The United Nations has designated March 22nd World Water Day, to focus attention on the importance of safe drinking water and to advocate for the sustainable management of water resources. This year's theme is " Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge."
Safe drinking water is fundamental to healthy lives and prosperous communities. Every person needs at least twenty liters of water per day for drinking and sanitation needs alone. Yet nearly a billion people world-wide do not have access to drinking water from an improved source, and more than 2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation for adequate disposal of human waste.
This leads to greater illness and lives cut short. According to the World Health Organization, each year, an estimated four billion people get sick with diarrhea as a result of drinking unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. Nearly two million people die from diarrhea each year, and many of them children under the age of five, poor, and living in the developing world.
In developing countries, eighty percent of all wastewater is discharged untreated, often because of lack of proper regulation and resources to enforce existing laws. As populations and industry expand, they contribute new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water. Human and environmental health suffer as a result, and future agricultural and drinking water supplies are put at risk.
The United States invests hundreds of millions of dollars every year in water supply and sanitation around the world. The U. S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation have a number of programs to increase access to clean water for those in need, and to improve water delivery and irrigation systems.
We are also working to improve water quality by expanding access to sanitation services, helping improve hygiene practices, providing options for treatment and safe storage of drinking water in the home, and finding ways to reduce pollution and improve waste management programs.
The ability of a society to develop and improve the well-being of its population is critically dependent on sustainable and sufficient supplies of high-quality water, and good sanitation services and practices. We can help developing countries willing to solve this challenge, but change must also come from within, through good governance and strong investments in both infrastructure and education.