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Global Access to Sanitation and Water

Show Summary - June 22, 2009


Sharon welcomed the listeners and talked about the importance of water in life and life in water. She said that it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of water, to drink plenty of water and to carry water with them if they are unsure of a water source. Dehydration, or lack of water, is out of control in our world and causes or contributes to ailments from allergies to obesity.

Guest: Rik J. Deitsch, PhD

Dr. Andrew Hudson (New York, NY), United Nations Water Governance Program. "Improving access to water supplies and sanitation around the world."

Dr. Hudson is a specialist in environmental science and economics who works in public policy for the United Nations Water Governance Program. The program is involved with all policy issued having to do with water, both oceanic and fresh. "Water Governance" includes all structures and institutions involving water, such as government, community groups, non-profit agencies, etc.

Water is not only necessary for life, it is vital to the elimination of poverty and the creation of good health. One billion of the world's 6.7 billion people lack adequate access to water while 2.4 billion lack sanitary water. Worldwide, there are 2 million deaths annually from water related issues.

Water supply is a global crisis that will become worse as the population continues to grow. Some water management objectives include locating new water sources, purifying used water and restoring water to depleted areas. This is very much a rich/poor division and lack of water is responsible for disease, lack of economic development and lack of education of women (who must spend several hours per day carrying water in some African societies).

Unfortunately, where water is not a problem, people tend to take it for granted and not think about it. Even in the United States, water and sanitation should not be taken for granted. In cities like Las Vegas, the water could go away at any time. Development of water sources usually requires that people vote money for it, which they often will not.

Worldwide, 70 to 80 percent of countries are not on target to achieve water goals. On the other hand, there are some outstanding successes, especially at the community level in Africa, where wells are being dug and people are being educated to drink plenty of water, make sure their water is clean and wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before preparing food. The impact on women and children of a town well can be enormous.

Climate change is making the problem even worse. Water is drying up in some areas and increasing in other areas. This makes the global picture much more complex and unpredictable. Clearly, there is a need for additional water storage and "water wars" are being fought all over the world (although with the help of the United Nations, much progress is being made with international and regional cooperation).

80% of water is used in agriculture. Agricultural water issues include rationing, transportation, pricing, subsidies and obtaining increased efficiency.

China's recent progress in water storage and treatment is enormous, although it mostly helps large urban areas and not rural villages. India is also making progress but even in well developed, affluent areas, the water does not run for the entire day.

Categories: Ecology and the environment; international health organizations; water and sanitation; 2009