IFPRI celebrates World Water Day with the release of a new book

March 21, 2010

Lack of access to clean water--a harsh reality in most developing countries--is a source of misery for the poor. In large areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, the Caribbean, and Asia, the only water available to millions for drinking, cooking, farming, and bathing is increasingly polluted by a dangerous cocktail of bacteria, viruses, and chemicals. Ironically, the inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used to boost crop yields--and help to reduce poverty and hunger--are also polluting water sources. Industrial effluents and domestic sewage from rapidly-growing cities are flowing into suburban and rural areas, further increasing pollution levels. The result: unsanitary and contaminated water is damaging the health of humans, animals, fish, and ecosystems.

Health risks stemming from unsanitary water are highest for the rural poor, who live closest to pollution sources and have limited access to treated water. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that rural inhabitants are five times less likely to access clean water than those living in cities. Women, in particular, are regularly exposed to contaminated water when cooking, washing, and caring for sick family members. But it is children who are the most likely to die from water-related disease, including diarrhea--an easily treatable disease usually caused by unclean water that kills 1.8 million people a year, according to WHO reports.

The tragedies caused by contaminated water inspired the United Nations (UN) to chose ''Clean Water for a Healthy World" as the theme for this year’s World Water Day. The goal of the internationally-recognized event is to raise awareness about the dire need to improve water quality—and not just water quantity—in the developing world.

IFPRI, a pioneer in producing research that links water quality, poverty, and food security is paying tribute to World Water Day with the release of a new book about water. Global Change: Impacts on Water and Food Security, a collaboration with the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food and the Third World Centre on Water Management , highlights the impact of poor water quality, a result of global changes, on everyday lives in the developing world. More importantly, it offers solutions for water management policies, institutions, and technologies that could help improve water conditions for the poor by next year’s World Water Day.