U.S. 'World Water Day' Coalition to Hold Landmark Meeting

Government, private-sector, foundation and faith leaders will join a coalition of nearly 30 organizations Monday for what is being billed as the most significant gathering for safe water, sanitation and hygiene ever held in the United States.

The high-level event, co-hosted by Water Advocates and the National Geographic Society, will kick off two days of activities in Washington to celebrate a new level of commitment by U.S.-based groups for safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

The gathering will also be held as people around the world mark World Water Day by raising public consciousness of the challenges facing the one out of every six people who lack safe drinking water and the two out of every five people who lack adequate sanitation.

"Implications are widespread ranging from health, gender equity, child survival and education to the environment, poverty and peace and security," say organizers of Monday's World Water Day event in Washington.

"World Water Day … seeks to ensure that safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is accessible for all people around the world," they add.

According to a survey conducted last year by London-based consultancy SustainAbility and GlobalScan, water is at the top of environmental concerns among the general public, ahead of the broader issue of climate change.

It is estimated that 10 percent of the world's illnesses are spread by inadequate availability of clean water, hygiene and sanitation facilities.

Children are particularly vulnerable. Every year, 1.5 million – or approximately 4,000 children every day – die from illnesses caused by poor quality drinking water or inadequate hygiene practices.

In total, 3.5 million people each year die from inadequate access to drinking water, from poor hygiene, and from the lack or inadequacy of toilets and sewer systems.

In light of this and other statistics, adequate U.S. funding for global safe water is vital in addressing "what is the bottom line requirement for life, health, food security and sustainable development in both climate-challenged poor countries and, increasingly, a priority in developed countries," says the Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, one of the groups participating in this year's World Water Day initiative.

At the conclusion of Monday's meeting in Washington, the coalition of nearly 30 organizations will announce new commitments in water and sanitation after raising greater awareness of World Water Day itself, the serious threats posed by lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and the proven solutions available.

The coalition will also join together for a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, holding a briefing with members of Congress and taking part in an attempt to form the world's longest toilet queue to demonstrate the need for sanitation and safe water in the developing world.

The diverse coalition of water, sanitation, hygiene and health organizations engaged in the 2010 World Water Day initiative includes Action Against Hunger, AED, Africare, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, Earth Day Network, Global Water, Global Water Challenge, H2O for Life, InterAction, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Millennium Water Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, ONE, PATH, P&G Children's Safe Drinking Water Program, Project Concern International, PSI, US Coalition for Child Survival, WaterAid, Water.org, Water Advocates, Water and Sanitation Program, Water For People, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and World Vision.

Among those delivering remarks Monday will be U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Reilly, former administrator for EPA and chairman for Global Water Challenge.

The event will be held at the office of the National Geographic Society.