296. Memorandum From Harry Blaney of the Policy Planning Staff to the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lake)1


  • Possible Community Water Initiative—Background Paper

Attached you will find a “Background Paper” for a possible U.S. community water initiative per our conversation. Material in the paper can be used for a variety of purposes including:

—justification for the initiative;

—briefing material for an explanation of the problem and our response to it; and

—discussion of various specific ways our assistance can be utilized.

For this reason the paper is not perfect for any one of these purposes and would have to be edited or tailored for individual use. Left out of the paper, for the moment, is exactly how the initiative should be organized and followed up on. It is my view that if it is enunciated it [Page 978] will require some kind of special organizational backstopping if it is not to fall into the bureaucratic quagmire and be swallowed up thereby. (That’s what happened to many of Henry’s famous efforts in speeches!)2

I particularly call your attention to the section of the paper on U.S. assistance levels. You will note that FY 79 funds for community water programs now project a severe decline in overall funding levels. Obviously this problem must be dealt with.

If you need any more information or a retailoring of the material attached, please let me know.


Background Paper on Community Water Initiative by the U.S.3

The Problem

Only about 10 percent of the population in the developing countries utilize fully protected water sources. Less than a tenth of the villages of India have access to clean drinking water. In the developing countries many large urban areas’ drinking water supplies are unsafe. There are, however, great differences between countries and particularly between urban and rural areas. World-wide, about two-thirds of the LDC population is without “reasonably adequate” water or sanitation services. However, in many urban areas and especially in rural communities organic waste is accumulating and water supplies are being increasingly contaminated. The UN Children’s Fund estimates about one billion rural people in the LDCs and 200 million in urban shanty towns must use unsafe water sources.

A UN report has stated: “. . . Few could disagree that of any single activity in these urban areas, the improvement of water supply would have the greatest impact on the prevention of disease, the improvement of living conditions, the cleaning of streets, the beautification of parks and playgrounds, and the servicing of commercial, governmental and industrial operations. Similarly, if any single action were to be taken in these rural areas with the aim of reducing exposure to the most prevalent diseases, upgrading lifestyle (particularly that of women and chil [Page 979] dren), catalyzing community organization and participation, and setting a basis for the development of cottage industry and community development, it would be the improvement of water supply.”4

In developing nations there is even less access to safe waste disposal systems than availability of safe drinking water. The contamination of food and water by human waste is the main reason for the dissemination of intestinal diseases carried by parasites and bacteria. For example, hookworm, which infects about 700 million individuals and causes severe anemia results from skin exposure to infected human waste deposited in surface soil. Further, there is a direct relationship between deaths due to diarrheal diseases in children under five and the availability of piped water systems. Water borne diseases also combine with other factors including induced fever which interfere with the body’s use of food energy which lowers nutritional value. More than five million people die every year from water-borne diseases.

Another dimension of the community water problem is the scarcity of water for growing urban centers. Many cities in the Third World as they rapidly grow due to population increase are finding it increasingly difficult to supply their citizens with clean water. The result sometimes has been the increase in sickness, the drying up or pollution of wells and conflict over water ownership between communities.

International Institutional Background

The problem of potable water was examined in varying degrees at several UN conferences including those on the Environment, Population, Habitat and most recently at the UN Water Conference at Mar del Plata in March 1977. Specifically, both Habitat and the Water Conference passed resolutions or recommendations about community water with the main aim dealing with the problems of the least developed and most seriously affected countries. The Conferences called for increased financial contributions, multilaterally and bilaterally, for assisting community water supply and sanitation.

Also emphasis was placed on improvement of domestic hygiene especially through education and motivation. The application of appropriate and low-cost technology was cited as key elements in dealing with this problem. Priority was also given to immediate national planning to give high priority to projects in this sector.

Specifically the key UN Water Conference recommendations were

“(a) That where human needs have not yet been satisfied, national development policies and plans should give priority to the supplying [Page 980] of drinking water for the entire population and to the final disposal of waste water; and should also actively involve, encourage and support efforts being undertaken by local voluntary organizations;

(b) That Governments reaffirm their commitment made at Habitat to ‘adopt programs with realistic standards for quality and quantity to provide water for urban and rural areas by 1990, if possible’;

(e) That in 1980 the national programmes which have been implemented for that purpose, and the extent to which the countries concerned have succeeded in mobilizing local and national support should be reviewed by an appropriate mechanism to be determined by the Economic and Social Council and based on the use of existing machinery, with a view to attaining coordinated action toward agreed targets;”

Extent of Present U.S. Assistance Efforts

Direct AID funding for community water supply and sanitation has had an irregular pattern varying between $16 million to 79 million between FY 76 and FY 78. In FY 78 AID is funding $43 million directly for community water supply and sanitation (CWS). In addition some $29.7 million is being spent on projects in which there is a CWS component. (These are mostly well sinking and farm projects.) In addition some $96.5 million in Supporting Assistance (SA) is funded for CWS largely in Egypt for the “Canal Cities Water and Sanitation” project. ($12 million also is going to Portugal.)

However, AID is tentatively only budgeting $23.4 million in FY 79 for CWS development assistance and $60 million for SA. Funding for projects in which CWS is a component and SA programs similarly will experience a major decline. An important reason for this is the inclusion in FY 78 funds of new major projects especially those in Egypt. However, the overall marked decline projected for FY 79 will impact untimely upon total amounts devoted to this sector.

Multilateral Programs

A number of international development lending institutions (IDLIs) have programs relevant to community water systems. In particular, the World Bank has projects in water supply and sewage. They also support some programs dealing with the related problems of population and nutrition but little in other areas of health. (They only have a Onchocerciasis Control Program in West Africa.) The Bank decided not to fund health programs directly but to incorporate health questions into the basic design of projects.

Character of US Initiative

In keeping with the importance of the problem for human health and productivity and in following up on the relevant UN resolutions, [Page 981] the US is proposing a major concerted global effort to develop for the poorest sectors in developing countries safe drinking water supplies and safe sanitation in keeping with the recommendations of the UN conference that dealt with this problem, including encouraging countries to have plans by 1980 for the accelerated development of drinking water systems. The US is prepared to join with other countries and international bodies to supply financial assistance to sound projects and to train local personnel. We are also ready to assist where we can and where we are asked, in the design of the plans now being developed.

A Comprehensive Strategy to Improve the Quality and Quantity of Community Water Supplies

Improvement in the availability and quality of community water supplies has a number of elements which must be integrated and understood for a successful program. The United States, within the context of its initiative and its available resources supports a carefully planned and integrated approach to community water problems. This integrated approach and our assistance should include, as appropriate, the following factors:

—Assistance programs should primarily focus on encouraging local management and resource allocation to safe local water supply and sanitation. The problem will not be solved alone by outside assistance which can only be a small percentage of the total funding required. Thus strengthening and providing incentives for national and local governments to undertake their own major efforts would be the main focus for foreign assistance.

—A community water program should be integrated into other related areas such as health, family planning and nutritional efforts. Also coordination with agricultural programs, especially irrigation, etc., will be necessary if rural areas are to receive maximum benefit.

—An element in a comprehensive strategy to provide safe community water is that of education and communication. Very simple and limited basic information, if communicated to individuals can make a great difference in their nutrition, sanitation and disease situation. This is especially important for expectant mothers and those with young children. Thus a community water initiative should include an educational component.

—In this regard, a maximum utilization of existing community structures, including schools, rural extension services, health facilities and local administration. Mass media and local schools should be utilized in providing basic hygiene information.

—The interaction between large-scale water projects, community water and sanitation systems and the spread of disease should be [Page 982] studied and programs developed to ensure maximum coordination to minimize the possibility of untoward health hazards.

Primary emphasis of the US effort will be on supplying initial foreign exchange costs (for example chlorination machinery and supplies) and assisting in the development of national and local planning and management capability. This might include, for example:

—Scholarships for Environmental and Public Works Engineers.

—Support for local educational and training institutions in the fields of environmental planning, sanitation, public health and hygiene, etc.

—Foreign exchange costs of necessary equipment.

—Support of programs aimed at preventing and cleaning up polluted surface and ground waters used for community purposes. (Part of such an effort would be the early detection of such pollution and identification of possible solutions.)

—Establishment of local laboratories for the analysis of water samples to assist in preventing contamination and to warn of possible dangers to human and animal health.

—Assistance in the installation, development and research associated with low-cost waste water treatment facilities or alternative acceptable economic uses of waste which would protect community water supplies.

—To up-grade the local capability of the public health and other relevant institutions to deal with water borne diseases particularly prevention techniques.

—Promote regional cooperation in specific areas where such cooperation would increase community water quality and quantity and prevent the spread of diseases.

—In addition, the US with other concerned countries would consider supporting global and regional research and studies required to deal with specific high priority community water problems especially those affecting the spread of diseases through the aquatic environment.

—The US is prepared to work with other countries and international organizations to deal more effectively with community waste problems including specifically to increase the amount of total resources devoted to this sector and the development of international uniform methods and standards for assessing and monitoring water quality and the control of waste borne diseases. We will urge international development lending institutions to increase their efforts and to specifically assist where long-term and large scale efforts are required. In addition, multilateral institutions can promote regional cooperation in this area.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981, Lot 82D298, Box 2, TL 9/1–9/15/77. Limited Official Use. A copy was sent to Garten.
  2. Presumable reference to Kissinger. Blaney was a Policy Planning Staff member during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
  3. No classification marking.
  4. “Report on Community Water Supplies”, UN E/CONF. 70/14 19 Jan. 1977. [Blaney placed this as a footnote at the bottom of the page but did not insert a footnote marker in the text.]