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The US National Academy of Sciences has launched a new web resource, providing information for decision-makers on global drinking water problems and the technology available to solve them.

The 'Safe Drinking Water Is Essential' initiative was launched this week (12 September) in Washington, United States.

The resource aims to help international decision-makers improve drinking water supplies in their countries by providing reliable scientific information.

Over one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water. Disease resulting from contaminated water leads to 1.8 million deaths every year and can account for 80 per cent of all illnesses in developing countries.

The web resource is funded by the Global Health and Education Foundation, a US-based non-profit organisation. It provides information on how clean water can be protected and the different types of contamination and available treatments.

It also demonstrates different ways to transport and dispense water to areas where supplies are not within walking distance. According to the initiative, women in developing countries walk an average of six kilometres a day to fetch water, disturbing their lives and the development of their community.

The resource also includes an interactive tool where users can find the best solution for different problems, such as the most effective treatment for a specific contamination, or technologies to fit a tight budget.

Peter Gleick, president of the US-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, said at a press briefing that one of the major advantages of the resource was the quality of the information.

He said much of the information came from peer-reviewed reports from the National Academy, which was constantly checked by the project committee.

"Many of the approaches and technologies needed to improve drinking water quality already exist," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, in a press release. "This web resource will provide the right information to the people who need it most."