Introducing the City Water Project

by Alish Lalor

The City Water Project (CWP) aims to improve people’s access to clean drinking water by promot-ing consumption where water is already clean and improving quality where it is not. The Dutch consider “water as civilisation” and we agree. Every human can benefit from clean drinking water, but not everyone has access to it. Access takes time, money and effort.

Our aim is to eventually focus on a different city each month for our campaign. Each campaign has three stages. In the preparation stage, we contact local groups interested in water quality: the water utility, the regulator, and anyone else we can think of to learn more about the city’s water quality situation. In the active stage, we invite local citizens to give their opinions on water quality. We use social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as well as direct and anonymous emails to understand the concerns of locals who experience poor water quality but lack ways of expressing their views. Our goal is to then publish as much information as possible in a format that allows local journalists to write articles aimed at explaining matters and questioning causes, helps citizens understand where priorities might lie, and assists water managers in responding to the needs of their consumers. In the handover stage, we want to leave local groups with momentum for change and the tools to deliver change. Water quality issues will not be solved in a month, let alone several years, so we want to do as much as we can to support long term, local solutions.

Our campaign begins in The Hague, partly because it is a city with relatively few problems regarding drinking water. We describe it as our pilot campaign, where we experiment with lots of different methods of information gathering and proliferation, as well as attempting to build contacts which can help to take us all over the world. Because we all live in The Hague, it is easier for us to get immediate feedback on the methods we are using, and so we are able to refine these before attempting to help a city from further away.

However, our project in The Hague is not a “dummy” project— we believe that the information we are gathering is important; after all, no system is perfect, and improvements can always be made. One of the issues we have come across relates to The Hague’s large number of international inhabitants. When a person moves here from a country where tap water is not safe, they may continue to rely on bottled water here, even when there is no need to do so. Most of the improvements in The Hague will stem from spreading information about the quality of drinking water, rather than improvements to the physical system itself.

So, please help us help in The Hague by filling in our survey on perceptions of water quality (available in English, Dutch, Turkish, Arabic and Spanish) and by sharing this project with your friends and colleagues in the Hague. You can also check out news on our blog, and meet the people behind the project.

Thanks from the City Water Project team!