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Water brings life—but what if with each nourishing sip of water you took, you also risked your life?
That is the case for the millions of people worldwide who lack access to safe, clean drinking water and sanitation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 783 million people relied on an unimproved drinking water source in 2010, while 2.5 billion lacked improved sanitation. This puts them at risk for any number of waterborne diseases and parasites, such as cholera, diarrhea and more.
WHO set a Millenium Development Goal drinking water target of halving the number of people who lacked access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015. While this goal was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule, it is clear that there is still much work to be done.
People in the U.S. and around the world have taken notice of this issue, and there are a variety of water-focused charities that work to provide solutions. Many technologies exist that can be employed to provide safe drinking water, from Hydraid BioSand filters, a technology that removes pathogens and can last up to eight years, to well drilling techniques and pumps.
A two-pronged approach is needed, however. Without education, treatment technologies alone will not be able to solve the problem. This includes not only education about the dangers of drinking untreated surface waters and the benefits of proper sanitation, but also about maintaining wells, pumps or other treatment technologies.
According to Aloys Zunguzungu, president of Rwandans4Water (R4W), a charity that provides wells and pumps to Rwandan communities, organizations had installed wells in the past, but because they were not maintained, people were unable to use them. To combat this problem, R4W helps to instruct community members on how to install and maintain wells using a simple drilling technique developed by another charity, Water4 Foundation.
The simplest approach is often the best. The simpler the technology, the easier it is for the user to maintain and incorporate into everyday life. Water4 Foundation developed its hand-drilling technique for ease of use in rural communities—it requires no heavy machinery, only simple metal tools. Many charities, such as the Ugandan Water Project, offer solutions in the simplest form of all: rainwater harvesting. According to the charity, the typical tank it installs can provide 100 families with water and has a lifespan of 35 years. Families are able to use the water directly from the tank, a huge improvement over using surface water sources that could contain any number of contaminants or pathogens.
Although the world has a long way to go before everyone has access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation, it is inspiring to see so many charities, corporations and individuals working toward this goal. The water treatment industry has a perspective that puts it in an ideal position to aid in these efforts, whether by developing new technologies, volunteering or simply helping to raise awareness.