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1st International Conference on Rain Water Cistern Systems
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - June 1982

Section 4: Water Quality

Page 276

Roof Catchments: The Appropriate Safe Drinking Water Technology For Developing Countries

B.Z. Diamant
Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria


Water is one of the major components in the structure of the human environment; it comprises nine tenths of our body and coves three quarters of our world. However, as much as water can, support and preserve life, it can also damage and destroy it when this basic commodity is contaminated prior to consumption. There are various sources of water contamination, but the most dangerous source is considered to be human waste originating from sick people infected mainly with intestinal diseases, like typhoid f ever and cholera, or from healthy carriers of these diseases. History, in particular medieval history, has been recording numerous outbreaks of water-borne diseases that wiped out whole communities.

Unfortunately, despite the remarkable technologic l achievements of our era, dangerously contaminated water supplies still pose a serious threat for a large portion of the world's population. Salas (1981) of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, has estimated the 1980 world's population at 4.4 billion. According to recently released World Heath Organization (WHO) figures (World Water 1981), the number of people that lived without access to safe drinking water in 1980 has been estimated at 1,32 million, comprising 30% of the world's population (the ratio is actually higher because the WHO figures did not include China). Almost all these less privileged people resided in developing countries where they comprised more than half of the population. In this respect, it has been further conclude that mostly affected were the rural areas where an overwhelming majority of developing countries people live.

These distressing environmental facts were among the main reasons leading to the recently inaugurated International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (IDWSSD) 1981-1990 aimed at "providing safe water and proper sanitation for all by the year 1990." It is universally hoped that this most human expectation will come true but, meanwhile, together with the time consuming, large-scale water resources development activities connected with the IDWSSD, it is essentially important to embark as soon as possible on ways and means aimed at providing immediate, though limited, solutions for the steadily growing safe drinking water problem in the developing world. A large-scale development of roof catchment drinking water supplies can be the appropriate answer for this problem due to the relatively low costs of the method, but mainly because it provides an almost entirely safe, raw drinking water supply that does not require costly and complicated purification processes.

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