Access to clean water ranks amongst the most important drivers of health conditions within a country or region. It is also a key driver of economic productivity or, as many put it, it is the source of life. With information becoming more and more a commodity and accessible to ever larger portions of the global population, the realization that “we will simply run out of water, and that very soon” is getting more and more attention.
Yet, it is infuriating to watch only about one fifth of world’s waste water being treated or otherwise cleaned for reuse, and water consumption per capita skyrocketing with no halt in sight.
Managing drinking water is neither only an issue of access nor of treating waste water, rather its mere consumption for non life critical purposes will very soon need to be widely regulated to keep up with population growth and counteract modern “lifestyle”. Lack of drinking water is set to impoverish hundreds of millions of people and lead to the collapse of local economies. It has a high likelihood of a terrifying impact on health specifically, unless we are able to articulate an agenda of opportunity and make it both economically, socially and environmentally attractive enough for governments, for industry and, perhaps, most importantly, for local communities, local authorities, to invest in a wise utilisation of our most precious resource (next to light and air maybe).
From a policy perspective, there is arguably no point in developing medicines for those terminally ill from disease, if we cannot provide those who are healthy with the source of life to continue.
In all history of humanity we have reached 3.5 billion people in urban areas, and in the next 50 years we are going to double that. We are going to add 3.5 billion more people in the urban setting. That means one can make even just a guess what will be the infrastructural, managerial, logistical, legal, and financial repercussions of such a huge transformation in the concept of water’s relation to health management.