Clean water should not be the privilege of a select few. As something integral to our human way of life, access to clean water not only protects individual health but also allows various key industries to flourish, driving economic development.
The United Nations’ has recognised the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right.
But one third of people worldwide still lack access to safe drinking water and 3bn people do not have hand-washing facilities, according to the World Economic Forum.
Water security – both sustainable supply and clean quality – is a critical aspect in ensuring healthy communities. Yet, our world’s water resources are being compromised.
Today, 80% of our wastewater flows untreated back into the environment, while 780mn people still do not have access to an improved water source. By 2030, we may face a 40% global gap between water supply and demand.
This situation disproportionately affected vulnerable communities such as those with low-income levels, noted Bincheng Mao, the US-based president of the Board at the East Coast Coalition for Tolerance and Non-Discrimination (ECC).
“It is worth emphasising that this gap is not only occurring in low-income communities in developing countries but also those in wealthier countries,” Mao was quoted by the World Economic Forum.
The water crisis has resulted in pressing humanitarian consequences, particularly the spread of diseases due to the lack of sanitation.
Without access to safe and clean water, diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and schistosomiasis can often take hold and undermine people’s health. Simple preventative measures such as hand-washing, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, also become a luxury without water.
Such a predicament presents a serious challenge to households with lower income, for medical treatments for any of these diseases are substantial, and even unbearable, financial burdens that further perpetuate poverty.
Traditionally, providing water services is the responsibility of the public sector, but private capital should play a role today.
As public finance may struggle to meet the needs of all people, corporations and private individuals can make investments toward constructing and repairing water infrastructure, Mao points out.
Public and private sectors should invest in water infrastructure to expand clean water access to every person worldwide.
For instance, in Kenya, the World Bank facilitated the Eastern African country to raise $25mn in private capital as of 2018 to expand water and sanitation services.
These commercial finance initiatives greatly improved water security in a nation that was fraught with droughts and floods.
To attract private finance, one effective way is to support loans through credit guarantees to cover a portion of risks for lenders, as the US did in the case of Kenya.
Having access to clean water empowers disadvantaged people, particularly those in low-income communities, to fulfil their full potential.
Both the public and private sectors should invest in water infrastructure that expands clean water access to every individual as a human right. Only by joining forces, can the momentous task of resolving present water inequalities be a success.