Well into the 21st century, safe and affordable drinking water remains an unmet human need. At least 1.8 billion people are potentially exposed to microbial contamination, and close to 140 million people are potentially
exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic. Many new technologies, water quality assessments, health impact assessments, cost studies, and user preference studies have emerged in the past 20 years to further the laudable goal of
safe drinking water for all. This article reviews (a) the current literature on safe water approaches with respect to their effectiveness in improving water quality and protectiveness in improving human health, (b) new work on the
uptake and use of safe water systems among low-income consumers, (c) new research on the cash and labor costs of safe water systems, and (d) research on user preferences and valuations for safe water. Our main recommendation
is that safe water from “source to sip” should be seen as a system; this entire system, rather than a discrete intervention, should be the object of analysis for technical, economic, and health assessments.