Celebrities for Clean Water Spotlight

Just like bottled water companies, clean water advocates in nonprofit efforts have caught on to the best advertising tool in the market: Celebrities. Many celebrities have given their fame and money to good causes. (Sadly, many celebrities endorse bottled water, also, but that’s a post for another day.) The latest trend among stars like Mark Ruffalo, Adam Lambert, Alyssa Milano and Matt Damon is clean water. We thought we’d take some time to highlight what these celebrities are doing to ensure access to clean water in the U.S. and beyond.

Mark Ruffalo – The Fight Against Natural Gas Fracking

The grassroots organization, Frack Action, was struggling to garner media attention for their opposition to natural gas drilling in New York State, until they brought Mark Ruffalo on board. Fracking is a process that involves injecting water and chemicals under high pressure into rock formations, in order to extract natural gas. Filmmaker, Josh Fox, recently portrayed the consequences of fracking in his documentary, Gasland, in which farmers across the U.S. can be seen to light their tap water on fire from natural gas contamination.  Ruffalo dedicates himself to the cause with full force, as an unpaid volunteer. He has attended meetings and hearings, lobbied with activists and visited colleges to raise awareness among students. His fame is helping to bring attention to an issue that, otherwise, may have received very little. In fact, it was rumored several months ago that his private screening of Fox’s film may have landed him on the government’s Terror Watch List. Whether or not the rumor is true doesn’t matter; Ruffalo is one celebrity who won’t sell out. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

Adam Lambert and Alyssa Milano – Happy Birthday to the Less Fortunate

2009 American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert is donating his 29th birthday to charity: water – one of many water charities dedicated to bringing clean water to those in developing countries. The concept is simple: instead of asking for gifts for your birthday, ask your friends and family to make donations through your mycharity: water website (which is very easy to set up). All of the proceeds will go toward funding clean water projects in countries like Africa, Asia, Honduras and Haiti. With the mycharity: water website, everyone can follow in Adam Lambert’s footsteps. In fact, Lambert is not the first celebrity to donate his birthday to water charity. Alyssa Milano’s mycharity: water campaigns raised over $92,000 for her 37th birthday in 2009, and another $39,551 for her 38th birthday at the end of last year. Lambert’s goal, is $290,000 by the 29th, as he said in a recent tweet.

Matt Damon – Water.org

If you follow us on twitter, by now you probably know that we are big fans of Water.org. Like charity: water, this organization is dedicated to funding clean water, hygiene and sanitation projects in developing nations. Matt Damon co-founded Water.org with Gary White, and has since been heavily invested in its work. Recently, he accepted the Joel Siegel Award for his work with Water.org, at the Critic’s Choice Awards. We think you should follow them on twitter: @Water.

Moringa Tree Brings Clean Water to Developing Nations

The water treatment process in America and other developed nations uses chemicals like chlorine to rid water of bacteria and other pathogens. The end result is often similar to what you would taste if you accidentally swallowed the water in your neighbor’s swimming pool (unless you choose to purchase a home water filtration system that reduces chlorine taste and odor).  Sadly, developing countries are not so fortunate…

However, a new project funded by the $10,000 Environmental Protection Agency P3 grant (P3 = people, prosperity and planet) has been undertaken by three Penn State engineers to bring clean water to the developing world. The project is a water treatment process involving the moringa seed, which is known for its ability to purify water and food.

Here’s how it works: Moringa seeds contain cationic (positively-charged) proteins. Each protein contains a peptide sequence that acts as a molecular knife, cutting into the cell walls of bacteria and killing them. Because the protein is positively charged, it clings to and wraps up sediment, which is negatively charged, causing it to settle out of water very quickly. Moringa has been used for thousands of years to clarify water. In fact, the idea of using plants for water purification, in general, is not new. You may recall our post on a water filter that uses oregano to kill pathogens.

There are several advantages to purifying water with the moringa seed. The technology is locally acceptable, sustainable and easily accessed by those in developing countries; it may be grown right within a village, lessening the need for the transport of chemicals. The moringa seed grows naturally in harsh environments. Not only does it bring food and water purification; the oil inside the seeds can also be sold for a profit. In addition, the leaves of the moringa tree are highly nutritious, containing loads of vitamins, minerals and proteins, and can be fed to malnourished children.

But the project is not without its challenges. The research team still has a lot of work to do in terms of perfecting the purification process. Other proteins and organic matter in the seeds add biological oxygen to the water that bacteria use as food, allowing any bacteria in the water to grow. As a result, the water does not stay clean for very long and can only be stored for about a day. To counter this problem, the team suggests adding crushed moringa seeds to the water so the proteins can get in, then adding sand to which the active protein will anchor while the inactive proteins and organic matter are rinsed away. Data shows that the active sand that remains can kill pathogens; it is this active sand that will be the essence of the water purifier.

Convincing the people in developing nations that their water supply is unsafe and in need of purification is another challenge the team will face. Surprisingly, even though they may get sick, they often don’t attribute the cause to a dirty water supply.

Bottled Watergate — Politicians Deny Connection to Bottled Water

You know bottled water has a bad rap when politicians want nothing to do with it.

Such was the case recently in Russia, where politicians denied a connection with bottled water, according to an article in the Moscow News. Apparently bottled water bearing the logo of the United Russia brand name — the Russian Federation’s ruling political party — was being sold online. No big deal, right?

Well, it wasn’t until a correspondent from one of Russia’s newspapers confirmed that the bottled water was being made near Moscow, under a signed agreement by the ruling party. United Russia has been met with much criticism regarding its new Clean Water program. This Clean Water program’s intentions sound admirable — to provide clean water to public institutions (i.e. schools and hospitals) in a country that is notorious for having very poor quality tap water.

Critics of the Clean Water program, however, say that many companies will benefit from the public’s money through the program. An article in the Moscow Times notes that inventor Viktor Petrik and United Russia head Boris Gryzlov hold a patent for cleaning radioactive waste. More suspicion regarding  the program arose when water filters made by Petrik’s company “Golden Formula” were chosen for one of the program’s pilot projects.

Despite this criticism, Gryslov maintains that the patent he and Petrik share is not related to the program, and that the water filters were chosen by experts in the field.

Likewise, officials said there was no agreement between the water bottler and the party. Petrik’s “Golden Formula” website also mentioned the United Russia party, but in recent weeks any mention of the United Russia party has been taken down from both the bottled water site as well as the Golden Formula website.

Vodovoz says that the party name must have been on the website by accident and it was just a coincidence, the company’s employee told the newspaper. “The employees’ task is to sell the product, maybe, that is why they told you about the agreement with the party,” he said. The company has not made any official comment.

Earlier the Golden Formula filters to be used in the Clear Water programme also mentioned United Russia on their website. However, after a media storm, all mention of the ruling party disappeared within hours.

Clean Water in Russia? Time will tell.