September 2001: Volume 43, Number 9
The World is a Stage and Water is All the Rage
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Senior Editor
In keeping with the global theme presented in this magazine issue, we decided to volunteer a few sites that pertain to the world outside the United States and relate to water news, industry standards and conducting business.
A world of interest
Every day, one reads about how water quality is affected via drought, floods, disease, chemical spills and much less-publicized issues such as contaminants in our drinking supply. And just as often, it seems, another website is introduced that tackles the discussion of water on a level ranging from the local dealership down the street to a large municipality to an international organization assisting millions of people.
As concerned consumers and professionals in the field, how are we expected to keep track of it all? We can't. Yet, that doesn't stop us from shedding some light on the international scene here. Three subjects-the water industry trade, water law and currency exchange-will be covered in the following four sites.
Another in a series of portals that promises a search function for anything and everything for a particular sector. We all have bumped into these before (usually by accident) and, for the most part, they serve their purpose. Much of that's due to easy navigational procedures that make the sites attractive in the first place. Alas, this site doesn't really fill the bill.
First off, the name sounds like the "who's who" of a calendar of water treatment shows around the world. Sure enough, a button labeled Fairs & Expositions exists at the left of the home page. After narrowing my search to "America," I get…absolutely nothing. Not an "Under construction" message or anything that indicates this portion of the site is inoperable. Fine. I decide to give this site a few more chances.
After trying a couple of more buttons-namely Distribution and Internet Resources-the same "no message" response confirmed my suspicions that this is a start-up site. Once Manufacturers was clicked, in fact, the designers of this site have ingeniously written "Reverse Osmosys (sic) Purifiers." Granted, we all commit typos but this stands out more than most and gives the impression that perhaps this site is in over its head. In its defense, however, the site does list one company under "Water Conditioners." Not much of a defense, but you take it where you find it at this site.
Shifting gears, we turn our attention to the home page of International Water Law Project, which is clean and doesn't bog down visitors with needless links or superfluous text. According to the website, "it offers treaties, articles, news stories, case law, Internet links" as well as seeking input from its visitors by way of pertinent websites, news items and information on other publications. A nice, little interactive touch.
For those insomniacs out there, many of the treaties and articles are provided in full text. Good luck. But isn't it nice to have the option? Some of the more noteworthy buttons on the home page include Documents, Watercourses, Useful Sites and Calendar. Under Documents, you're whisked away to a choice of international and regional documents divided by continent. Most of the documents-some contain links-have to do with agreements between countries and regions within a country over water via lakes, rivers and the like.
I found Watercourses to be quite a pleasant surprise. Initially, this had all the makings of a list of seminars and classes having to do with getting certified. Wrong! It actually provides a list of waterways in each continent and lends some details about each of them. For instance, did you know that the Amazon is the longest river in the world at 6,516 miles? OK, maybe it won't win you a drink at the local watering hole, but every day isn't Christmas either? As a bonus, each river had a link that supplied related treaties.
Just as informative was the Useful Sites button, which included five different areas of topics-Water Law and Policy Resources, Treaty Web Sites, Water Publications (and the nerve not to include our magazine!) and Conferences, Other Useful Websites and Water-Related Discussion Lists. Except for the last area, every listing underneath these headers had a link. This becomes very helpful when researching a particular law concerning an international waterway. Lastly, Calendar gives a relatively short list of upcoming events with email and/or website information.
Alright, how many of you have taken a trip abroad and wondered, should I exchange my currency for my destination's currency here or once I get over there? Or, does it matter? I see a lot of imaginary raised hands. We'll ignore those of you with traveler's cheques in your clutches.
Commercialization aside (displayed prominently with links on the left side of the home page), this site is quite useful with a multitude of options. Interested in seeing what the U.S. dollar equates to in the currency of Cocos Islands? You've come to the right place. And, no, I don't know if they offer senior discounts after 6 p.m. One of the more appealing features of this site is the color-coded world map on the home page, which allows for one-click access to each main continent. In fact, the heading at the top of the home page even says, "1-Click Currency Conversion."
Even better, this site is informative by providing currency names for easily over 100 countries. The Euro has its own conversion chart where the currency can be automatically calculated into 12 different country selections. Still looking for more? There's a built-in calculator and calendar. By the way, one U.S. dollar equals around 29,623 Romanian Leu, just in case you haven't blown that tax rebate check yet.
Go ahead, regardless of what the name looks like, it's OK to go to this site. The home page skips bells and whistles and gets right to the point. Let's see, we do have a calculator and photos of several currencies (including the Euro, which looks like a tarot card). The big plus here is that the site allows you to buy international currency. Just enter the amount you need in U.S. dollars and select among a wide variety of currencies. And don't forget your credit card number.
An additional feature allows you to see how a particular currency has measured up against the U.S. dollar over a time period between a week and four months. Traders might find this interesting, but most visitors will only have their curiosity piqued, as in "Why didn't I get my schillings in February?" Unlike Wall Street stocks, the rates on most currencies don't fluctuate ridiculously in a short period of time.
As witnessed here, approaching a topic as diverse as international water and currency can be a daunting task. The surface was only scratched with this review. Perhaps in a future issue, we can highlight some of the more interesting sites centering around water matters abroad that will undoubtedly appear on our radar screen.
Choose your destination carefully
Whew, where do we start? Bring the Dramamine. The only mystery here is whether you'll get bored navigating your way around the site or you just give up trying to find anything of value.
The name's not flashy and reading complete treaties and articles is about as fun as standing in the customs line, but there are a few nuggets in this site if you're willing to look.
Admittedly, exchange rates aren't a topic that'll induce unbridled enthusiasm. Like a flashy travel brochure, this one gets by with enough visual aid to make things somewhat inviting.
Correlate this site with staying at a KOA-not thrilling but it serves its purpose. The only thing worse than having a website with a drab home page is finding nothing better beyond the home page.
EXTRA -- Desperately seeking more information
Sure, you're familiar with Yahoo!, Excite and various other search engines. Here are a few more worth checking out: