Poor water quality could kill millions

Sunday, August 18, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO -- As many as 76 million people -- mostly children -- could die from water-related diseases by 2020 if changes aren't made worldwide, according to a California think tank.

The United Nations has set a goal of 2015 for cutting in half the number of people who can't reach or afford safe drinking water. Even if that goal is met, 34 million to 76 million people could die of water-related illnesses, said a report released by the independent Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.

More people die of diarrheal diseases, such as dysentery, than other water-related diseases, and children are extremely vulnerable to them.

"All of these diseases are associated with our failure to provide clean water," said Dr. Peter Gleick, director of the institute. "I think it's terribly bleak."

While most of the deaths are projected to occur in developing nations, Joan Rose, professor of water microbiology at the University of South Florida, said every country is vulnerable. She pointed to a recent deadly outbreak of E. coli in Canada that came from a contaminated well.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: