By Kelly R. Reynolds, Ph.D., MSPH

In 2000, 192 United Nations member states and more than 23 international organizations adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration aiming to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.” To achieve this aim, eight general goals were set with 21 quantitative targets and more than 60 measurable indicators to monitor progress toward the goals.

Either directly or indirectly, water quality, availability and sustainability are key contributors to conditions of poor health and extreme poverty.

Millennium declaration goals
The target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) was set at 2015. Some of the goals focus on issues of social justice and employment while others are directly related to environmental issues.

Although much progress has been made, a number of targets are expected to be missed. Vast deficiencies in water and sanitation are expected to result in major consequences for some of the most vulnerable populations.

The following is a summary of the MDGs and a list of some of the targets and indicators[1]:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Target: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living on less than $1(USD)/day

Target: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Target: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Target: Ensure by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and at all levels of education no later than 2015

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Target: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Target: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

Target: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Target: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Target: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Target: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Target: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

Target: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Target: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Target: Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small-island developing states

Target: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

Target: Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt

Target: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries

Target: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

Achieving the MGDs requires the fostering of a partnership between developed and developing countries working toward improving the quality of life for all, especially those with the greatest needs. Developed countries are encouraged to increase aid, purchase products and provide debt relief to developing countries.

The water treatment industry is also encouraged to participate. This can be done through the development and distribution of low-cost, effective treatment technologies for the developing world.

Progress Report
While progress has been made toward all eight MGDs overall, advancements have been extensive in some regions and marginal or stagnant in others. In particular, Sub-Saharan Africa has made minimal improvements in poverty reduction and the overall quality of life for the population.

Some of the successes and deficiencies toward achieving the MGDs by 2015 have been measured (See Table 1).

Environmental and economical issues of local and global proportions are sure to impact future progress toward the MGDs. Predicted effects of global climate change are expected to displace current populations due to either drought or extreme flooding. Financial constraints are a major road block in meeting the MDGs.

Currently, over one billion people lack access to improved water supplies. Infectious diarrhea causes nearly two million deaths per year, primarily in children under the age of five. Water, sanitation and hygiene are a risk factor in 90 percent of these deaths.

Although goals for drinking water are expected to stay on course to meet the MGD by 2015, an estimated $10 to 30 billion (USD) is needed above what is currently being spent. Total funding needs for the water sector are $111 to180 billion (USD) per year.[2]

Water treatment industry participation
The benefits of improved drinking water quality impact nearly all of the MGDs. Water treatment leads to better health, improved nutrition, reduced healthcare expenses, reduced mortality rates, increased school or work attendance, increased supply options and other quality of life indicators.

Simple, life-saving water treatments are not available for much of the developing world, but new products are increasingly being invented. Used at household level, flocculant/disinfectant powders have been shown to reduce diarrheal disease from 16 to >90 percent incidence.[3]

Gravity-fed ultrafiltration devices are also being developed for use in low-income settings. [4] Chlorination and filtration is considered one of the greatest public health advancements of the millennium.

In the US, water supplies have been treated with chlorine for over 100 years and currently 200 million Americans receive chlorinated water daily. Low-cost chemical disinfectants, flocculants and crude filtration mechanisms are shown to have a major impact on morbidity and mortality in developing regions.

A recent industry market study predicts strong growth in the world demand for water treatment, including chemical and nonchemical products, with a projected increase of 6.4 percent per year to nearly $40 billion (USD) by 2011.5 Advances in China and India are expected to result in twice the growth of the global average.

According to the report, “gains will be due to the continuing introduction of more sophisticated water treatment technologies, including wider use of higher-end membranes for desalination and other applications.” This includes industrial and recreational water treatment.[5]

There are many roles the water treatment industry will play relative to the MGDs. They may range from philanthropic support to the development of advanced treatment technologies to meet the needs of our changing world.

Table 1. 2008 Progress report on the Millennium Declaration Goals1

Major advancements

  • Reducing poverty byone-half is within reach for the world overall.
  • Primary school enrollment is >90 percent in all but two regions.
  • 60 percent of regions have nearly equal gender proportions in primary education.
  • Deaths from measles fell dramatically; 80 percent of children in developing countries get measles vaccine.
  • Deaths from AIDS fell from 2.2 million to 2 million and new infections declined from 3 million to 2.7 million.
  • Malaria prevention is expanding.
  • Tuberculosis incidence is expected to be halted and to begin declining.
  • 1.6 billion people gained access to safe drinking water since 1990.
  • Ozone-depleting substance use has almost been eliminated.
  • External debt expenditures from export earnings declined from 12.5 percent to 6.6 percent.
  • The private sector has increased the availability of some critical medications and communication technologies in the developing world.

Significant needs

  • Those in sub-Saharan Africa living on <$1 (USD)/day is unlikely to be reduced by one-half.
  • One-quarter of children in developing countries are underweight and undernourished.
  • 95 countries in four regions are unlikely to achieve gender parity in school enrollment.
  • Two-thirds of employed women in the developing world are in vulnerable jobs.
  • In one-third of developing countries, women account for <10 percent of parliamentarians.
  • Over 500,000 prospective mothers die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • 2.5 billion people (one-half the developing world’s population) live without improved sanitation.
  • More than one-third of the urban population in developing countries live in slum conditions.
  • CO2 emissions continue to increase.
  • Foreign aid from developed countries have declined for two consecutive years.
  • International trade negotiations are years behind schedule.


  1. United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2008. New York. Available online:
  2. UNESCO. United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. The UN World Water Development Report. Available online:
  3. CDC. Household water treatment options in developing countries: flocculant/disinfectant powder. January 2008. Available online:
  4. C. Clasen, J. Naranjo, D. Frauchiger and C. Gerba, 2009. “Laboratory assessment of a gravity-fed ultrafiltration water treatment device designed for household use in low-income settings.” American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 80: 819-823.
  5. Freedonia Group Inc. Water & Wastes Digest. July 8, 2008. Available online:

About the author
Dr. Kelly A. Reynolds is an associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Public Health. She holds a Master of Science degree in public health (MSPH) from the University of South Florida and a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arizona. Reynolds has been a member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee since 1997. She can be reached via email at [email protected].


International Development Sessions
Sessions on International Development surrounding water and sanitation programs at the AWWA Water Quality Technology Conference November 15 to 19, 2009 at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle. The program committee chose to highlight this issue in an International Track according to one of the session organizers, Dr. Sue Rivera of MIOX Corporation, a member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee.

The complexity of integrating new technologies and products into sustainable and successful business models will be addressed.  These sessions are intended for professionals with a passion for international development including people from international organizations, governments, universities, equipment manufacturers, multilateral development banks, foundations and other organizations focused on providing safe water and sanitation in developing countries.

More than 1,500 water professionals will be in attendance at the conference, including 350 presentations, 60 technical sessions and 44 papers including those with an international perspective. Some topics include:

  • Creating Sustainable Water Quality in International Development
  • Water Quality Treatment in Developing Countries
  • Water Quality Improvement Programs & Research:  Developing Nations

Session presenters include those from:

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • United States Congress
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Research Organizations
  • World Academic Institutions

For more information, go online at


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