A question I used to get fairly frequently is "what medical advance has saved the most lives?" Guesses usually include antibiotics, vaccines, and septic surgical method, but it's probably. . . clean water. Not a medical advance, you say? Maybe not, at least the way most people think of medicine - but sadly there are still many parts of the world that can't take clean water for granted.
Via John at Tracing Resistance Blog.
Clean water is so critical to human health and yet, even in the U.S. we do not vale it enough to actually care for our watershed properly. Our rural Upstate NY neighborhood watershed has been contaminated multiple times with run off from liquid manure. A child on our block died from an e-Coli infection as a result of these manure "spills" many years ago and several children in our area get sick every year from e Coli exposure. When our well was contaminated 4 years ago, the estimate for necessary home water chlorination and filtration systems came in at close to $10,000. Everyone just chalks it up to living in an agricultural district.
There are no laws that effectively protect rural homeowners from the activities of huge corporate CAFOs that contaminate our water supply. There has been no political will to track and prosecute for environmental contamination in our neighborhood. No wrongful death charges were brought against the owners/managers of the CAFO responsible for the contamination all those years ago when the child died. There was no way for our neighborhood to bring a suit against the owners of the CAFO to compel them to pay for the cost of home water filtration systems for the 8 homes that were (and continue to be) affected. In fact, the DEC and DOH in the region won't even assign a source of contamination in this case in spite of overwhelming evidence, including the fact that this particular CAFO is the only one spreading liquid manure for over 10 miles in any direction.
My point is that water is precious. We in the US should know that by now, but we allow big business to carry on polluting without penalty in spite of the fact that we have many laws in place to protect public health and the environment. Things must be even worse in the third world where industrial pollution is unchecked and populations often lack access to a good well.
We are addressing our contamination problem with a Doltoun ceramic filter. It has been working well for over two years now. It requires a bit of maintenance but has been much less expensive than a chlorination system and does not use other chemicals that eventually contribute to more pollution. Anyone needing cleaner water could start looking here:
I believe that Doulton has been producing these filters for use in third world countries as well as US and European populations.
Nearly a billion people lack access to clean drinking water. A charity that I support is < a href="http://www.charitywater.org">charity:water.org, which builds foot-pump operated freshwater drinking wells for communities in need in developing countries. Nichols Kristof wrote about the organization in The New York Times in autumn 2009. It's estimated that since the organization's relatively recent founding, they're now providing water to about a million people who lacked access previously to clean drinking water.