(356a) The Global Challenge for Adequate and Clean Water

Authors: 
Elimelech, M., Yale University


Water scarcity and the lack of safe drinking water are the most serious challenges of our time. Water, our most vital element for life, is becoming perilously scarce. Presently, one-third of the world's population lives in water-stressed countries and, by 2025, this figure is expected to rise to two-thirds. In addition to water scarcity, water quality continues to be a major threat to human health and well-being. At present, over 1 billion people lack access to clean water, nearly all of them in developing countries. Unsafe water is the primary cause for the great majority of diarrheal diseases and is a leading killer of children under the age of five, accounting for over 2 million child deaths per year. Waterborne diseases also cause significant economic burden through the loss of productivity in the workforce and through increasing national health care costs.

This presentation will address the global challenge for adequate and safe water through several cases involving water scarcity and quality. The first case, in Namibia, exemplifies water scarcity and the harnessing of water science and technology to extract water for potable use from a nontraditional source, namely domestic wastewater. The second case focuses on water scarcity and the implications for regional peace, illustrated by Israel and its neighboring countries. The third discussion is related to water quality, specifically the lack of safe drinking water in developing countries. Drawing from these cases, it is shown that global water scarcity and quality problems involve complex technological, societal, cultural, economical, and political aspects.