India spends 2 percent of its GDP treating diarrhea, according to TERI, one of the country’s most prestigious scientific research institutes. That means India is spending $30 billion a year treating diarrhea, a totally preventable disease. That’s $400 million a week.
Not one of the 35 largest cities in India has water service more than an hour or two a day–including the name-brand cities we’ve all heard of: Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi. Many visitors to India never realize this, because hotels, offices, and upper-class homes have pumps and tanks that provide fake 24-hour service.
Sadly, India can’t redirect the money it spends treating people with diarrhea into installing water treatment systems that would prevent people from getting sick in the first place, ultimately saving money and misery. That’s not the way governments think, in India or the U.S. But it points up another truth about water and water spending: It pays for itself. Nothing improves health faster, or unleashes economic energy, like giving communities clean water.