203750 Addressing public health threats from depleted and degraded water resources

Monday, November 9, 2009: 8:50 AM

Wenonah Hauter , Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
This presentation will address the public health crisis driven by increasing water scarcity and by a lack of access to clean, affordable water resources.

Water scarcity stems from the interrelated factors of overuse, pollution, climate change and population growth in already water-stressed regions of the world.

The world's leaders, but particularly wealthy nations, are being called upon to understand how inefficient industrial and agricultural practices can waste billions of gallons of this precious and irreplaceable resource.

Meanwhile, in the developing world, the World Health Organization finds that 80 percent of all illness and disease is related to water and that more children die annually of water-borne diseases than any other cause. Many of these could be prevented if clean water were available. In the last decade, diarrhea has killed more children than all people lost in armed conflicts since World War II.

Too often, policies are enacted that make water more expensive, which means less accessible. It is often women and children who end up traveling farther and working harder to collect water. Tragically, people resort to water from polluted streams, rivers or hand-dug wells.

This presentation will review the main drivers of water scarcity and water degradation and will suggest ways for the public health community to help address this crisis – namely, by advocating for the protection and maintenance of public freshwater systems and by using policy tools to address economic injustices that leave billions of people too poor to afford this critical resource.

Learning Objectives:
1. Analyze how and why water is being depleted in many parts of the world and why this precious resource has not been fairly allocated, particularly in developing nations. 2. Describe how both the lack of water and the lack of access to water affect public health. 3. Discuss key policy and programmatic efforts to improve access to water and to secure the sustainability of the world’s water resources.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the executive director of Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group shaping policy to preserve and protect public water resources.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.