Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – July 23rd, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

July 23, 2004

Costs, Benefits of Global Water and Sanitation Improvements Weighed

A recently commissioned economic evaluation by the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that safe drinking water and adequate sanitation play a major role in fostering sustainable development and alleviating poverty. The Swiss Tropical Institute conducted the research study.

The report found that achieving target improvements for both water supply and sanitation would bring economic benefits. It was reported that for every USD $1 invested, an economic return of between USD $3 and $34 would exist, depending on the region. Achieving this target would require an estimated additional investment of around USD $11.3 billion per year over and above current investments. The report concludes that benefits would include an average global reduction of diarrheal episodes by 10% with a total annual economic benefit of USD $84 billion.

Water-borne and water-washed diseases are the main cause of infectious diarrhea. Improving access to safe water supply and sanitation would reduce the number of diarrheal episodes, the study said. The analysis points to household water treatment using chlorine and safe storage as one option of particular potential. This intervention results in high health improvements while incremental costs remain low compared to other types of interventions.

To view a copy of the WHO’s Executive Summary, please go to:

Bush Administration Commits $15 Million to Protect Nation’s Watersheds

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was pledging $15 million to 14 watersheds in 17 states, through the EPA’s Targeted Watersheds Grant Program.

The selected areas represent more than 20,000 square miles of rivers, lakes and streams stretching from Cape Fear on the Atlantic Coast, through much of the Mississippi River Basin, to Dungeness River in Washington State and the Kenai River in Alaska.

Special consideration was given to watersheds along the Mississippi River Basin, where market-based water quality trading pilot projects are being implemented to address excessive nutrient run-off along the River. Nutrient overload has been scientifically linked to the seasonal hypoxic – or oxygen starved – zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Targeted Watersheds Grant Program was proposed in 2002 by the Bush Administration to encourage successful community-based approaches to protect and restore the nation’s watersheds.

Detailed information about these projects and the Targeted Watersheds Grant Program is available at:

Legislation Filed Seeking Greater Federal Biodefense Workforce

Legislation to ensure that the nation has enough public health personnel to respond to an infectious disease outbreak or a bio-terrorist attack was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week.

The Public Health Preparedness Workforce Act, filed by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is designed to provide financial assistance for students who are pursuing health-related degrees and intend to enter a governmental public health agency upon their graduation from college. The measure calls for an annual appropriation of $230 million and eighty percent of the funds would be dedicated for placing public health workers at the state and local level. Bonus payments would be available to those who agree to be placed in underserved areas.

According to a report released in 2003 by the Partnership for Public Service, the federal government does not have enough bio-defense specialists to be adequately prepared for potential terrorist attacks.
Sewage Dumping Plagues U.S. Cities

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), antiquated sewer systems in cities such as Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit are discharging billions of gallons of sewage into rivers and lakes across the country. Last year alone, the EPA estimates that as much as 860.5 billions of gallons of sewage were pumped into freshwater ecosystems across the U.S. closing beaches and rendering water unsafe.

Much of the problem stems from sewage flowing through an older, combined, one pipe sewer rather than a sanitary system, which has separate pipes for rain runoff and wastewater. Of the more than 20,000 sewer systems nationally, 752 are combined systems and built before the 1950’s.

In 2000, Congress enacted legislation that codified an EPA regulation mandating cities with combined systems to develop a plan to prevent overflows. To date only 34 percent have filed such a plan, according to the EPA. The EPA is slated to file a report with Congress in the near future regarding sewer overflows.

For a recent Associated Press article on the U.S. sewer overflow problem and its effect on one municipality, click on to:

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