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Green 'Gate

Students Form Organization to Promote Clean Water

By Caddidy Holahan
On March 1, 2012

 

Every week, approximately 42,000 people die from diseases related to unclean water.

This is one of the many things that Colgate's new student organization, Clean Water Coalition (CWC), is trying to teach the community about.

The CWC was co-founded last spring by sophomores Stephanie Fitch and Elisabeth Meuhlemann in order to educate the Colgate community and take action against the major environmental and social issue of polluted water.

"We want to raise awareness that there is unclean water in third-world countries, as well as in our back­yard," Fitch said. "Sometimes we take it for granted that we can have water whenever we want, however we want. Yet there are so many people who don't have that privilege."

As one way to raise awareness, the CWC screened a showing of the film Flow, a documentary about the political and environmental issue of water, on Wednesday evening.

The club has three primary purposes: educate the community and raise awareness, improve local water quality through community service and raise funds for improving water quality in developing countries. The Clean Water Coalition is a Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) group, which means that it is service-oriented.

At a local level, the club is working toward improving an adopted two-mile stretch of the Chenango Canal that runs through upstate New York. In the future, when the resources are available, the CWC hopes to improve the water quality of the canal; currently the club is improving the public recreational area alongside the canal.

"It used to be a center for the community, where people would come and fish for trout," Fitch said. "But because no one was doing upkeep on the area, less and less people were using it, and it became an unsafe area."

In order to regain this sense of community, the CWC has been cleaning up the area to make it more of an aesthetically pleasing place. The club has also planned events, such as a "haunted towpath" for Halloween and a large light display during Christmas, which in each case over a hundred people have attended. In April, the club will participate with community members in "Clean Sweep," a statewide effort to clean up public spaces.

"We are making the area somewhere where the community can come together. It's very important to show that Colgate cares about the local community and about where we are," Fitch said.

In addition to the club's local efforts, the club is also working toward improving water conditions in developing nations. The CWC is currently raising money to fund water pumps and water testing kits in Africa through the non-profit Life Water International.

As one way to spark donations, the club has teamed up with the Newman Community at Colgate to promote "Significant Sacrifice." The funding campaign encourages students who are giving up things for Lent that cost money to donate the money they save to Life Water International.

"Finding clean and safe drinking water – and overall sanitation – is a huge problem in these areas. In Africa, 80 percent of deaths are caused by unsafe water," Fitch said, referencing information from Life Water International.

Contact Cassidy Holahan at cholahan@colgate.edu.


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