Can you imagine living in a city with no wastewater treatment plant? As we at zNano work on cutting edge filters that remove an impressive range of pollutants from water, it’s important to remember that effective governance and adequate economies are just as important as state-of-the-art technologies.

The World Bank tweeted last week that it’s working with the Bolivian government to solve the problem of no water treatment plant in that country’s capital, La Paz, home to nearly 800,000 people. At present, untreated wastewater flows into the Choqueyapu, Cotahuma and Orkohauira rivers that run from La Paz to southern agricultural areas.

Whatever gets flushed down from households in La Paz mixes with industrial and other toxins in the rivers and then is used to irrigate local fields, from which agricultural products make their way into produce markets and onto family dinner tables.  As a result, even government reports give low marks to produce safety at La Paz markets. Vegetables and other products irrigated with untreated water are cited as common sources of E. coli, often the cause of serious gastrointestinal illness.

Some point to industries – especially mining – as major culprits for water pollution. There’s a 2014 law on the books, for example, mandating that factories treat their water, but it’s barely enforced, local news sources say.

This complex picture is why we’re hearing so much about ESG investing where investors consider both financial return and environmental, social and governance improvements. Hopefully the World Bank can invest in all of these, to support a water treatment plant and help the people of La Paz secure the clean water they need.