Posted on 18 May 2011.
In July of 2010, the United Nations declared access to safe drinking water a human right. This resolution follows years of global campaigning to bring recognition to the problems of safe water and sanitation access. About 884 million people cannot access safe drinking water, and more than 2.6 billion people cannot access basic sanitation. More than two million people die annually due to a lack of clean drinking water and diseases caused by contaminated water. Diarrhea caused by drinking infected water is the second largest cause of the death of children under five years old.
The Importance of Water and Sanitation Access
Improvements in water and sanitation systems in developing areas of the world are directly linked to improvements in overall quality of life. Implementation of closed sanitary systems decreases child mortality by one-third. Access to clean water increases human productivity and overall health. Also, since access to water is often subject to discriminatory practices based on class, race, or gender, wider access to water can aid social equality in developing regions.
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) have begun programs to improve global access to drinking water and sanitation. The UN has declared the time period between 2005 and 2015 an International “Water For Life” Decade, during which massive educational and developmental programs have been implemented to increase the world’s access to water and sanitation. The WHO also has several programs in place that intervene in areas where water access is at risk; these programs educate people about water management and sanitation.
Education is vital to the drive for water and sanitation access. Undereducated populations need to understand the risks of using contaminated water. Local and governmental authorities need to learn the costs and advantages of developing new water distribution programs. People need to learn techniques for harvesting rainwater, creating wells, and treating, storing, and distributing water. Programs that help to build and install these systems are also very helpful.
The discrepancy between clean water access in the industrial world and in the developing world is alarming. Although this discrepancy has tapered in recent years, the problem of water access continues to plague much of the world’s population. People in privileged parts of the world continuously need to assist the less fortunate in their struggle for health and dignity. People who wish to help the UN and WHO to meet their goals can visit their websites for more information on how to donate time and money to their cause.
Posted in World Conservation
Posted on 21 April 2011.
Passed by Congress in 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the bedrock of all other US federal laws regulating the quality and safety of drinking water. It authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards for the safety of public drinking water, and forces states to comply. This involves regulating the levels of certain contaminants that may be found in the water supply, protecting the sources of the water, and setting requirements for the purification of water in public systems.
Effect on Water Quality
Before the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed, the US had established the Clean Water Act but had no national standards for determining or enforcing the safety of drinking water. What standards existed were established at the state or local level. How strong they were and how well they were enforced varied greatly. The Safe Drinking Water Act directed the EPA to identify contaminants in drinking water supplies that presented serious health risks, set limits on how much of these contaminants would be allowed in the water, and enforce those limits. As a result, many public water supplies nationwide became safer over the next few decades.
Immediate Results of The Safe Drinking Water Act
In 1975, months after the Safe Drinking Water Act passed, the EPA began testing the municipal water supplies in 80 cities for certain chemicals identified as carcinogenic. These chemicals came from sources as diverse as industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, natural sources, and even chlorination, the process of adding chlorine to the municipal water supply, which was meant to kill harmful bacteria. By June 1977, all states and municipalities were required to establish systems for testing their public water for contaminants, test regularly, and inform consumers of any risks they identified.
How Water Sources are Protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act
Initially, the EPA focused its efforts on removing identified pollutants from public water systems. Later amendments to the SDWA expanded the efforts to protect the original sources of the water. Reservoirs, lakes, streams, and groundwater are all covered by EPA regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Under these regulations, the water must be tested regularly. Identified pollutants are to be removed as much as possible. In case of serious contamination, consumers must be notified. When a source of pollution is identified (ie industry or agricultural runoff), steps must be taken to stop the pollution.
Who Enforces the Safe Drinking Water Act?
While the EPA has primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the SDWA, most of the actual work is done at the state and local level. States are required to establish standards for drinking water safety that are in line with the SDWA.
Posted in World Conservation