The clear need for basic water and sanitation services for the poor assumes even greater significance when the linkages with other dimensions of poverty are considered. Water and sanitation related sicknesses put severe burdens on health services and keep children out of school. Human waste poses a tremendous social cost through pollution of rivers and groundwater.
The continuing, nearly universal, deterioration of the surface and underground water sources on which people survive means that water and sanitation pressures will simply become worse in the future.
Environmental degradation reduces labor productivity by contributing to the increased burden of diseases and by limiting income potentials (especially in aquaculture).
At the national level, dwindling availability of clean water per capita will increase the economic cost of water and, in a situation of scarcity, limit the potential for economic development.
Locally, communities that fail to protect their surface and ground waters from pathogens have fewer options for drinking water and require more expensive technologies for extracting water from deeper aquifers or for treating surface water to drinkable levels.
In many Andean communities in Bolivia and Peru, sources of clean and safe water are endangered by runoff from mines which often allow toxic chemicals and heavy metals used in the mining process to run into nearby rivers and streams.