World-first review exposes threats to global water supply and sanitation

16/03/2023 | 2 mins

The University of Western Australia has contributed to a global review of water and sanitation provision in high-income countries and found that nations such as Australia and the UK are not immune from the human rights issues that threaten water supply and sanitation in poorer countries.

"It’s important because the next century of water and sanitation provision is likely to be different to what has come before."

Dr Dani Barrington

The review, published in The Lancet Global Health, looked at case studies from marginalised communities and data from studies of microbial and chemical contaminants.

Dr Dani Barrington, from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, contributed to the international review with insights into water and sanitation issues in poorly resourced and marginalised communities in Australia and the UK.

Dani BarringtonImage: Dr Dani Barrington.

She joined experts from across the US and Europe to provide a raft of recommendations about essential public health services in high-income countries. The review was led by Associate Professor Joe Brown at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Australia’s Griffith University contributed.

“This is the first time this information has been pulled together in this way and assessed through a transdisciplinary lens by experts from across the world,” Dr Barrington said.

“It’s important because the next century of water and sanitation provision is likely to be different to what has come before, as global migration, climate change, conflicts and disease threaten existing resources and further disparities.

“We need to right past wrongs and ensure sustainable water and sanitation access for everyone in a changing climate.”
The review recommends that governments:

Acknowledge the underlying causes of disparities in safe water supply and sanitation, including active discrimination, deliberate neglect, exclusionary policies, institutionalised marginalisation and racism.

Centre marginalised and low-resource communities in all water and sanitation planning.

Meet the human rights obligations associated with water and sanitation provision through legislative mechanisms.

Collect meaningful data on water and sanitation access and quality, as well as attributable diseases.

Explore new models for service provision, including hybrid and decentralised systems.

Address underlying systemic disparities by taking a systems approach to delivering water and sanitation services.

Media references

Carrie Cox (UWA PR and Media Adviser) 08 6488 6876

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