>The Water Crisis and Enterprise Architecture

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According to Wikipedia: “The Earth has a finite supply of fresh water, stored in aquifers, surface waters and the atmosphere. Sometimes oceans are mistaken for available water, but the amount of energy needed to convert saline water to potable water is prohibitive today, explaining why only a very small fraction of the world’s water supply derives from desalination.

There are several principal manifestations of the water crisis.

  • Inadequate access to safe drinking water for about 1.1 billion people
  • Groundwater overdrafting leading to diminished agricultural yields
  • Overuse and pollution of water resources harming biodiversity
  • Regional conflicts over scarce water resources sometimes resulting in warfare

Waterborne diseases and the absence of sanitary domestic water are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. For children under age five, waterborne diseases are the leading cause of death. At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from waterborne diseases. According to the World Bank, 88 percent of all diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

How critical is water to life?

While a person can live 4-6 weeks without food, survival without water is limited to between 3-7 days. (http://www.survivaltopics.com/survival/how-long-can-you-live-without-food/)

The Wall Street Journal, 23 June 2008, reports that that a new invention, “The LifeStraw is a personal, portable water purifier,” “that “has the potential to save many lives.”

The LifeStraw was created in 2005, is 10 inches long, and weighs 4.3 ounces. “One straw is capable of purifying at least 700 liters (182 gallons) of water, removing an estimated 99.9% of bacteria and 99% of waterborne viruses.”

This is a game-changing invention:

“The product, which costs as little as $3, has won a number of awards including the 2008 Saatchi & Saatchi Award for World Changing Ideas.”

So simple, yet so effective:

“When someone sucks through the straw, the water flows through textile and iodine filter, which kill off viruses and bacteria.”

Already hundreds of thousands have been purchased and are being distributed in countries with non-potable water.

As an enterprise architect, nothing is more satisfying than seeing an innovation that saves lives and improves the way of life for millions of people around the world.

While we are all introduced to inventions such as those “As Seen On TV” with new doodads for kitchen appliances, household/personal/car-care, tools, and novelty items, the introduction of something truly extraordinary like the LifeStraw just makes one do a double-take.

As an enterprise architect, I believe we need to hold up transformative innovations, such as the LifeStraw, as examples of best-in-class architectures that combine business process improvement with technology innovation that positively impacts millions of otherwise suffering people around the world.

As I go about my day-to-day responsibilities I’d like to keep this one in mind as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when technology is applied to global problems. Perhaps you’d like to do the same!

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