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Climate change threatens small water supplies, WHO issues guidelines

Many people in rural areas around the world lack access to clean and safe drinking water. They rely on small water supply systems

By Ground report
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Climate change threatens small water supplies, WHO issues guidelines

Many people in rural areas around the world lack access to clean and safe drinking water. They rely on small water supply systems that face many challenges in terms of technology and resources. This affects the availability, quality, and reliability of water. Water scarcity and pollution can lead to health risks as well as social and economic problems.

To address these challenges, it is important to include small water supply systems in policies and regulations. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines to support small water supply systems. These guidelines aim to improve water quality and ensure a safe and reliable water supply.

They also aim to reduce the health risks from contaminated water in vulnerable and resource-poor communities. Along with this, WHO has also released a new tool. It is important to note that these communities often face the threat of infectious diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, and skin diseases due to a lack of clean drinking water.

The goal of providing clean and safe water to everyone in the world by 2030 is part of Sustainable Development Goal 6.1. These guidelines are also meant to help achieve this goal.

Dr. Maria Neira, the Director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department of WHO, says that investing in small water supply systems has a double benefit. On the one hand, it helps to prevent diseases caused by polluted water. On the other hand, it helps to save money by reducing the costs of diseases and their treatment.

Small systems face climate risks

She says that small water supply systems are more exposed to the effects of climate change, especially on water quality and quantity. She says that this can affect the supply of clean water. Therefore, urgent actions are needed to ensure that everyone has access to clean and safe drinking water.

These guidelines provide six recommendations based on WHO’s framework for safe drinking water. These guidelines focus on water quality and health needs and emphasize considering local conditions. They also cover topics such as setting standards based on health criteria, planning to avoid problems, and testing water quality independently.

These recommendations are based on ten key principles along with many studies and examples from the field. These principles include giving the highest priority to public health, using a risk-based approach, and aiming for gradual improvement.

Bruce Gordon, the head of WHO’s Water, Sanitation and Health Unit, says, “Political will, risk-sensitive regulations and increased investment are proving to be effective in achieving access to safe drinking water through small water supply systems.” He says that these guidelines will help the stakeholders at all levels to improve the safety and sustainability of small water supplies.


The World Health Organization urges governments and other actors around the world to implement these recommendations in their regulations, policies and support programs to effectively deal with small water supply facilities.

  • To assess the factors that affect the delivery of small water supply services in the community and to strengthen the system, which affects the performance of small water supplies, so that they can be enhanced.
  • Setting standards for small water supply systems that focus on risk management and determining what we need to monitor regularly to ensure water safety.
  • Adopting regulations that encourage a transition to commercial operation and management of small water supplies. Motivating water suppliers to use Water Safety Plans (WSPs) to manage risks at all stages.
  • Frequently checking to ensure water suppliers are managing risks properly and using limited resources to address the most serious health issues.
  • Improving the way information is gathered and shared so that better decisions can be made and actions can be taken to improve small water supplies at all levels.

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