The Safe Water System

Wall line up of clay jugs for water storing

The Safe Water System

Since 2000, over 1.8 billion people have gained access to basic water services and 2.1 billion people have gained access to basic sanitation services. However, worldwide, 785 million people lack access to basic water services and an estimated 2 billion people—more than 25% of the world’s population—lack access to basic sanitation.1

Worldwide, 60% of deaths from diarrheal illness are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene2. These diarrheal diseases (such as cholera) kill more children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined, making diarrheal disease the second leading infectious disease cause of death among children under five.3

To address this global disease burden, CDC and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) developed the Safe Water System (SWS), which protects communities from contaminated water by promoting behavior change and providing affordable short-term solutions. The SWS increases access to safe water by helping individuals treat and safely store water in homes, health facilities, and schools.

The SWS includes:

  • Household water treatment;
  • Safe storage of the treated water; and,
  • Behavior change communication to improve hygiene, sanitation, and water and food handling practices.

Safe Water System (SWS) Topics

  1. World Health Organization and UNICEF Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017. Special focus on inequalitiesexternal icon. United States: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2019.
  2. World Health Organization. Preventing diarrhea through better water, sanitation and hygiene: exposures and impacts in low- and middle-income countriesexternal icon, 2014
  3. Liu L, Johnson HL, Cousens S, Perin J, Scott S, Lawn JE, Rudan I, Campbell H, Cibulskis R, Li M, Mathers C, Black RE; Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF. Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality: an updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000external icon.External Lancet. 2012;379(9832):2151-61.