More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. CIWEM believes that these deaths are an affront to our common humanity and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential.

This year, CIWEM’s annual publication, The Global Environment, highlights the success of Polio reduction through universal vaccinations and improved sanitation.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that enters the environment through contaminated faeces. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. Globally, cases have decreased by more than 99 percent since 1988.

However, wastewater management is a major challenge, with 80 percent of all waste in developing countries discharged untreated because of lack of regulations and resources. Increasing population growth, rapid urbanisation, discharge of industrial chemicals, climate variability and invasive species are key factors in contributing to the deterioration of water quality. And, despite progressive improvement in the provision of sanitation since 1990, an estimated 1.1 billion people rely on unsafe drinking-water sources; 2.6 billion people lack access to improved sanitation; and 2.2 million people die every year from diarrhoea, most of them children under the age of five.

The Institution fully supports the theme of this year’s World Water Day, Clean Water for a Healthy World, as it emphasises that both the quality and the quantity of water resources are at risk.

The lack of prioritisation of water quality in many countries has resulted in decreased allocation of resources, weak institutions and lack of coordination in addressing water quality challenges. As a matter of urgency, CIWEM demands that the importance of water quality is recognised at the highest political level, so that quality considerations are made alongside those of quantity. The Institution also continues to call for a full review of the Millennium Development Goals and requests that targets are amended to reflect the increasing impact of climatic change.

CIWEM Director of International Development, Paul Horton, says: “Water and sanitation are central to all our development goals. We have the knowledge to solve these challenges but there is growing recognition that the MDGs concerning access to clean water and basic sanitation will not be met. As we are at the halfway point between the adoption of the MDGs and the target date, we must change our approach and acknowledge the scale of the challenge ahead. It is time that water and sanitation champions were appointed at the highest level of government and given powers to coordinate the required action among all Ministries.”