Global challenges in water, sanitation and health


Christine L. Moe and Richard D. Rheingans


The year 2005 marks the beginning of the “International Decade for Action: Water for Life” and
renewed effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce by half the
proportion of the world’s population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and
sanitation by 2015. Currently, UNICEF and WHO estimate that 1.1 billion people lack access to
improved water supplies and 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. Providing safe water and
basic sanitation to meet the MDGs will require substantial economic resources, sustainable
technological solutions and courageous political will. We review five major challenges to providing
safe water and sanitation on a global basis: (1) contamination of water in distribution systems, (2)
growing water scarcity and the potential for water reuse and conservation, (3) implementing
innovative low-cost sanitation systems, (4) providing sustainable water supplies and sanitation for
megacities, and (5) reducing global and regional disparities in access to water and sanitation and
developing financially sustainable water and sanitation services.


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