Clean drinking water and proper sanitation are luxuries we often take for granted, but they're scarce resources in developing countries. The lack of safe drinking water causes more than 3 million deaths a year, mainly children. While the need for clean water may seem far from home, consider that Oklahoma has experienced extreme or severe drought conditions. The more often we experience these conditions, the more our water options will become limited, mirroring those of developing countries.
There are differences, however, between water challenges in developed versus developing countries. In Oklahoma, we spend less than 2 percent of our household income on water. Cambodians pay between 23 and 90 percent of their income for water — if they could get it at all. Oklahomans have access to a networked water system that offers a buffering protection during dry years and is free of harmful contaminants when it reaches our faucets. In contrast, people in developing regions often are forced to use contaminated ground water or surface water that carries the risk of waterborne disease.
On Friday, Sept. 21, the OU WaTER (Water Technologies for Emerging Regions) Center will host a water symposium in Norman. Noted water experts from around the globe will discuss current water research and projects and select the International Water Prize recipient. The public is invited to participate and hear how water affects us around the world and at home. For more information, visit water.ou.edu.
David A. Sabatini, Norman
Sabatini is director of the WaTER Center at the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering.