Date:  Sept. 10, 2007

Contacts:  Amy K. Shaw

Koshland Science Museum

202-334-1612; e-mail


Maureen O’Leary 

Office of News and Public Information

The National Academies

202-334-2138; e-mail




WASHINGTON – The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Global Health and Education Foundation are joining with science, engineering, and medical academies around the world to take action on the drinking water crisis faced by many countries by launching “Safe Drinking Water Is Essential” (  This Web resource will be the first tool of its kind to provide international decision makers with peer-reviewed scientific and technical information about the options available to enhance the safety and availability of drinking water supplies around the world.  A briefing on the Web tool is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12.


More than a billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water.  Diseases caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation are among the world’s most serious public health threats, accounting for nearly 80 percent of illnesses in developing countries and killing millions of people – mostly children – each year. 


“Many of the approaches and technologies needed to improve drinking water quality already exist,” said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences.  “This Web resource will provide the right information to the people who need it most.”


“The time is now to make safe drinking water accessible to everybody,” said Kenneth Behring, founder of the Global Health and Education Foundation.  “It’s simply impossible to lead a healthy, productive life without clean water.” 


The Global Health and Education Foundation provided funding to the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences to develop the Web resource in collaboration with the Water Science and Technology Board and Office of International Programs of the National Research Council. 


More than 125 science, medical, and engineering academies worldwide are disseminating information about the Web resource, which is available in five languages.  In addition, 10,000 free DVD versions will be distributed to non-governmental organizations that are working to improve water quality.


“Safe Drinking Water Is Essential” provides detailed information on water sources and options for distribution and treatment.  Case studies focus on problems and conditions specific to different regions of the world.


On Wednesday, Sept. 12, a press briefing will be held from 11 a.m. to noon EDT in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St., N.W.  The National Academies will run a live audio webcast of the briefing at, where reporters will be able to submit questions for panelists. Speakers will include Ralph J. Cicerone; Kenneth Behring; Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, Oakland, Calif., and member of the scientific steering committee that helped develop the Web resource; José Tundisi, president of the International Ecological Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and chair of the InterAcademy Panel’s Water Programme; and Hamé Watt, international water supply and sanitation consultant and member of the scientific steering committee.  Reporters interested in attending the briefing should register in advance (contacts listed above).


The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Water Science and Technology Board and Office of International Programs are part of the National Research Council.  For more information, visit or


The Marian Koshland Science Museum brings current scientific issues to life for the general public through interactive, dynamic exhibits based on reports by the National Academies.  For more information, visit


The Global Health and Education Foundation strives to advance the health, education, social and economic well-being of people around the world by advocating for improved access to clean water, public health and primary care, basic education, social, and economic development opportunities.  The foundation’s inaugural operating foundation, WaterLeaders, is dedicated to alleviating the drinking water crisis. For more information, visit