Clean water and sanitation are rightfully recognized by the United Nations as basic human rights, yet by the year 2050, it is estimated that one out of every four people on the planet will lack access to these basic necessities.
Water-borne diseases such as cholera and E. coli cause millions of death annually, with the primary victims being young children. These deaths are highly preventable, often with readily available and affordable solutions.
Lack Of Potable Water In Developing Countries
The United Nations reports that 1.8 billion people around the world rely on water sources that are contaminated with feces for their drinking water. It’s also estimated that 2.4 billion people worldwide have no access to sanitation services – in other words, they have no toilets and no proper sewage systems to remove fecal waste.
In many developing countries, lack of clean water disproportionately affects women, as they are traditionally tasked with getting water for their families every day, often walking several miles both ways to and from the water source and standing in line for hours at the well. This opportunity cost – along with other responsibilities placed upon them – severely limits women’s career options in these nations.
Water Problems In The United States
But developing nations are not the only ones plagued by polluted water and lack of properly-functioning infrastructure. Even in the United States, many Americans are plagued by water problems similar to those faced in developing nations.
While the water crisis in Flint, Michigan became a well-known problem – one that has not yet been resolved – what is not so often reported is the fact that over 3,000 other places in the U.S. face polluted water sources on the same or larger scale as the ones facing Flint.
How People Are Solving The World’s Clean Water Crisis
The solution to the lack of clean water primarily falls on the shoulders of local communities, but many groups and individuals around the world are taking action as awareness of the problem increases.
A great example of this social entrepreneurship is Club H2O, a student organization formed at the University of Southern California. Began by USC student Kevin Kassel, the club finds charities and other groups who are engaging in relief programs abroad and piggybacks affordable water filters with them to developing nations where clean water is lacking.
States Kessel, “For instance, when USC sent a team of doctors to help with disaster relief efforts after the Nepal earthquake, we sent 60 or 70 filters with them.”
In 2013, the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru worked in conjunction with Mayo DraftFCB to create a billboard that produces clean drinking water for hundreds of families in the rain-starved region. Using a process of osmosis and filtration, the billboard sucks moisture out of the air, condenses it and filters it. Local families then come to the billboard to fill up water jugs and buckets to take home.
Projects like these go a long way to help families in developing nations combat the clean water crisis, but more work needs to be done, as many communities lack any real infrastructure to provide clean, running water to homes, and they also lack sanitary sewage systems for separating and removing waste.