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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Post-2015 Consensus: Water and Sanitation Viewpoint, Ostrowski and Jones

Viewpoint Paper

Ostrowski and Jones note that the assessment paper is based correctly on the premise that achieving global WASH goals is essential to facilitating and accelerating achievement of a wide range of post-2015 global development goals. Their viewpoint paper comments on the ‘safely managed drinking water service’ aspect of the proposed WASH targets. This includes supplying adequate quantities of accessible drinking water to all members of a household over two days per two week period, and meeting WHO guideline values for E. coli, fluoride and arsenic.

They find this a disappointingly low target and recommend raising it to at least two days per week. There is also a need for the use of a residual level of disinfectant – normally chlorine – to provide ongoing protection against waterborne pathogens. A chlorine residual is a very low level (single digit or less parts per million) of chlorine added to drinking water to help protect consumers against a wide range of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and hepatitis A. For as long as it is detectable, it provides an ongoing barrier to new contamination, and measurement can be done much more rapidly than testing for E. coli.

Life magazine declared in 1997, “The filtration of drinking water plus the use of chlorine is probably the most significant public health advancement of the millennium.” The World Chlorine Council proposes that the global Sustainable Development Goal for safe drinking water include a measurable, science-based indicator of treatment to destroy waterborne pathogens-- the chlorine residual.