How can IAPMO help to develop new sources of potable water?

By Shantell Robinson

The following essay won third place in IAPMO’s annual Scholarship Essay Competition.

First introduced in 2009 and open to all high school, university, and trade school students, the competition has elicited entries from all over the world. A student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma wrote this essay.

To know how we can effect change in any situation, we should first ask the question: what are the current issues or stumbling blocks that hinder the needed change? If we do not deal with these issues first, we risk creating a solution that will only be temporary. However, if we can find a way to eradicate those issues or work around them, making their influence on the overall goal insignificant, we put ourselves in a position to solve problems that will have a lasting impact.

In a study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN-Water in 2014, it was found that about 748 million people globally lack access to improved drinking water and an estimated 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is contaminated by life-threatening bacteria. The effects of this are felt within a country’s individual family structures, economic and agricultural development, educational and healthcare systems, and the success and wellbeing of its citizens.

We know how abysmal the problem is. Now, what is stopping us from coming up with the solution? Countries with insufficient water resources cite many issues. Among them are the environmental effects of climate change; inadequate funding; lack of sanitation education and resources in remote and impoverished areas; open defecation by one out of seven people in the world leading to contamination of water sources; lack of human resources to create a clean water source and then monitoring and maintaining it once complete; and failure by local and national governments to implement, fund, or create plans that will begin to change the water supply condition in their country or region.


Since IAPMO aims to be known as ‘the worldwide leader in the plumbing and mechanical industry for protecting health and safety, supporting sustainability and emerging technology, and delivering code education’, it seems only fitting that these areas would be their focus in creating new sources of potable water.

IAPMO can accomplish this with one single initiative: education. Education is the most useful tool that will lead to change within environments needing a potable water source.

The first step in this initiative is to educate those who are unaffected, that is to bring awareness to individuals with the ability and the resources to help. Even the simplest of projects needs funding. Microloans as small as USD50 to USD200 have helped to create potable water sources for entire villages. The most effective and cost efficient method of raising awareness and funding for charitable endeavours is via social media platforms. IAPMO could organize a social media campaign to bring awareness to the need for more potable water sources throughout the world and use the opportunity to raise funds for clean water initiatives. Additional fundraising options include galas, relay races, or simply requesting donations from businesses or individuals.

Education is one of the pillars of the IAPMO vision. Raising funds and awareness are great stepping stones. It is also imperative to tackle the issue that will determine whether a potable water source constructed in a community or village will actually have long-term significance.


“In many communities, a lack of basic knowledge about sanitation and hygiene practices results in the needless contamination of critical water resources,” according to the Marian Koshland Science Museum in Washington DC. “This can become a cyclical problem: sick children are robbed of the health and education that could have empowered them to improve their own lives. Likewise, a lack of local expertise is often a barrier to the creation of more modern water distribution and treatment systems, which require skilled personnel for operation and maintenance.”

Residents of a community or village need to understand the connection between good hygiene and clean water for the water source to be sustained. In rural and impoverished countries, the simple acts of hand washing and using a toilet rather than open defecation can mean the difference between a lasting clean water source that changes the lives of everyone in the community for the better, and a water source that leads to life losses. IAPMO can join forces with the UN, WHO, and groups such as in an effort to educate these communities before, during, and after new water sources are installed.

A pressing issue in regard to potable water sources being installed is the maintenance and the repair of the equipment. With proper education, residents of communities around the world have been taught to build, maintain, and repair the machinery involved in providing clean water for their families. To ensure proper sanitation and installation, it is imperative that IAPMO and the plumbing industry play a major role in this part of the process. Who better to teach citizens these techniques?

Unfortunately, this problem does not have one cure-all to rid the world of polluted drinking water forever. However, with the cooperation of many individuals, organisations, governments, and resources, I believe we can see this problem reduced drastically within the next 10 years. We all have a role to play.

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