The status of water and sanitation among Pacific Rim nations

Robert G. Arnold, Jane Heyworth, A. Eduardo Sáez, Clemencia Rodriguez, Phil Weinstein, Bo Ling, Saima Memon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Analysis of relationships among national wealth, access to improved water supply and sanitation facilities, and population health indices suggests that the adequacy of water resources at the national level is a poor predictor of economic development - namely, that low water stress is neither necessary nor sufficient for economic development at the present state of water stress among Pacific Rim nations. Although nations differ dramatically in terms of priority provided to improved water and sanitation, there is some level of wealth (per capita GNP) at which all nations promote the development of essential environmental services. Among the Pacific Rim countries for which there are data, no nation with a per capita GNP < US$18,000 per year has failed to provide near universal access to improved water supply and sanitation. Below US$18,000/person-year, however, there are decided differences in the provision of sanitary services (improved water supply and sanitation) among nations with similar economic success. There is a fairly strong relationship between child mortality/life expectancy and access to improved sanitation, as expected from the experiences of developed nations. Here no attempt is made to produce causal relationships among these data. Failure to meet Millennium Development Goals for the extension of improved sanitation is frequently evident in nations with large rural populations. Under those circumstances, capital intensive water and sanitation facilities are infeasible, and process selection for water/wastewater treatment requires an adaptation to local conditions, the use of appropriate materials, etc., constraints that are mostly absent in the developed world. Exceptions to these general ideas exist in water-stressed parts of developed countries, where water supplies are frequently augmented by water harvesting, water reclamation/reuse, and the desalination of brackish water resources. Each of these processes involves public acceptance of water resources that are at least initially of inferior quality. Despite predictions of looming increases in water stress throughout the world, adaptation and resourcefulness generally allow us to meet water demand while pursuing rational economic development, even in the most water-stressed areas of the Pacific Rim.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalReviews on Environmental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Pacific Rim
  • Sanitation
  • Water supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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