Researchers measure impact of water treatment on reduced child mortality

By Tobias Schmitz

12 Oct 2022 by The Water Diplomat

Research from the Development Innovation Lab at the University of Chicago has provided evidence from India on the direct relationship between water treatment and the reduction in child mortality. Although ample evidence already exists on the relationship between untreated water and the spread of potentially deadly waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, it is difficult to quantify the reduction in child mortality that is directly attributable to efforts to reduce microbial contamination through water treatment. Such analysis requires prohibitively large sample sizes and needs to be extracted by comparing a range of studies of impacts of water quality interventions on child diarrhoea with recent studies which include child mortality data.

The study was conducted by Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer and others and entitled ‘Potential Reduction in Child Mortality through Expanding Access to Safe Drinking Water in India’. It concluded that safely managed water reduces under-five child mortality by about 25%. The study also showed that water treatment is among the most cost-effective ways to reduce child mortality.

The evidence for the study was based on the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), a programme of the Modi government to supply an adequate quantity of safe drinking water to all rural households on a long- term basis.  The programme aims to create rural infrastructure that enables each rural household to have a functional tap connection by 2024. Based on the results of the study it is estimated that the JJM could prevent the premature deaths of 136,000 children every year in India. The requirement for this is that there is no microbial contamination in the water, which places quite high demands on water quality management throughout the country.