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The World’s Water Needs: A Global Perspective

July 25th, 2008

“In reality, you do have an opportunity there – to reduce the consumer footprint, to be more efficient, to be more optimizing of your production chain. And there have been a lot of savings you can do. Imagine the waste of water (that occurs globally). Like in the energy sector, where you are using a lot of energy to drive in high-consumption cars. You don’t really need that. So why not reshape the vehicle?.

“We’re doing that now with water.”

To support his leavened optimism, Steduto points to a new report issued by a UNICEF/WHO joint program to examine the world’s water supply and sanitation. While sanitation issues and levels of disease caused by tainted water remain dire – with 2.5 billion people on the planet (38 percent of the world’s population) still lacking sanitation – there are signs of progress, the report said.

The 56-page report strikes a positive note: “. . . In the case of drinking water supply, the news is good. For the first time, the number of people without improved drinking water has dropped below 1 billion. More than half of the global population now benefits from piped water reaching their homes, and the numbers using unimproved water supplies are going down.”

But, the report cautions global leaders that they must keep working to eliminate water scarcity, particularly when it comes to sanitation (2008 is the U.N.-designated “International Year of Sanitation”).

The latest statistics show that 2.5 billion people still lack access to proper sanitation and plumbing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Lack of those cleaner conditions are among the leading causes of life-threatening diseases like typhoid, cholera and dysentary. Sub-Saharan Africans’ access to sanitation and potable water only grew by 5 percent between 1990 and 2006. However, the report found that during those 16 years, sanitary conditions and clean water reached an additional 12 percent of the people in Eastern and Southeast Asia.

“The overall message . . . is positive,” the report says. “Progress can be made, and the sanitation and drinking water battle can be won.”

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