Water and Sanitation

More than one billion people worldwide lack the clean and safe water they need and over two billion lack access to adequate sanitation. The situation is exacerbated by poor hygiene practices, rapid urbanisation, climate change and environmental degradation. The Millennium Development Goal targets to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, would vastly improve the lives of many people. However, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, these targets are far from being met. Improving access to adequate water and sanitation is vital in ensuring environmental health and social and economic development.

Engineering has a vital role in meeting the daily challenges faced by millions due to inadequate water and sanitation provision. Through the power of innovation and technology, engaged with the complex nature of human needs, behaviours and interactions, people's lives can be transformed.

The effects of inadequate water and sanitation provision on health are well documented; for example, diarrhoeal diseases alone contribute to nearly 1.7 million deaths a year. These health issues also impact people's livelihoods and their ability to earn an income.

The United Nations recently declared that access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right. Adequate water and sanitation provision is essential to the dignity of life. Women and girls especially bear the burden with heavy household duties, physical dangers of open defecation and remote water sources. Poor sanitation at schools has a direct effect on the drop out rates of girls from education. The elderly and the disabled also face the daily struggle with inadequate and challenging infrastructure.

Water is a valuable resource, both for domestic and productive needs, but people living in poverty are often living on a knife edge and are very vulnerable to disasters and humanitarian crises endangering their access to reliable, safe water supplies. With the increase in natural disasters, fueled by the effects of climate change, communities face increased extreme events.

Safe drinking water, which is clean, accessible and affordable, and a basic level of sanitation and hygiene is required for all to live healthy and productive lives.

Get involved
To get involved and contribute to our Water & Sanitation Community of Practice, sign up to the EWB-UK Watsan Google Group and click "join this group".



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