©2016 Mahoning Valley Water Inc.  Water-Too Much Or Too Little-The Foremost Cause Of Natural Disasters      Almost two billion people—one-third of humanity—were affected by natural disasters in the last decade of the 20th century.  Floods and drought accounted for 86% of them.      Quick-onset disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides may be more dramatic and take a very high toll in human lives, but floods and droughts—too much water or too little—often have longer lasting and more far-reaching effects on the health of their victims.      The most vulnerable victims are the poor, most of whom live in low- quality housing in flood-prone or drought-prone regions.  In periods of drought, their desperate search for water leads them to drink  contaminated water.  Flooding also  causes contaminated drinking water.  Inundated industrial wastes, such as used engine oil and refuse dumps add to health risks.      Floods are the second most frequent cause of natural disaster after windstorms, but affect more regions and more people than any other phenomenon.  Drought is the largest cause of death because it often leads to famine.      Statistical studies indicate that floods are becoming more frequent.  There were 66 major floods in 1990 and that number rose to 110 in 1999.       Recently, there have been flooding problems in Poland, Indonesia, the Mississippi Valley, Zimbabwe, Siberia, Brazil, France and Peru.  Drought conditions exist in Afghanistan, Cuba, Florida, the Horn of Africa,  central Asia, the south-western United States and the United Kingdom.  Notwithstanding the magnitude and widespread geographical distribution of floods and drought, a great deal can be done to prevent or mitigate their adverse effects on health.  Clean, safe water is the key.      Simple, practical measures such as teaching people how to conserve water and keep it safe from contamination and how to store emergency supplies of safe drinking water will go a long way to helping communities at risk.  Chlorination is known to reduce diarrhea, cholera and other diseases.  For example, a study was undertaken at a Malawi refugee camp where there had been repeated outbreaks of cholera and diarrhea.  The study showed that the water flowing from the source wells had little or no microbial contamination, but the refugees collecting the water quickly contaminated it, primarily through contact with their hands.  The introduction of a simple improved collection container resulted in a 69% reduction of fecal coliform levels and 31% less diarrheal disease in children under 5 years of age.      Receding flood waters provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and create an increased risk of such diseases as malaria, dengue, West Nile and Rift Valley fever.  Floodwaters can displace rodent populations which can cause outbreaks of leptospirosis and hantavirus infection.  Early warning systems to detect rises in mosquito-borne and diarrheal  diseases and to evaluate the risks of floods or droughts need to be set up.  Sanitation in many regions should be improved because countries with a good infrastructure for drainage and disposal of human wastes have far fewer direct health problems during water-related disasters.      Flooding is visible to everyone, but drought is a great deal more difficult to recognize.  When does a dry spell in fact become a drought?  Droughts can take months or even years to develop.  Drought triggers or exacerbates malnutrition and famine.  Accurate statistics for droughts are hard to come by because deaths are mainly due to lack of food and the worsening of pre- existing malnutrition.  In hot countries or during heat waves, deaths may be caused by a combination of heat and shortage of water. MAHONING VALLEY WATER 11379 South Avenue Extension North Lima, OH 44452