Clean water and sanitation are fundamental human rights. Without them, 850,000 people die each year, and the economies of entire nations are at risk. The global economy suffers a $260 billion loss yearly due to a lack of basic water and sanitation. No one flourishes without access to these essential needs, yet billions of people worldwide live without them.
Basic sanitation is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “having access to facilities for the safe disposal of human waste (feces and urine), as well as having the ability to maintain hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection, industrial/hazardous waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal.”
Clean water is more than water that appears clear; it’s safe water that is uncontaminated, so people can drink it without getting sick.
For those of us who have access to clean water and sanitation, it’s nearly impossible to picture existing without being unable to turn on a faucet while expecting clean water any time we want it. We also may not be able to imagine a lifetime of not having a toilet to flush, knowing waste will be taken away and purified. But the reality is that far too many people live this way, so how can we help the clean water and sanitation crisis both nationally and internationally? First, let’s look at the facts.
Clean Water and Sanitation Facts
Overwhelming statistics can numb us. If we see a picture of one child dying from a water-borne illness, it tends to impact us more than hearing the truth that 6,000 children die per day from water-related diseases. However, we need to understand the problem before offering solutions, so here are the staggering facts about water and sanitation provided by the United Nations (UN).
- One in three people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water — that’s the equivalent of 2.2 billion people.
- At least 2 billion people worldwide have to drink water contaminated with feces.
- 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services — more than half of the world’s population.
- 32% of the world’s population (2.4 billion) lacks basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines.
- Six hundred seventy-three million people have no option but to defecate in the open (in street gutters, behind bushes, or into open bodies of water), leading to the assault of innocent adults and children.
This data clearly represents a genuine crisis, and it isn’t acceptable. It also reveals the heart of why Healing Waters exists because these numbers expose more than data; they represent human lives who daily suffer because they don’t have access to clean water and sanitation.
Water Concerns Affect Americans Too
We often think of third-world countries when we consider water crises, but we have them in the U.S. as well. More than two million Americans lack access to running water, indoor plumbing, or wastewater services, primarily affecting communities of color, lower-income people in rural areas, and tribal communities. Even more people do not have access to proper sanitation.
Here are a few examples of what is sometimes referred to as our “invisible public health crisis.”
To meet basic needs, families on the Navajo Nation in the Southwest drive several hours to haul barrels of water back home. People drink from polluted streams in West Virginia, and yards in Alabama are flooded with sewage preventing children from playing outside.
You might be familiar with the plight of residents in Flint, Michigan water when their public water supply was polluted with dangerous levels of lead and bacteria from 2014-2016. The contaminated water caused deaths and illnesses, including an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe lung infection. Time will reveal how much people will suffer from the permanent effects of lead poisoning.
Another example affects western America. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are the two largest man-made reservoirs in the United States, which store Colorado River water and supply water to 40 million people. The water levels of these two reservoirs are projected to dip critically low by 2025, forcing current water conservation strategies, including drought contingency plans.
We Can Help Clean Water and Sanitation Nationally and Internationally
There is good news! We can help the crisis of clean water and sanitation nationally and internationally. The UN developed seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.6 billion people have gained access to an improved drinking water source since 1990, demonstrating that our collective efforts have resulted in measurable progress towards goal six of the SDG to ensure access to water and sanitation for everyone. The targets of goal six include:
- Safe and affordable drinking water
- End open defecation and provide access to sanitation and hygiene reuse
- Improve water quality, wastewater treatment, and safe reuse
- Increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies
- Implement integrated water resources management
- Protect and restore water-related ecosystems
- Expand water and sanitation support to developing countries
- Support local engagement in water and sanitation management
There are creative ways you can help clean water and sanitation at national and international levels.
- Get involved in a charity like Healing Waters. Partner with us in ending the global water crisis by learning how to implement safe water solutions.
- Raise awareness about the need for clean water and sanitation through social media. Help your audience connect with the data as much as possible using photos and human experience stories.
- Engage your community by organizing a cleanup project for your local river or ocean.
- Do your part to conserve water. Take shorter showers and raise your awareness about your water usage.
- Get involved in legislation.
- Organize or participate in a water drive. This is just what residents of East Porter, California did when they lost access to running water.
- Stay informed. Follow our blog and other news sources to stay abreast of challenges and developments.
We Invite You To Join Us
We’re on a mission to end the global water crisis. We build holistic clean water solutions and spread God’s love in at-risk communities around the world, empowering people not just to survive, but to thrive – physically, socially and spiritually.