Canadian Consulting Engineer

$11.3 billion estimated need for water and sanitation

April 29, 2004
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The world will need to spend US $11.3 billion a year on water and sanitation if it is to meet the goals set for 201...

The world will need to spend US $11.3 billion a year on water and sanitation if it is to meet the goals set for 2015, says a new World Health Organization report from the United Nations.
The report, “Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements at the Global Level” was presented at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York on April 27. It was prepared by the Swiss Tropical Institute.
The report said that improving only water supplies would cost an additional $1.78 billion annually, while improving sanitation costs a great deal more because it requires providing people with private access.
At a UN Millennium Summit in 2000, governments pledged to provide 1.5 billion people with access to improved drinking water and 1.9 billion people with basic sanitation by 2015.
The devastating effects of not having safe water are well known. Dr. James Bartram of the World Health Organization has said there were around six million deaths last year due to unsafe water and lack of sanitation. Ninety per cent of those deaths were in developing countries.
The new World Health Organization report calculates that there would be great economic benefits from investing in water and sanitation — from US $3 to $34 or even $60 per dollar invested, depending on the region. Thus an $11.3 billion investment could bring an $84 billion return.
The report calculated the savings from time that people would save in searching and accessing water, based on the minimum hourly wage for each country. It also said there would be savings from health treatments.
Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, has said recently that world attention has been drawn away from issues such as health and sanitation and the environment because of the war in Iraq, but that we must not forget the humanitarian program.
“High level political attention has been diverted from sustainable development by the recent emphasis given to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and the war in Iraq,” Annan said. “However understandable that focus might be, we cannot lose any more time, or ground, in the wider struggle for human well being.” He pointed out that at an individual level, access to water is paramount: “Water is intimately linked with education and gender equality. Girls who have to spend time gathering water for the family tend not to be in school,” he said. “And where schools have sanitation, attendance is higher, especially among girls.”


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