The Water Drop
Wash your hands, save lives — it’s a critical message during the COVID-19 crisis. But what if you don’t have basic running water, as we assume everyone does? Incredibly, too many Americans don’t. I read recently that more than 2 million Americans lack indoor plumbing or wastewater services and live in remote areas, or come from high-risk groups like the elderly, disabled, homebound and homeless. The same is for the many millions of people that are without safe water and sanitation services around the world.1 According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, in 2015, 91% of the world’s population used drinking water from improved sources (58% from a piped connection in their dwelling, plot or yard, and 33% from other improved drinking water sources), leaving 663 million people lacking access to an improved source of water 2. Water, sanitation and hygiene has the potential to prevent at least 9.1% of the global disease burden and 6.3% of all deaths 2.The impact of clean water technologies on public health in the U.S. is estimated to have had a rate of return of 23 to 1 for investments in water filtration and chlorination during the first half of the 20th century 3. In order to manage this current COVID-19 crisis and others, it is important to realise the role that water plays in protecting people and communities from diseases. Greater investment in water and sanitation is needed and economists tell us that water investment is an investment in a sustainable future.
- WHO, UNICEF. Progress on drinking water and sanitation: 2015 update and MDG assessment. Cdc-pdf[PDF – 90 pages]External 2015.
- Cutler D, Miller G. 2004.The role of public health improvements in health advances: the 20th century United States. Cdc-pdf[PDF – 50 pages]ExternalNational Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 10511. Cambridge, MA, USA.