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Water and Sanitation

How One of the Greatest Tragedies in the World Is Entirely Avoidable

There are in fact more than two billion people on our planet who drink water contaminated by feces. This is partly because 4.5 million persons lack decent toilets and 80 percent of the world’s sewage runs untreated into the nearest waterbody.

Countless losses

This awful situation causes an unintelligible loss of lives and terrible suffering. grieving parents lose a newborn to infections caused by lack of safe water and an unclean environment, and approximately seven people die from diseases that could have been prevented by proper water and hygiene practices. The burden of death and disease from poor water management has a huge economic cost as well. Across the world, 260 billion USD, equalling the GDP of Chile, are lost because of bad water and sanitation services.

What we can do

We know how to avoid these losses and, even better, it pays for itself four times over according to the World Health Organisation. So-called “wastewater” typically contains up to ten times the energy required for treating it. The knowledge on how to arrange for basic water and sanitation services has been around since long before the Romans built Cloaca Maxima and the aqueducts. With this in mind, it is odd that over 50 percent of the worlds countries state that their tariffs don’t cover operation and maintenance costs, and that 80 percent report that the financing for water supply and sanitation is insufficient to reach national targets, which often are far below the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals.

The final push

A key approach to keeping clean water running from our taps is TAP, standing for Transparency, Accountability and Participation. The hardest part when facing up to a crisis of this urgency is the time it takes to do it right. A rapid extension of services needs to be accompanied by an equally determined improvement of governance and inspired innovation of financing methods.

We need a final push for water reform. With a good game plan, we will soon be sprinting down the home stretch toward fulfilling the human rights to water and sanitation. And, by getting water right, we will be taking a giant leap towards the future we want.

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, SIWI, [email protected]

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