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The Challenges of Clean Drinking Water

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Clean water is probably one of the most precious commodities in the world. Survival depends on clean drinking water, yet it is a global problem. Having free access to clean and safe drinking water is a human right, but it is scarce in many countries.

Approximately 400 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by the lack of clean water.

This article will examine the issues surrounding water and what actions are being taken to improve water systems.

Areas Without Clean Water

Did you know that 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to clean and safe drinking water?

There are billions of people around the world that suffer from poor access to sanitation, hygiene, and water. Around 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion don’t have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion do not have basic hand washing facilities.

So what countries in Africa are affected the most?

About 24 countries in Africa face some of the highest water risks in the world. Including countries such as Mozambique, Niger, Chad, Democratic Republic, Angola, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Guinea, and Eritrea.

The United States does not face the same obstacles as Africa; however, more than 30 million Americans live in rural or underdeveloped areas where water systems violate safety rules. People in poverty and minority communities are affected the most and usually cannot afford to keep their water running.

Health Concerns

Many people in different countries do not have access to tap water and are at risk of having water-related diseases. Contaminated water and poor sanitation cause many people to develop cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio.

Insufficient Water Management

Unmanaged urban, industrial, and agricultural wastewater causes hundreds of millions of people to be at risk of drinking contaminated or chemically polluted water.

Groundwater is one of the most significant sources of accessing water and is at risk of having the natural presence of chemicals. These chemicals include arsenic, fluoride, and lead, all leading to some type of health risk.

Other leading factors of contaminated water are associated with insects. Insects that live or breed in water tend to carry and transmit diseases such as dengue fever. Some insects tend to breed in clean water, affecting household drinking water containers.

To make matters worse, hospital patients can develop an infection while hospitalized due to a lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene services. About 15% of patients globally have developed an infection, with higher rates much greater in low-income counties.

Actions Being Taken

What is being done to provide better water, sanitation, and hygiene services?

Achieving universal coverage of essential drinking water services is one of the most challenging endeavors. Over 2 billion people live in extreme poverty and water-stressed countries. Some regions are expected to amplify due to climate change and population growth.

Wastewater Irrigation

Necessary steps are being taken to figure out a solution to re-use wastewater to recover critical nutrients.

Many countries are starting to use wastewater irrigation; however, if it is done insufficiently, there are high health risk concerns, so it is essential to understand wastewater management to achieve multiple benefits.

Drinking water and irrigation continue to evolve with the reliance on groundwater and alternative sources.

Water use is vital for drinking water and food production, so managing all water resources needs to be improved to ensure provisions and quality.

Investing in Management and Infrastructure

How do investments help?

Investing in better water management and infrastructure is becoming increasingly prevalent in every country. It can strengthen the economy by targeting the poorest people.

It offers a triple dividend to alleviate poverty, support jobs, and growth, and reduce climate change vulnerability.

Investments are in the works to help Africa’s water sector improve people’s resilience to climate change.

There are three key areas of the water sector: delivering universal climate-resilient drinking water and sanitation, managing drought risk for farmers, and investing in green as well as gray infrastructure.

What does all of this mean for Africa?

Universal Climate-Resilience

Let’s first look at universal delivery. It will require approximately $35 billion per year in capital costs.

There are low-cost options to provide water and sanitation services to be more resilient to climate change. It is beneficial to act early on water management due to becoming costly.

For that reason, the Ethiopian government has invested in water and sanitation services while safeguarding rural water supply projects from climate risk by using public finances.

Nonetheless, one of the biggest challenges is receiving and securing revenue to maintain infrastructure and adapt it to climate change resilience.

Drought Risk Management

Managing drought risk is essential for developing countries due to higher exposure to climate hazards. In sub-Saharan Africa, around 90% of the rural population depend on agriculture as their primary source of income. Over 95% of arable farming relies on rainfall.

There is an expected chance of crop yield decreasing and price increases due to rising temperatures and unpredictable rain, so governments are setting policies to reduce the risks before it becomes unavoidable.

Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) is a policy that creates a sovereign insurance mechanism where countries pay a premium. If there is a drought, access to payouts is usually very sufficient due to this set policy.

This system has paid out over $36 million to African countries, helping millions of people from going further down into poverty.

Investing in Green Infrastructures

Investing in green infrastructure can provide safe and clean water flows.

The Kenyan government and The Nature Conservancy came together to create the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund that supports upstream to help rural communities adapt forestry and farming practices to improve their yields and ensure using less water use and soil erosion.

Why it Matters

Clean water is what matters the most. Implementing water management and infrastructure policies can improve climate vulnerability for Africa and every continent.

Acting now is an actual effort, and existing projects have proven that investments are the right choice for the economy and clean drinking water.

 

Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota

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