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- Stan and Marci Thekaerkara, Social-justice advocates

Fair Water Blog - About water

By Paul van Beers on 03 June 2012

Since water is the key to life and well being, it’s good to know some more about it. We know that some 75% of our body is water and that we need to drink water every day. But what is water exactly and how does it play this important role in our lives? How is water influencing our lives and what can we learn from water? How can we use this knowledge to make us feel better, more at ease with our environment and more complete?

In this FairWater blog, I will write about these subjects and also try to answer some questions that you may have about water. My name is Paul van Beers, I am not a water expert, but I am fascinated by water, which has always played a central and decisive role in my life. Water is a fantastic element, simple in its form and complex in appearance. It has so many aspects related to nature and life, that it will probably take more than a lifetime to know just a small part of it. Influenced by my father, who was a soil scientist and fascinated by the interaction of water with nature, I started in 1970 to study hydrology in Amsterdam. This literally opened up a new world for me. Little by little, I started to learn about how water behaves in the rivers, ground and air. Fascinating. How frozen water shaped the earth as we know it today, “only” some 20,000 years ago. I learned why water in the ground influenced the vegetation and how water was, is still, always the most decisive factor why people choose to live in a place.

Since that time, I haven’t look at a landscape like before. I didn’t see trees, hills, fields, etc. as they appeared, but started to see the processes that have contributed to how they look. Water was suddenly everywhere. And even if it wasn’t there anymore now, I could clearly see the marks it left behind. The whole world just became water, water has taken over my world and I am enjoying it. What a saw started to make sense to me, and this was only just the beginning.

Water in Africa has always been in the news. Therefore, when I finished my studies I decided to work in Africa to help the people solve their water problems. I thought that would be the best thing to do, helping people and traveling at the same time, seeing new places and getting to know this planet that we live on a little better.

To cut a long story short, after working some 25 years all over Africa with water issues, I gained a lot of experience on water and how water affects people’s lives. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. I found that good intentions are no guarantee for good results, but are often rather counter productive. It is definitely not easy to help people. On the other hand, it’s good to have a better insight in what works and what doesn’t work, especially when it comes to such an important issue as water.

As a result, I have to conclude that most of the work that I have been doing so far to help the people in Africa with water was not really helping them in the long run. I assisted in making nearly one thousand water points, but found out that most of them were not working anymore after some years. Of course, I started to discuss these issues in my work, but soon I found that this was “not done”. I concluded that the only way to really make the difference was to start a new movement that would be more “fair” towards the people that needed these water points so badly.

At the same time, back in The Netherlands, I noticed that people here were more and more taking water for granted. The awareness of the role of water in nature as well in their lives was getting out of focus. When all this came together, it was logical to start with my wife Sureyya the “FairWater Foundation”, with a focus on awareness of the importance of sustainable water in Africa as well as in a “developed” world. This resulted in developing an innovative “BlueZone” model for sustainable water supply in Africa and an involvement in promoting more environmental awareness on using water in The Netherlands.

So this is the short introduction; next time I will write about the interactions the influence that water has on your body and why, contrarily to popular belief, water is not always flowing to the lowest point. Nature is predictable, but is also human in the sense that it has many hidden “surprises”.