Contaminated Water Kills
According to the World Health Organization, at least two billion people use a drinking water source that is contaminated, contributing to more than 840,000 deaths each year. Of those 840,000 deaths, 361,000 are children under the age of five. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
Why is water pollution occurring?
There are many different causes of water pollution, but they all relate to human activity. Mining activities for energy sources, including oil and natural gas, has led to water contamination. Pesticide and fertilizer use on our crops and our lawns has led to water contamination. Municipal and industrial waste discharge has led to water contamination. Sewage and wastewater that comes from our sinks and toilets have led to water contamination.
What types of diseases does contaminated water transmit?
Contaminated water transmits diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio, to name a few. Schistosomiasis is an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms contracted through exposure to infested water. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia contracted from contaminated water sources. Heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury in our water supply can cause health issues from cancer to hormone disruption to altered brain function.
One of the biggest water problems in the United States today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is nutrient pollution. It is excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the water that causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Some of these algal blooms can be extremely harmful to humans, leading to health issues such as:
- - Rashes
- - Stomach or liver illness
- - Respiratory problems
- - Neurological effects
What can we do to protect our water supply?
We are all accountable for the contamination of our planet’s water, but there are many ways we can help.
- - Reduce our plastic consumption
- - Properly dispose of chemical cleaners, oils, and non-biodegradable items (do not dump them down the drain!)
- - Pick up our pooches’ poop and avoid walking our dogs by streams and other waterways
- - Choose phosphate-free detergents and soaps
- - Reduce our runs of the dishwasher and laundry machine
- - Choose products like low-flow showerheads and reduced-flow toilet flushing equipment
- - Don’t let faucets run unnecessarily
- - Reduce the amount of time we drive by carpooling, minimizing trips, biking or walking, or using public transportation
- - Maintain our cars, so they don’t leak oil, antifreeze, and coolant
- - Minimize our use of lawn fertilizers and don’t apply them before windy or rainy days
- - Don’t overwater our lawns and gardens
- - Use a rain barrel to collect rainwater for chores such as watering plants or washing cars
Beyond illness and disease, the effects of water contamination are extremely costly – billions of dollars lost cleaning up polluted water bodies, tourism industry revenue loss, and commercial fishing and shellfish loss.
Less than one percent of the world’s freshwater is readily accessible to humans, even though some 72 percent of the Earth is covered in water. So, fresh, clean, safe drinking water is nothing any of us can afford to take for granted.