. There is a great need for social entrepreneurs and public administration all over the world to take on this responsibility. We also need to be educated on the consequences of polluting our rivers and oceans. Here, documentary TV programs and filmmakers can play a big role to reach out to some 5 billion people have access to Television. 


Water Treatment

We need solutions in terms of water treatment that can be easily produced in any part of the world using commonly available materials in their local area. In essence, there is a dire need for us to create social enterprises that can research and come up with ways of addressing the issue of water treatment without fancy and expensive filters that most poor countries cannot afford. I know of one social enterprise in the US that is currently working on both simple quality check measurement tools and inventing water treatment tools using natural elements readily available worldwide.



I think water decontamination without the usage of heavy chemicals which can be costly and problematic in terms of marine life and health hazards is probably the area that needs immediate attention. Again, I know of an effort being made to invent mechanical means of removing contamination from the oceans and large bodies of water. However, the speed of water contamination continues at an alarming rate. A recent research on the quality of deep ocean water reveals that at remote locations in the heart of the Pacific ocean and thousands of miles away from major population centers, scientists have found traces of plastic molecules. This is very revealing about the quality of our seafood and its potential hazards to our health. 



Here something must be said for water conservation as a means of saving precious water that is quickly becoming a serious matter. We need to find new concepts of irrigation and landscaping that require little water. Drip irrigation has been a wonderful tool that is being used by farmers in the far corners of the world and social enterprises focusing on this innovation have been very successful in reaching out to large numbers of farmers with very simple solutions and through micro-lending.



Implications of a Social Enterprise Focused on Water:



Boutros Boutros-Gali, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, says that the wars of 21st century will be fought over water. Truly, adequate access to water can be detrimental to social harmony and peace. In many parts of the world where drinkable water is an issue, the effects on the people’s health, mindset and social structure can be devastating. Living in rich countries where we are not faced with water availability issues, it is hard to imagine that such a basic human need can become so complex and the cause of social conflicts.



The immediate impact is on agriculture and food production. In some countries where this trend has been worsening over the past few decades, the devastation of the economy has reached a critical stage. This is particularly obvious in parts of Africa. In the past few years, draught in the central plains of the United States has caused a number of towns in to ration water down to 50 gallons/day/household. Here, recent wild fires burning the forests has drained the reservoir and there is a great danger of further draining the water resources if there are more wild fires. Draught also makes it difficult for industrial production and waste management. Overall, lack of water can easily push people to abandon the area in search of areas with adequate supply of water.       



Water crisis is a fact of life in the modern times. As we had mentioned earlier, water is really the source of life in every sense of the word. Lack of water in turn affects the whole ecological chain from minerals to vegetables to animals and human beings. Without water, we quickly lose our ecological balance and life cannot exist. Water is the main natural resource that can correct our ecological imbalance and literally, wash away the waste, contamination & pollution. The future generations will have to pay a huge price for our lack of attention in polluting the oceans and the wasting of water. 


In conclusion, water has always been at the foundation of civilizations and life on earth. everyone on earth – now surpassing 7 billion – need water for their existence and well-being. Therefore, water-related studies and enterprise initiatives present tremendous possibilities is at the bedrock of human civilization. I hope that more people, particularly the young generation, take it upon themselves to initiate innovations that would help the people of the world to have access to good quality water for the advancement of the community, good health and prosperity.  

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