The Issue

Much healthcare delivery in developing countries takes place in settings where there are inadequate or non-existent municipal water or treatment facilities. This lack of water and sanitation infrastructure is a major problem that directly impacts hospitals and health care systems – either overburdening them with more disease in the population, or because they cannot count on basic water, sewage and waste disposal services to carry out their mission, or both.

When water is amply available, hospitals are often prodigious consumers in various facets of their operations. Overall, there are few reliable global water consumption benchmarks in healthcare.

In general, health facilities can conserve water resources by closely metering water use, installing water-efficient fixtures and technologies, growing drought-resistant landscape, and making sure that leaks are quickly repaired. For even greater impact on overall usage, hospitals in a number of countries are harvesting rainwater. Others recycle water for process purposes

Action Items

  • Establish a framework that aspires to “net zero water use” within a hospital system.
  • Implement water conservation strategies: install efficient faucets and toilets, routinely check plumbing and pipes to prevent leaks, eliminate seal and cooling water on medical air compression and vacuum pumps, and retrofit refrigeration systems.
  • Switch from film-based radiological imaging equipment, which uses large quantities of water, to digital imaging, which uses no water and no polluting radiological chemicals.
  • Landscape grounds using drought-resistant plants to minimize water use.
  • Consider harvesting rainwater and/or recycling water for process water uses.
  • Eliminate bottled water facility-wide if high quality potable water is available.
  • Regularly analyze water quality.
  • Where the health facility has access to potable water but it is not readily available in the community, develop programs to provide the community with potable water as a public health service.
  • Implement on-site wastewater treatment technologies when no municipal service is available.
  • Develop joint projects with the community to improve and protect water supplies; support initiatives for public systems to improve water quality, water delivery and wastewater systems for the entire population.