Exploring Water Quality and Availability with HEAF!

In the Spring 2013, the Human Impacts Institute collaborated with the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) to introduce high school students to water and sanitation challenges in the US and worldwide. HEAF is a “comprehensive, non-profit supplemental education and youth development organization that helps motivated students develop the intellectual curiosity, academic ability, social values, and personal resiliency they need to ensure success in school, career, and life.”


At the closing of the 10- class series, 6 students will have the chance to fly to the Dominican Republic, where they will build dry pit latrines. Student are very motivated, as this trip is a unique opportunity for them to get hands-on experience, meet the local population, and work hard to support better sanitation in the community. The course will provide the young travelers with necessary knowledge to understand and successfully accomplish their mission.

Over the lastest class, lead by Tara DePorte, HII’s Founder and Executive Director, the students learned about the water cycle, and the various stages that water goes through over time. The class enjoyed the entertaining Water Cycle Rap (2:47) video that provides an overview of the cycle.

Then, working in small groups, students became acted out the roles of community leaders, mayors or family members, and brainstormed ideas surrounding water availability and quality across the globe. From the farmers in Texas suffering from droughts, to the mayor of a small town in Haiti, they all had to take on the role and face the various difficulties of getting clean water and to seeking practical solutions.

While exploring the obstacles to water availability, they found that water was insufficient due to various factors, either human (not enough equipment and distribution infrastructures, wells and tap access in remote areas, low funding, war, etc.) or natural (dry climate, extreme events such as droughts, hurricanes destroying infrastructures, etc.).

Students understood that, despite water is often available, water quality was a major problem across the globe. They pointed out some of the causes of water pollution, making it unfit for drinking and consumption, such industrial activities, waste from humans and animal, or large quantities of dust.

Then, students discussed solutions to improve water and sanitation supply depending on the country they were representing. Solutions included improving water access through investing in human work and additional equipment for water supply to increase the amount of water available by collecting rainwater, managing the use of water for necessary purposes, reducing water pollution through better waste management, and fighting erosion by planting trees.

The HII Crew was impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity of the students on discussing challenges and solutions for a better water management. The Human Impacts Institute is excited to pursue this cooperation, and to lead the next classes on water and sanitation. So hang on for the next posts!

By Agathe Laure, Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Intern

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