Water is one of the most important natural resources that is essential to sustain every form of life, but it is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world. According to the World Economic Forum, rising water pollution is the foremost global risk in terms of its potentially devastating impact on society. Below are ten interesting water pollution facts.
Water Pollution Facts
- One of the prominent causes of water pollution is extensive eutrophication caused by agricultural, sewage, animal, human and industrial runoff, resulting in excessive concentrations of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. This results in enhanced plant and depleted animal life due to lack of oxygen, creating a dead zone. Lakes and reservoirs, two freshwater sources, are particularly prone to the negative impact of eutrophication due to their proximity to pollutant-generating sources and the water’s relative stillness.
- Personal care products and pharmaceuticals, including birth control pills, antibiotics and painkillers, are washed into water reservoirs and lakes, contributing to the rising water pollution. They have a damaging effect on the aquatic ecosystems and cause hormonal imbalances in humans and animals.
- About two million tons of sewage is dumped into the world’s water bodies daily. Annually, 14 billion pounds of garbage containing mostly plastic is thrown into the world’s oceans, causing large-scale destruction of marine life.
- Millions are consuming contaminated or chemically adulterated drinking water due to a lack of adequate treatment of urban wastewater. More than 80 percent of human activity generated and about 70 percent of industrial untreated wastewater is dumped into rivers, lakes and oceans. In the U.S. alone, about 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage and industrial waste is discharged into the water bodies.
- At least 70 percent of lakes and rivers in China are polluted, and more than half are too polluted for human use. The Yangtze River, China’s largest and the world’s third-largest river, is inundated with approximately 25 billion tons of sewage and industrial refuge.
- Many do not have access to clean drinking water, including the 663 million people reliant on precarious sources — with 159 million relying on surface water and 1.8 million dependent on drinking water potentially contaminated with human waste.
- Sanitation facilities are a luxury not enjoyed by 2.4 billion people across the globe. Approximately 946 million people are forced to defecate in street gutters and near water bodies, exacerbating the rising water pollution. Wastewater is sometimes used for crop irrigation and at least 10 percent of the population globally consumes food grown using wastewater.
- The scarcity of water instinctively causes people to conserve water and avoid its use for hygiene, leading to preventable diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and polio. Approximately 842,000 people, including 361,000 children under five, die yearly from diarrhea. Contaminated drinking water and inadequate sanitation cause more deaths annually than violence from the ongoing wars. Debilitating diseases including schistosomiasis, intestinal worms and trachoma prevalent in tropical regions are also a result of inadequate sanitation services and hygiene habits.
- Currently, about 40 percent of the world’s population is facing water scarcity and 1.7 billion are living in river basins where water usage exceeds renewal. Without immediate action, by 2025 half of the world’s population will be experiencing a water shortage, and by 2050 one in four people will be living in a country with an insufficient fresh water supply.
- The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set forth by the U.N. to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all” by 2030. Reducing water pollution by restricting the disposal of garbage and other hazardous chemicals into water bodies and adapting more effective means of treating wastewater, is part of the SDG’s six targets to ensure equitable access to safe drinking water.
There is ample water for everyone, but these 10 facts about water pollution illustrate how it is becoming scarce due to insufficient infrastructure. Safe, clean water is a human right, yet rising water pollution is a serious health threat for the world’s poorest.
– Preeti Yadav