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A COVID-19 Bridge Over Troubled Water?

It seems likely that the COVID-19 crisis will increase demand for cleaner, safer water and more reliable and effective wastewater treatment everywhere. But success is far from guaranteed, not least because the pandemic also seems to be strengthening another trend: declining trust in public institutions.

SINGAPORE/GLASGOW – The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to transform our behaviors, attitudes, and policies in many areas. For the sake of overcoming the public-health crisis and enabling economic recovery, one must hope that water and wastewater management will be among them.

Delivering clean water and ensuring proper wastewater management has been a global concern since the late 1970s. Significant progress toward this objective was made during the 1980s, which the United Nations declared the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. But the ultimate goal – to ensure that every human on the planet had access to clean water and sanitation by 1990 – was not achieved.

The world tried again in 2000, with the less ambitious Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the share of the population without sustainable access to clean water and sanitation by 2015. This time, the UN declared victory, but included anyone with access to water at all – clean or not.

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