- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

The National Academy of Sciences is spearheading an international effort to provide clean drinking water to more than a billion people around the world.

The NAS has teamed with the Global Health and Education Foundation, among others, to start www.drinking-water.org that provides a free database of information on drinking water safety and purification.

Organizers hope to have a real effect on the parts of the world crippled by a lack of sanitary drinking water. NAS President Ralph Cicerone calls the lack of clean drinking water “a subject many Americans have lost sight of.”

Information on the site, compiled globally from scientists and peer-reviewed by colleagues worldwide, will be accessible online and through one of 10,000 compact discs to be distributed worldwide.

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, called the freshwater shortage, “a solvable crisis,” and although the new site will be, “a key piece of the education problem … we have to do more.”

Jose Tundisi, president of the International Ecological Institute in Brazil, stressed that with international cooperation their efforts can be redoubled and their success can increase exponentially by being “inclusive, not exclusive” in accepting and promoting new ideas. The site design allows for uploading of the information and data, allowing it to be a growing resource relevant in a variety of regions.

Mr. Tundisi, who was instrumental in bringing the NAS together with many of its international counterparts, has focused the attention of this new site and CD-ROM distribution to six global focal points — Brazil, Poland, Russia, Jordan, China and South Africa — aimed at reaching the highest number of people in need. The six nations will be the regions from which they hope knowledge of their program will spread.

A key component to both the site and CD is that it can be read in five languages, designed to put the information in the hands of decision-makers around the world who can relay it to representatives of those in rural areas that would have little access otherwise.

The project’s progress is expected to be difficult to monitor, but what the NAS and all other academies involved hope for is that this new tool will serve as a guidebook and provide a starting point and direction in which localities and entire nations can move forward.

Specifically, they want to assist in reaching one of the United Nations Millennium Goals — reducing by half the number of people without sanitary drinking water.

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