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  • Joshua Kurtz

Equity in Safely Managed Water Systems

This past June of 2022, I took a trip to southern Uganda where I witnessed children collecting water from a drainage pond, in a remote village. The water was muddy and after performing a water test on the source, our team found it was riddled with E-coli. We learned this water was used for local families' daily water needs. It was quickly obvious this water source was not safely managed to ensure a safe water supply for human use. Sadly, this scenario is not unique.

This visit led me to consider how many people in Uganda and its surrounding countries do not have access to safely managed water systems, as compared to people in developed countries like the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). The search for statistics related to safely managed water systems led me to two questions. 1) What defines a safely managed water system? 2) What is the level of disparity between a developed country and a developing country?

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A safely managed water system is defined as the following - “Drinking water from an improved water source that is accessible on premises, available when needed and free from fecal and priority contamination” (JMP and WHO UNICEF). In most of Europe and North America, this type of water system is considered the status quo. But this is not the case for many people in Sub-saharan Africa. Standards are not the same.

In the UK 99.8% of households have access to safely managed water systems, whereas 16.6% of Uganda’s households have access to safely managed water systems as of 2020 (JMP). This is a major discrepancy that exists in our world today that needs to be corrected. Seeing this type of disparity leads me to ask, why does this disparity continue to exist when so many resources have gone into helping resolve this issue? It seems we need to continue asking relevant questions and putting time, energy, and resources into researching what is actually happening out there.

At The Ayin Project, we are committed to working towards understanding the water issues in developing countries and working towards solutions that are sustainable. Researching, identifying, and understanding the barriers that slow progress with safely managed water systems in areas of need are part of that effort to bring sustainable solutions. We believe it is possible to no longer see children collecting water from contaminated ponds. We believe children can and will have access to safely managed water at the convenience and safety of their own homes. Until then, our work is not finished.

Works Cited

JMP. “Household Safely Managed Water Systems.” Wash Data, JMP,!/table?geo0=region&geo1=sdg. Accessed 22 November 2022.

JMP, and WHO UNICEF. “Drinking Water.” WASH Data, Accessed 22 November 2022.

Pictures provided by The Ayin Project, June 2022

Infographic provided by The Ayin Project, November 2022

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