Around the world, environmental and community health is intertwined with access to clean water. Ecosystems, animals, and people rely on water for basic functions of life, and cannot thrive without it. In developing countries like Haiti, water contamination is directly linked to poor community health, low agricultural yields, and broken ecosystems. Understanding why clean water isn’t readily available, how to ensure it for all who need it, and what impact clean water has, will lead to better outcomes particularly for rural farmers like our partners in Moreau.
Clean water challenges
Pollution, disease, and unsanitary conditions spread through unsafe water pose significant risks to people and nature. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 829,000 people die annually around the world from consuming water contaminated with preventable diseases like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. The World Bank also attributes low economic growth and environmental challenges in many developing countries to waterways contaminated by nitrogen fertilizers, sewage, and plastic pollution. These types of water contaminants threaten public health, food production, agriculture, and economic development in countries that lack safe water sources and contained waste systems.
Water improvement initiatives Many NGOs and government initiatives around the world have focused on improving access to drinking water and improving sanitation; one of the United Nations’ seventeen sustainable development goals specifically targets clean water management and improved sanitation globally, as a key effort to improve public health and reduce poverty. Replacing open water reservoirs with wells, building water pipelines, and increasing access to hygienic bathrooms have been critical for reducing preventable pollution, illnesses, and deaths.
A former Acara Challenge participant at the University of Minnesota works to provide affordable, accessible water in India; Pure Paani provides water filters and water management consulting to rural and urban areas, to ensure equitable and sustainable public health measures. In countries like Haiti, preventing soil erosion and water run-off in rural areas is critical for stopping soil, pesticides, and fertilizers from entering rivers and wells that people rely on for daily life. By protecting natural forests, planting vetiver, and encouraging other sustainable agricultural practices, farmers can improve water quality in shared rivers and wells — in turn, benefiting their communities.
Benefits for people, animals, and ecosystems
Clean water is essential for daily consumption, hand washing, and bathrooms for people around the world. Ensuring access to safe water and bathrooms substantially reduces preventable illnesses in developing countries — leading to improved community health, economic development, and civic life Further, protecting oceans and rivers ensures that plant, animal, and insect life thrive in valuable ecosystems that provide food, clean water, and climate regulation for the planet. By stopping plastic pollution, farming wastewater, and cattle sewage from entering water sources, rural communities in countries like Haiti can increase their local food production, better care for their loal ecosystems, and grow their economic opportunities.
To learn more about the importance of clean water access and water ecosystems, check out these additional resources: