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Over three billion people worldwide each year suffer from water-related diseases that can be fatal, and mostly affect children under the age of five. In response to this challenge, the U.S. EPA joined with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners at the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City to launch a new Internet resource, the WSPortal. The Portal will assist countries in delivering safe drinking water to their citizens by using Water Safety Plans (WSPs), health-based risk assessments that identify problems in a water system and chart corrective actions to take.
“March 22 is World Water Day, and I am pleased that the U.S. can now announce a new tool for countries to address a very serious global problem,” said Judith E. Ayres, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of International Affairs. “For countries to move forward in providing a better life for their citizens, clean water and adequate sanitation are essential first steps.”
The World Water Forum is organized every three years by the World Water Council and a different host country. The Forum provides a critical international dialogue on water policy, as more than one billion people worldwide still lack access to potable water, and more than two billion do not have adequate sanitation.
The Portal resides on the World Health Organization website, and represents the first step in the widespread dissemination of best practices for delivering safe drinking water through the use of Water Safety Plans. This “catchment to consumer” approach allows countries to catch problems with a water system before they contaminate drinking water and cause illness. This approach also highlights the best opportunities for potential donors and investors to select projects to fund that will have the largest positive impact on water safety.
EPA has also provided initial financial assistance in development of the website and is involved in WSP demonstration projects in Jamaica and India. Other participants in the launch include the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, the Australian Agency for International Development, the United Kingdom Department of International Development, the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the International Water Association and Water for People.