Clean Water Crisis Faces Growing Cities

November 13, 2018 Updated: November 27, 2018

Access to safe and clean drinking water is a basic necessity, but as the world’s cities grow it is becoming harder to guarantee urban populations have adequate access, an international urban health expert has stressed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts the world’s urban population will double in the next 40 years, putting greater strain on growing cities where water infrastructure and other public service expansion cannot keep-up with population growth.

WHO technical officer Megumi Kano says access to safe water and proper sanitation is essential for the development of urban areas.

Co-writer of the Global Report on Urban Health; Equitable, Healthier Cities for Sustainable Development, Kano wrote there are significant challenges for cities to maintain safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.

Megumi Kano, Technical Officer of World Health Organization on clean water and sanitation.
Megumi Kano, Technical Officer of World Health Organization. (Courtesy of World Health Organization)

While global development aid efforts primarily focus on rural areas in developing countries, urban areas have some of the poorest people, and even people in developed countries can face water issues.

“There is always deprived neighborhoods that just don’t get the kind of services they deserve,” said Kano.

Need For Innovation

Innovative technology to reduce waste is key. So too is a way to keep up with infrastructure decline.

“Infrastructure takes a lot of intensive maintenance,” said Kano.

In Flint, Michigan, pipes were leaching lead into the town’s water supply, and in Wake County, North Carolina, thousands of wells are being tested for potentially unsafe levels of uranium and radium.

“This is a problem that is affecting not just lower middle-income countries,” said Kano, “but high-income countries as well.”

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