Poor sanitation and contaminated water supplies may cost the world as much as $260 billion annually, according to the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank. Most of the expense is in health costs to treat waterborne illness such as diarrheal disease, but the problem affects other areas of economic development as well.
Fortunately, low-cost and lasting solutions to poor sanitation and water treatment already exist. The Sanitation section of our Solutions Library features field-tested infrastructure such as ecological sanitation latrines, biogas pit latrines and gray water treatment. And the Water section features point-of-use clay water filters and others.
This infographic from the World Bank portrays the economic cost of failing to solve the sanitation problem, and it shows the return on investment in proper technologies.