The International Municipal Water Supply Program: A Health and Economic Appraisal

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  • Department of Civil Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

One of the most significant events in the history of sanitary engineering in the twentieth century may well be the decision made by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) to cooperate in the promotion of a global program of municipal water supplies.

The World Health Assembly, meeting in Geneva in May, 1959, re-emphasized its previous stand regarding the need and importance of public water supplies, and unanimously approved the Environmental Sanitation Division's plan for a spearhead attack as the first stage in a global program. While WHO has consistently advocated the use of safe water as an important public-health measure, the global plan has two important new features. It recognizes the economic importance of public water supplies and that only part of the cost of a supply is chargeable to health protection.The bulk of the expenditure,to quote the minutes of the Assembly, “is for the provision of a convenience and a commodity”— water supplies should not be promoted as a kind of dole but should be—“operated,managed and maintained on sound business lines.”