The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for changing industry and the public’s use of water in order to create a safer and more sustainable system, say experts.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham and America’s Northwestern University warn urgent action on water security is essential to better prepare societies for future global health crises.
Their comments, first published in Nature Sustainability, call for a focus on behavioural change, knowledge promotion and investment in water infrastructure. This follows studies revealing nearly a quarter of households in low and middle income countries have been unable to follow the basic guidelines on handwashing – recognised as critical to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Professor David Hannah, who holds the UNESCO chair in water sciences at the University of Birmingham’s school of geography, earth and environmental sciences said the pandemic has laid bare the urgent need for global action on water security.
He cited three areas that should be targeted, including:
Protecting water sources by developing adequate water treatment and distribution systems and recycyling water rather than building expensive.
Encouraging local leaders and communities to promote and embed good hygiene behaviours and sustainability.
Predicting and planning for relief efforts such as temporary taps or hand sanitiser products as climate change and population growth progress.
Co-author Professor Iseult Lynch stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic may serve as an opportunity to change behaviours. For example, over-reliance on commercially bottled water can quickly become self-sustaining and disincentivise investment in sustainable water infrastructure. Rethinking the value of water as a multi-purpose resource and how to use it sustainably is required urgently.”