U.S. Water News Online
Oakland, Calif. -- Over 76 million people will perish from
water-related disease by 2020 unless urgent action is taken,
according to a new report released today by the Pacific Institute of
Oakland, California. The report finds that water-related diseases
could claim more lives than the global AIDS pandemic by 2020 unless
major changes are made.
"As many as 76 million people -- mainly children -- will die from
preventable, water-related diseases by 2020 even if current United
Nations goals are reached," said Peter H. Gleick, President of the
The report, "Dirty Water: Estimated Deaths from Water-Related
Diseases 2000-2020," looks at three different scenarios and concludes
that even if we achieve the United Nations Millennium Goals, which
aim to cut the proportion of people without clean drinking water by
half, 34 to 76 million people could perish over the next twenty
"Under the most optimistic scenario we examined, the death toll
from water-related disease is still staggering," continued Dr.
Gleick, "and would exceed the projected deaths from the global AIDS
epidemic. This largely hidden tragedy ranks as one of the greatest
development failures of the 20th century."
The causes of the global water crisis are many, but the Pacific
Institute's report points out that current development efforts, which
focus on large, centralized water systems, are part of the problem.
"Far too much money has been spent on centralized, large-scale
water systems that cannot be built or maintained with local expertise
or resources, while traditional and community-scale systems have been
inadequately funded and supported," said Gleick. "It is time to
change direction, toward a "soft path" that relies on smaller-scale
systems designed, built, and operated by local groups. Outside
assistance in terms of information, funding, and expertise is
certainly still required, but this assistance must be provided in new
and different ways."
The current best estimates of water-related deaths fall between 2
and 5 million deaths per year. The vast majority of those dying from
water-related disease are small children struck by virulent but
preventable diarrhoeal diseases. The new report released by the
Institute makes three model calculations of the total water-related
deaths likely to occur between 2000 and 2020.
The first assumes that water-related deaths continue to occur in
direct proportion to global population. The second assumes that
water-related deaths are more directly related to the population
without access to adequate water services -- a more realistic
estimate -- and that those numbers increase as global population
The third estimate assumes that the official United Nations
Millennium targets for water services are reached in 2015 and efforts
continue to 2020. Under this last, optimistic scenario, between 34
and 76 million people, mostly children, will still perish by 2020.
"The UN Millennium Goals are a step in the right direction,"
Gleick said, "but they are inadequate in the face of the appalling
death toll facing the poorest people in the poorest countries.
International efforts must be coupled with specific and aggressive
new commitments on the part of countries and development
For more information on the soft path for water, and for the full
report, please visit our Website:
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