Chapter 7 - Sustainable Solutions for Water Resources

Part 2 - Water Related Disease

Much of the world suffers from the negative effects that unsafe drinking water produces. With a combination of waterborne diseases, water-washed diseases, water-based diseases, and water vector diseases, the public health risks associated with unclean drinking and wash water are varied and often life threatening. Providing clean water for those who do not have it has been a major challenge throughout the past century. It is a challenge that will continue into our future, particularly as water becomes more scarce in some water stressed areas due to climatic variation — including the impacts of climate change, regional or trans-boundary water disruptions, water wars, and drinking water supply contamination.  

New approaches to water supply management and education, sanitation, and water-borne disease prevention and management, will advance, as the successes of the recent past and present are effectively translated, modified and implemented in all of the areas of great need. The loss of life and the loss of health due to water related disease is preventable, and in that prevention there is the hope for many. 

Education and responsible community behaviors, such as total sanitation, will yield public health benefits while enhancing access to clean water.  New science and appropriate technology to treat water will also advance safe drinking water. New strategies to combat and treat malaria are the focus of a significant ongoing research effort with integrated pest management and translational approaches to tropical medicine.  

In 2002, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights wrote: “Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity.  It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights.” (United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, 2002)


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Suggested Reading

  1. Sustainable Control of Water-Related Infectious Diseases: A Review and Proposal for Interdisciplinary Health-Based Systems Research (2009). Batterman S,  Eisenberg J,  Hardin R,  Kruk ME,  Lemos MC,  et al. Environ Health Perspect 117(7): doi:10.1289/ehp.0800423 pp. 1-10. Open access.

(Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control, CDC)