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Great Lakes Article:

Simple Fixes Could Bring Water to Millions

STOCKHOLM - Simple innovations such as recycling household water and fixing leaky pipes would bring safe drinking water to hundreds of millions of people lacking it today, politicians and scientists said yesterday.

More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean water, according to the United Nations, and 12 million die of diseases caused by poor water quality each year, said speakers at World Water Week, an annual gathering of some 1,200 water experts from 100 countries.
A U.N. action plan aims to halve the number of people lacking access to clean drinking water and tolerable sanitary conditions by 2015, but little progress has been made so far.

"There are people in the semi-arid and arid areas who still have to walk about 10 hours looking for water. That situation is totally unacceptable," Martha Karua, Kenya's minister of water resources, told Reuters.

"Kenya is a water-scarce country, but I believe that with efficient management of our water resources we can use the available water resources for the benefit of everybody and to cover all our needs," Karua said in an interview.

She said rebuilding Nairobi's crumbling water infrastructure with leaking pipes would cost over $80 billion, but much also needed to be done to eradicate corruption and misuse.

"In Nairobi around 40 percent of the water is unaccounted for," Karua said.

"It is estimated that there are around 4,000 water vendors licensed by the Nairobi City Council. What is amazing is that very few of these have any known water source which means basically that we are licensing people to vandalize the system."

Providing safe drinking water and sanitation would also save money from health budgets by freeing hospital beds from those suffering from water-borne diseases and prevent epidemics.

"SARS developed in an area where there was virtually no sanitation available and no safe drinking water, and it affected both the people there but also people living in Canada and the world economy," said Peter Wilderer, professor at the Technical University of Munich.

Wilderer has studied recycling household water and said the technical innovations to cut water use dramatically are already there.

"This is not an academic exercise. Many large industrial firms have realized this is the market of the future," he said.

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