Access to clean, safe and secure water resources is an essential prerequisite for communities to prosper. While access to water and sanitation is Loften taken for granted in developed countries, this basic right is denied to many across the globe every day.
Sustainable development goal (SDG) 6, as formulated by the United Nations Open Working Group, presents an ambitious, yet achievable mission for the next two decades: "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." We propose that this goal can be achieved by applying four principles: 1) Separating drinking water from wastewater; 2) Accessing and treating drinking water to remove chemical and biological contaminants; 3) Protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems; and 4) Guaranteeing water access and water rights.
Separating drinking water from wastewater
Historically, the single biggest factor contributing to the increased longevity of humans was the separation of drinking water from wastewater. Building sanitary infrastructure has enabled communities--and in turn, economies--to flourish, free from the burden of waterborne disease. Yet, today a staggering 1 billion people still do not have access to improved sanitation, in spite of the fact that it would reduce disease and infant mortality. There are many examples of successful sanitation projects in the developing world when financial resources and engineering are available. They demonstrate that it is possible to separate water for drinking from wastewater in regions that traditionally have lacked this infrastructure. Although many challenges remain to ensuring adequate sanitation for all, building sanitary infrastructure is a critical step needed to achieve SDG 6.
Accessing and treating drinking water
Having water available at home or within short distances obviates the need to cart it from other sources, often over long distances. A direct result of greater water accessibility is a substantial increase in time available for productive work, attending school, developing a business, or raising a family. This is particularly relevant for women and children who spend significant time gaining access to water when it is not piped to their home. Ultimately, water will require treatment before drinking, but this challenge can be overcome with adequate resources for filtration and disinfection. In particular, point-of-use devices that are robust, reliable, require low maintenance and are widely...