Ensuring drinking-water is safe is a challenge in every part of the world, from water piped into people's homes, to rural wells and water provided to refugee camps in an emergency. Contamination of drinking-water is too often detected only after a health crisis, when people have fallen ill or died as a result of drinking unsafe water. On 21 September 2004, WHO released new recommendations which will help to pre-empt drinking-water contamination.
WHO advises national and local drinking-water regulators, and the enterprises and organizations which actually provide drinking-water to 5 billion people around the world, that the challenge of providing safe drinking-water is growing. WHO's updated Guidelines for drinking-water quality (1) will help regulators and water service providers the world over maintain and improve the quality of their drinking-water.
The revised guidelines will allow public health management to focus on prevention of microbial and chemical contamination of water supplies. They are as applicable for urban drinking-water systems in North America as for protected wells in the developing world. This new approach exhorts all parties working on drinking-water provision and control to act in such a way that outbreaks of waterborne diseases can be further reduced.
Traditionally, drinking-water regulations have emphasized testing water samples for levels of chemical and biological contaminants. Relying on this approach means that problems are …