Category Archives: Clean Water

Water and Sanitation


Every eight seconds a child dies of a water-related disease. Every year more than five million human beings die from illnesses linked to unsafe drinking water, unclean domestic environments and improper excreta disposal.

At any given time perhaps one-half of all peoples in the developing world are suffering from one or more of the six main diseases associated with water supply and sanitation (diarrhoea, ascaris, dracunculiasis, hookworm, schistosomiasis and trachoma). In addition, the health burden includes the annual expenditure of over ten million person-years of time and effort by women and female children carrying water from distant, often polluted sources.

Nearly a quarter of humanity still remains today without proper access to water and sanitation.

During the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990), some 1600 million people were served with safe water and about 750 million with adequate excreta disposal facilities. However, because of population growth of 800 million people in developing countries, by 1990 there remained a total of 1015 million people without safe water and 1764 million without adequate sanitation.

Overall progress in reaching the unserved has been poor since 1990. Approximately one billion people around the world still lack safe water and more than two billion do not have adequate excreta disposal facilities. Rapid population growth and lagging rates of coverage expansion has left more people without access to basic sanitation today than in 1990.

Another problem with coverage goals is the magnitude of resources needed to achieve them. At the Global Consultation of Safe Water and Sanitation for the 1990s, held in New Delhi in 1990, it was stated that universal coverage by the year 2000 would require US$ 50 billion per year, a five-fold increase in current investment levels.

In 1992, WHO concluded its monitoring of the Decade with the estimate that a total of US$ 133.9 billion had been invested in water supply and sanitation during the period 1981-1990, of which 55% was spent on water and 45% on sanitation. Urban areas received 74% of the total and rural areas only 26%. Contrary to widespread perceptions, almost two-thirds of all funds were provided by national sources and only a third by external organizations.

WHO estimates that it costs an average of US$ 105 per person to provide water supplies in urban areas and US$ 50 in rural areas, while sanitation costs an average of US$ 145 in urban areas and US$ 30 in rural areas.

Water supply and sanitation can be viewed as a process having three interactive elements. The most fundamental of these elements is the availability of safe drinking water and sanitary means of excreta disposal. This means 20 to 40 litres of water per person per day located within a reasonable distance from the household. Safe water implies protection of water sources as well as proper transport and storage within the home. It also means facilities for bathing and for washing clothes and kitchen utensils which are clean and well-drained. Sanitary excreta disposal is the isolation and control of faeces from both adults and children so that they do not come into contact with water sources, food or people. To break the transmission chain of faecally-related diseases, good standards of personal and domestic hygiene, which begin with handwashing after defecation, are essential.

A second element in the water and sanitation development process is the use and care of water and sanitation facilities. People must use these facilities properly to obtain the health benefits inherent in them. This means knowing how to protect and store water safely, how to maintain personal and domestic cleanliness, how to care for excreta disposal facilities and how to avoid or minimize unsanitary environmental conditions. Knowledge transfer, behaviour change and personal responsibility are the key factors.

The third of the interactive elements is the institutional support from the communities, developing agencies and government policies that provide a framework for water and sanitation improvements. Experience has shown that community-based efforts, whether in a small village or a large metropolis, are most effective in identifying and meeting peoples’ needs. Governments, especially at the regional and national levels, are more effective as facilitators of the development process than providers of water and sanitation improvements.

Water contaminated by human, chemical or industrial wastes can cause a variety of communicable diseases through ingestion or physical contact:

Water-borne diseases: caused by the ingestion of water contaminated by human or animal faeces or urine containing pathogenic bacteria or viruses; include cholera, typhoid, amoebic and bacillary dysentery and other diarrhoeal diseases.

Water-washed diseases: caused by poor personal hygiene and skin or eye contact with contaminated water; include scabies, trachoma and flea, lice and tick-borne diseases.

Water-based diseases: caused by parasites found in intermediate organisms living in water; include dracunculiasis, schistosomiasis and other helminths.

Water-related diseases: caused by insect vectors which breed in water; include dengue, filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, trypanosomiasis and yellow fever.

No single type of intervention has greater overall impact upon the national development and public health than does the provision of safe drinking water and the proper disposal of human excreta. The direct effects of improved water and sanitation services upon health are most clearly seen in the case of water-related diseases, which arise from the ingestion of pathogens in contaminated water or food and from insects or other vectors associated with water. Improved water and sanitation can reduce morbidity and mortality rates of some of the most serious of these diseases by 20% to 80%.






Relationship of Disease to Water Supply and Sanitation

Diarrhoeal diseases



Strongly related to unsanitary excreta disposal, poor personal and domestic hygiene, unsafe drinking water

Infection with intestinal helminths



Strongly related to unsanitary excreta disposal, poor personal and domestic hygiene




Strongly related to unsanitary excreta disposal and absence of nearby sources of safe water



Strongly related to unsafe drinking water



Strongly related to lack of face washing, often due to absence of nearby sources of safe water




Related to poor water management, water storage, operation of water points and drainage

Dengue Fever



Related to poor solid wastes management, water storage, operation of water points and drainage



Related to unsanitary excreta disposal, poor personal and domestic hygiene, unsafe drinking water




Related to the absence of nearby sources of safe water

Bancroftian filariasis


Related to poor water management, water storage, operation of water points and drainage




Related to poor water management in large-scale projects

NIGERIA: Officials seek source of deadly gastroenteritis

Source: IRIN News

Photo: Aminu Abubakar/IRIN
Unsanitary water conditions in northern Nigeria have led to a deadly 2008 gastroenteritis outbreak

ABUJA, 21 October 2008 (IRIN) – The Nigerian Ministry of Health is trying to determine what caused a gastroenteritis outbreak that has claimed 120 lives in northern Nigeria’s Sokoto state and dozens more in the northwest, according to national health statistics.

“Unfortunately, it is the environment,” said the Ministry of Health’s deputy director, Abdul Nasidi. “The environment is so dirty. We are trying to work with the Ministry of Environment to inculcate in Nigerians how to live in a better environment. We want to get to the bottom of these outbreaks.”
Continue reading NIGERIA: Officials seek source of deadly gastroenteritis

Relief Groups Push Water Projects


A FLEDGLING COALITION of religious groups is trying to show Americans that for too many people worldwide, clean drinking water isn’t as close as the kitchen tap. With more than 1 billion people in developing countries lacking readily available safe drinking water and 2.6 billion without access to sanitation, the faith community is stepping up efforts to push for clean and accessible water.
Continue reading Relief Groups Push Water Projects

Water, Race and Disease

“Troesken’s definitive history of the fight against water-borne disease in large American cities shows how the public’s fear of contagion made them willing to build expensive water and sewer systems that sharply reduced the disparity in black and white death rates. This book will be required reading for anyone interested in public health, political economy, demography, and the history of race relations.”
—Dora Costa, Professor of Economics, MIT
Continue reading Water, Race and Disease

Unsafe Drinking Water Blamed for 88% of World’s Disease

By Rachel Oliver

December 20, 2007
Source: CNN

(CNN) — The next time you fall sick and someone suggests it’s because of something in the water, they could be right. According to the World Bank, 88 percent of all diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

Nanhu Lake in Chongqing, China. Around 70 percent of China’s rivers and lakes are polluted.

The number are daunting. Annually, water-related problems are responsible for:

  • 4 billion cases of diarrhea, resulting in the deaths of more than 6 million children.
  • 300 million malaria sufferers;
  • 200 million schistosomiasis sufferers;
  • 6 million people who have been struck blind by trachoma;
  • and 500 million people who are currently at risk of contracting it, the World Bank says.

The U.N. also suggests that unsanitary water is to thank for 1.5 million cases of hepatitis A (and 133 million cases of intestinal worms).
Continue reading Unsafe Drinking Water Blamed for 88% of World’s Disease

Charity Water – Why Water?



Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease, and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Many people in the developing world, usually women and children, walk more than three hours every day to fetch water that is likely to make them sick. Those hours are crucial, preventing many from working or attending school. Additionally, collecting water puts them at greater risk of sexual harassment and assault. Children are especially vulnerable to the consequences of unsafe water. Of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old. Continue reading Charity Water – Why Water?

Dirty Water: Estimated Deaths from Water-Related Diseases 2000-2020

Pacific Institute Research Report
Peter H. Gleick
August 15, 2002


The failure to provide safe drinking water and adequate sanitation services to all people is perhaps the greatest development failure of the 20th century. The most egregious consequence of this failure is the high rate of mortality among young children from preventable water-related diseases. This paper examines different scenarios of activities in the international water arena and provides three estimates of the overall water-related mortality likely to occur over the next two decades.

If no action is taken to address unmet basic human needs for water, as many as 135 million people will die from these diseases by 2020. Even if the explicit Millennium Goals announced by the United Nations in 2000 are achieved1 – unlikely given current international commitments – between 34 and 76 million people will perish from water-related diseases by 2020. This problem is one of the most serious public health crisis facing us, and deserves far more attention and resources than it has received so far.

Continue reading Dirty Water: Estimated Deaths from Water-Related Diseases 2000-2020

Is access to clean water a basic human right?

by Winslow Dahlberg-Wright

As I sit here writing this, I periodically pause to sip from a tall glass of water. What exactly did I do to come by such a precious substance, while others wither and die for want of it? I neither exerted any great amount of effort nor exhibited any fantastic character trait in order to obtain it but, rather, I am merely a beneficiary of circumstance. It is under this inequitable set of circumstances that a growing portion of humanity suffers daily.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “By 2025, nearly 2 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water shortage, where water resources per person fall below the recommended level of 500 cubic metres per year. This is the amount of water a person needs for a healthy and hygienic living” (“10 Facts About Water Scarcity”). When people cannot find enough clean water to drink, cook with, and clean themselves with they will, in desperation, settle for unsanitary water in its place. This, in turn, spreads disease. The WHO notes, “Poor water quality can increase the risk of diarrhoeal diseases including cholera, typhoid fever, salmonellosis, other gastrointestinal viruses, and dysentery” (Ibid).
Continue reading Is access to clean water a basic human right?

Saving Lives through Global Safe Water

by James M. Hughes
Comments and Jeffrey P. Koplan
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Source: CDC

Unsafe water is a global public health threat, placing persons at risk for a host of diarrheal and other diseases as well as chemical intoxication. Unsanitary water has particularly devastating effects on young children in the developing world. Each year, >2 million persons, mostly children <5 years of age, die of diarrheal disease (1,2). For children in this age group, diarrheal disease accounted for 17% of all deaths from 2000 to 2003 (3), ranking third among causes of death, after neonatal causes and acute respiratory infections.

Severe, prolonged diarrheal disease can also lead to malnutrition and impaired physical and cognitive development (4). Nearly 90% of diarrhea-related deaths have been attributed to unsafe or inadequate water supplies and sanitation (5)—conditions affecting a large part of the world’s population. An estimated 1.1 billion persons (one sixth of the world’s population) lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion to adequate sanitation (5).
Continue reading Saving Lives through Global Safe Water

Some Mexican Produce Sent to U.S. Grown in Unsanitary Conditions

Saturday, September 13, 2008
Source: Olga R. Rodriguez, Associated Press & Mark Walsh, Associated Press

ALLENDE, Mexico —At the end of a dirt road in northern Mexico, the conveyer belts processing hundreds of tons of vegetables a year for U.S. and Mexican markets are open to the elements, protected only by a corrugated metal roof.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspects this packing plant, its warehouse in McAllen, Texas, and a farm in Mexico are among the sources of the United States’ largest outbreak of food-borne illness in a decade, which infected at least 1,440 people with a rare form of salmonella.

A plant manager confirmed to The Associated Press that workers handling chili peppers aren’t required to separate them according to the sanitary conditions in which they were grown, offering a possible explanation for how such a rare strain of salmonella could have caused such a large outbreak.
Continue reading Some Mexican Produce Sent to U.S. Grown in Unsanitary Conditions

Hepatitis A: Thriving in Unsanitary Conditions

Source: World Health Org.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by human consumption of fecal-contaminated drinking water or food. Like cholera, the risk of contracting hepatitis A depends on the hygiene and sanitary conditions in a given area. Developing countries are at high risk, although 180,000 people in the United States are infected each year by hepatitis A. About 100 people in the United States die from hepatitis A-related complications each year.

A high concentration of the virus is found in fecal matter, and the virus can survive on the hands or other surfaces for up to four hours at room temperature. Eating utensils are a frequent source of infection, as are contaminated shellfish. Hepatitis A can also be spread through intravenous drug use and sexual contact.
Continue reading Hepatitis A: Thriving in Unsanitary Conditions

Parasitic worms could fuel Aids – Reuters

23/07/2008 08:54 – (SA)
Source: Reuters.

Washington – People infected with parasitic worms may be much more susceptible to the Aids virus, according to a study published on Tuesday that may help explain why HIV has hit sub-Saharan Africa particularly hard.

The study involving monkeys demonstrated how a type of parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis, which affects 200 million people globally, may make HIV infection more likely.
Continue reading Parasitic worms could fuel Aids – Reuters

Key Facts About Water – UNEP


Source: UNEP: World Environment Day

  • Improved water management has brought enormous benefits to people in developing countries. In the past 20 years, over 2.4 billion people have gained access to safe water supplies and 600 million to improved sanitation.
  • Nevertheless, one in six people still have no regular access to safe drinking water.
  • More than twice that number (2.4 billion people) lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.

Continue reading Key Facts About Water – UNEP

Asia: After Tsunamis, Outbreak Of Epidemics Feared

By Charles Recknagel

The death toll from the 26 December tsunamis in Southeastern Asia is now more than 100,000 and growing as the bodies of more victims are found. As relief agencies try to cope with the crisis, there are fears that inadequate shelter and sanitation could lead to epidemics in the region as well. The greatest danger is posed by unsanitary drinking water.
Continue reading Asia: After Tsunamis, Outbreak Of Epidemics Feared