The Stream, August 16: Millions of Americans Exposed to Unsafe Drinking Water in Past Decade

The Global Rundown

The EPA estimates that 63 million United States citizens have been exposed to unsafe drinking water within the last decade. The UN Migration Agency and the Government of Japan launch a water purification facility in Sierra Leone. Torrential monsoon rains in South Asia leave more than 200 dead. A case study in Melbourne, Australia concludes that small, incremental changes to water infrastructure may be the best way to combat future drought. A newly-constructed pipeline will provide water to parched areas of the West Bank.

“Water is life. From this moment on, I would like to encourage the leadership of this community to take ownership of this facility and sustain it for the sake of our children.” –Sanusi Savage, head of the International Organization for Migration in Sierra Leone, in reference to a new water purification plant gifted to Sierra Leone by the UN Migration Agency and the Japanese government. The facility will provide safe drinking water to a settlement where inhabitants often have to fetch water from unprotected wells or travel to streams that are miles away. Relief Web

By The Numbers

$384 billion Amount the United States needs to invest to keep water clean in the coming decades, according to EPA estimates. An analysis of 680,000 water quality violations revealed that as many as 63 million Americans have faced multiple exposures to hazardous drinking water in the past ten years. Industrial dumping, farming pollution, and pipe deterioration were named as key reasons for the unsafe exposure. USA Today

2 million Number of homes in India that have been evacuated amidst a week of severe monsoon rains. The continuous rains are causing floods, landslides, and widespread destruction in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. The death toll has risen above 200. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

A case study conducted by an MIT-based research team found that modest additions to current water infrastructure could do more to combat water shortages than expensive, large-scale projects. The study focused on Melbourne, Australia, where a major desalination plant was built to help remedy a 12-year drought, but not completed until after drought conditions had receded. The plant has been largely unused, prompting researchers to argue that small improvements to existing water infrastructure would have been a less expensive, more sustainable solution. MIT News

On The Radar

The Israeli Water Authority recently opened a 13 kilometer pipeline to help alleviate water shortages in the West Bank. Three additional pipelines are soon to be completed. Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank face chronically low water supply due to a growing population and crumbling water infrastructure. Jerusalem Post