Peter Sawyer said 4,500 children under the age of 14 die every day because of water-related diseases.
Sawyer was one of three speakers from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting who spoke about the worldwide water crisis from a journalistic perspective Thursday in Ballroom B of the Student Center.
Sawyer, a journalist for the center, said the role of the center's journalists is to tell the world about issues that are for the most part unknown.
"884 million people don't have access to clean drinking water," Sawyer said.
The theme of the presentation, "Downstream: Untold Stories on Water, Sanitation, and Wetlands — And Why They Matter," is a relevant issue, said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
"The issue of clean drinking water is pretty essential as a public policy question," he said. "I think the U.S. is starting to realize that along with other countries, too."
Paul Simon, an SIUC professor and former senator, was passionate about clean water during his career, Yepsen said.
"If you think about it, clean drinking water is an issue that sits at the core of many other problems," he said. "If people have clean drinking water, they don't have illness. Women wouldn't have to spend half their day getting water; they could go to school."
The School of Journalism, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the Global Media Research Center sponsored the presentation.
William Freivogel, director of the School of Journalism, said the Pulitzer Center journalists provide a window into the future of journalism.