To help ensure clean drinking water for future generations, it is important to understand the links between clean water and sanitation. Antiquated sanitation systems must be replaced in many parts of the world, particularly in developing nations. That was the message delivered at the summer’s final Hot Topics lecture, “Today: Water and Health: A Global Perspective,” held in August at Harvard School of Public Health. The issue is of critical importance as water shortages are predicted to strike the U.S., Asia, and other parts of the world by 2025.

“There are an estimated 1.8 million deaths per year to inadequate water and sanitation,” said James Shine, senior lecturer on aquatic chemistry in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH, who delivered the talk. That works out to a child dying approximately every 20 seconds due to inadequate water and sanitation issues, he said, noting that young children are particularly vulnerable to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.

Approximately 780 million people globally lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation facilities said Shine. “Getting clean water to people in developing nations often is not the problem – it’s poor sanitation. Often open defecation or contamination by livestock walking in the water ruins the water supply,” he said.

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