FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2002
76 Million Could Perish From Water-Related
Disease by 2020
Death Toll From Global Water Crisis Could Exceed Deaths
Oakland, California -- Over 76 million people will perish
from water-related disease by 2020 unless urgent action
is taken, according to a new report released today by
the Pacific Institute of Oakland, California. The report
finds that water-related diseases could claim more lives
than the global AIDS pandemic by 2020 unless major changes
"As many as 76 million people - mainly children
- will die from preventable, water-related diseases by
2020 even if current United Nations goals are reached,"
said Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute.
The report, "Dirty Water: Estimated Deaths from
Water-Related Diseases 2000-2020," looks at three
different scenarios and concludes that even if we achieve
the United Nations Millennium Goals, which aim to cut
the proportion of people without clean drinking water
by half, 34 to 76 million people could perish over the
next twenty years.
"Under the most optimistic scenario we examined,
the death toll from water-related disease is still staggering,"
continued Dr. Gleick, "and would exceed the projected
deaths from the global AIDS epidemic. This largely hidden
tragedy ranks as one of the greatest development failures
of the 20th century."
The causes of the global water crisis are many, but the
Pacific Institute's report points out that current development
efforts, which focus on large, centralized water systems,
are part of the problem.
"Far too much money has been spent on centralized,
large-scale water systems that cannot be built or maintained
with local expertise or resources, while traditional and
community-scale systems have been inadequately funded
and supported," said Gleick. "It is time to
change direction, toward a "soft path" that
relies on smaller-scale systems designed, built, and operated
by local groups. Outside assistance in terms of information,
funding, and expertise is certainly still required, but
this assistance must be provided in new and different
The current best estimates of water-related deaths fall
between 2 and 5 million deaths per year. The vast majority
of those dying from water-related disease are small children
struck by virulent but preventable diarrhoeal diseases.
The new report released by the Institute makes three model
calculations of the total water-related deaths likely
to occur between 2000 and 2020. The first assumes that
water-related deaths continue to occur in direct proportion
to global population. The second assumes that water-related
deaths are more directly related to the population without
access to adequate water services - a more realistic estimate
- and that those numbers increase as global population
increases. The third estimate assumes that the official
United Nations Millennium targets for water services are
reached in 2015 and efforts continue to 2020. Under this
last, optimistic scenario, between 34 and 76 million people,
mostly children, will still perish by 2020.
"The UN Millennium Goals are a step in the right
direction," Gleick said, "but they are inadequate
in the face of the appalling death toll facing the poorest
people in the poorest countries. International efforts
must be coupled with specific and aggressive new commitments
on the part of countries and development organizations.
"Dirty Water: Estimated Deaths from Water-Related
Diseases 2000-2020" and information on the soft path for water is available online.
Biography and Press
Photos for Peter H. Gleick