Magazine article The Christian Century

Billions Gain Access to Clean Water

Magazine article The Christian Century

Billions Gain Access to Clean Water

Article excerpt

Over the past couple of decades, easier access to clean water has become a reality for a huge portion of the world's population.

According to a publication released by the World Health Organization, an arm of the United Nations that monitors the health and well-being of people around the world, more than 2 billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water since 1990.

An "improved" water source is a water source that is likely not to be susceptible to outside contamination, especially by human waste, according to the UN's WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme.

In addition to improved water sources, about 4 billion people have achieved the gold standard in clean water access: clean water piped directly into their homes. That's well over half the world's population.

This extraordinary step toward providing universal access to clean water has been the result of a massive global effort on behalf of governments, philanthropists, and nongovernmental organizations.

[Christian organizations have been part of those efforts. For example, Lutheran World Relief has worked on improving access to clean water through investing in agricultural irrigation, water treatment technologies, sanitation facilities, and watershed protection. For potable water, LWR uses "gravity-flow systems that bring water to household taps; construction of sub-surface dams to increase water tables near bore holes," and other methods, according to its website.

The Episcopal Relief and Development Clean Water program has also partnered with local organizations to build wells, piping systems, water stations, rainwater catchment tanks, and other projects, its website states.]

Bruce Gordon, acting coordinator of water, sanitation, hygiene, and health for the WHO, said that the increase in improved water sources has been largely due to accountability. He noted that "countries understand that progress is monitored and the results are available for all to see." He adds that one of the most important parts of moving forward has been the acknowledgment of a fundamental human right to clean water by most of the world's countries.

One of the most important steps toward fulfilling that right came in 1990, when the UN instituted its Millennium Development Goals, a collection of objectives to be met over a 25-year period. One of the goals the UN hoped to achieve was 88 percent improved drinking water coverage by 2015. This objective was met far ahead of schedule, in 2010, and has been steadily exceeded since then. …

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