Water Quality in NepalA landlocked nation approximately the size of Illinois, Nepal is the poorest country in the Southeast Asia with as many people enjoying life as those living in abject poverty.

With less than half of the population of 27 million having access to safe drinking water, poor water quality in Nepal and an inadequate supply of water has a dismal cost: about 45,000 children below the age of five in the country die each year due to water sanitation problems. Forty-two percent of the population lives below the poverty line and only 27 percent have improved access to sanitation.

The average life expectancy of about 68 years for men and 71 years for women is correlated with a lack of health care, access to clean water, and abject poverty in the country despite improving conditions.

For instance, it is estimated that child mortality can be reduced by 55 percent if water quality and sanitation issues are addressed to avert the public health risk.

Nepal has seen an increased number of floods, droughts, hailstorms, landslides, and crop diseases. This has mainly affected the subsistence and livelihood of the poor with no way to combat the effects of climate change.

Eighty percent of Nepalese have access to drinking water, yet the water provided or gathered is often polluted.

Though 92 percent of households in the country’s rural areas have access to a drinking water source, microbial contamination in these waters means that water is unsafe for consumption. An assessment in mid-western Nepal found that 70 to 80 percent of the taps do not deliver safe drinking water.

The Kathmandu Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has deteriorating surface and ground water due to natural and man-made contamination. Industry and domestic waste, the majority of which is produced from the capital city of Kathmandu, is commonly discharged into rivers and lakes. Water resources are also stressed due to a growing population and depleting natural water resources.

In 2016, doctors found an increasing number of waterborne diseases – such as diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, gastroenteritis and cholera – in Kathmandu due to water contamination and a lack of proper hygiene.

Baburam Marasini, chief of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under Department of Health Services, reported an “increase in the number of cases between 25 and 30 percent who [came] to visit hospitals suffering from diarrhea, typhoid and fever, mostly due to poor quality drinking water inside Kathmandu.”

Describing the unsafe conditions in rural areas, Marasini explained the causes for this increase. “The rains during the monsoon are responsible for outbreak of communicable water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea in many rural villages,” he stated.

To improve the health and sanitation of the Nepalese, awareness programs are needed. The public has been said to lack awareness of the water sanitation issues, with some communities partaking in drinking contaminated water, failing to observe proper hygiene practices, and generally being unaware of waterborne diseases and their role in helping improve the water quality in Nepal.

Solar disinfection programs (SODIS) have been found to be an effective remedy to help improve water quality in Nepal. However, “heavy domestic and agricultural workloads, other cultural barriers, uncertainty about the necessity of treating the water, and lack of knowledge that untreated drinking water causes diarrhea” did not allow for a successful adoption of the SODIS program. Clearly, a more elementary awareness approach is needed.

Water quality in Nepal can be improved by making safe drinking water more available and accessible. Institutional coordination, public-private partnerships, low-cost technology like SODIS, establishment of water resource or awareness centers and educating people at the community level can all make a difference in sustaining human lives through the provision of safe, good quality water through the maintenance of a healthy water ecosystem.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in CyprusCyprus is an island country in Europe that divided in 1974 when Turkey took over the north section of the country. The island then broke into numerous sections and was placed under the control of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. To this day, the U.N. patrols the island to maintain peace.

The Cyprus economy depends heavily on its agricultural sector. In fact, Cyprus’s government found that the agrarian sector absorbs 69 percent of the country’s total water usage. However, due to the numerous years of light rainfall in the region, this segment of the country’s economy has suffered.


Is Water Quality The Real Issue?

In 2008, Cyprus had its fourth year of drought with little rainfall, which only got worse during the summer months of each year. In recent years, the situation has continued to worsen. Although the water quality in Cyprus is high, the volume of available water is low compared to what the country needs.

On top of the ongoing drought in the region, the Cypriot government has struggled to find alternative water sources for its citizens. Cyprus has a history of over-stressing groundwater resources. As a result, the country has met the ecological limit for how much water they can pull from the ground. This limit has reduced the water quality in Cyprus considerably.


Possible Solutions

The Cypriot government has been forced to implement measures to reduce water usage in the country. The government made a 25 to 30 percent cut to the domestic water supplies all throughout the country. With little amounts of rainfall and water cuts by the government continuing to be present, many farmers in the country struggle to make ends meet.

Another method the Cypriot government used was raising taxes for water consumption. The largest water users often receive bills of thousands of euros. This policy has resulted in many cutting back on water usage.

There is also a controversial plan to build a pipeline that will travel under the ocean from Turkey to Cyprus. This expensive project could provide large quantities of fresh water to the island.

It is clear that the overuse of water and prolonged drought has affected the water quality in Cyprus immensely. Although the Cypriot government has made efforts to reduce the amount of water consumed while it faces an ongoing drought, this policy is still not sustainable. New technologies must be created to solve the issue of limited water resources in Cyprus.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in LiechtensteinThe principality of Liechtenstein, located between Austria and Switzerland, is known for its grand castles, alpine landscapes and beautiful views overlooking the Rhine. The Rhine makes up 27 kilometers of the country’s western border with Switzerland.

However, it is just one of the many rivers that flow through Liechtenstein. Because of this, water is incredibly important to the country, not only as a drinking and sanitation source but as a source of power for Liechtenstein’s several hydroelectric dams. Consequently, the water quality in Liechtenstein is among the best in the world.

In 2003, Liechtenstein adopted the Water Protection Act and the ordinances that went along with it. This included several regulations to maintain or improve the quality and quantity of groundwater. Among these regulations were spatial planning measures, ensuring that there are designated groundwater protection zones and clear rules as to the protection and use of said groundwater.

These ordinances also clearly detail the protocol if any water was to become polluted. This makes it easy to identify and solve any contamination issues as soon as they arise.

These regulations ensure the healthy exchange between groundwater and surface waters, which is crucial to the continued availability of drinking water and the many attractive recreational water sites that Liechtenstein boasts.

As part of the most recent Convention on Biodiversity, revisions to the initial Water Protection Act included aims to strengthen biodiversity in the area. Firstly, Liechtenstein clearly defines its “water spaces,” which allows for planning backup in the case of flooding and makes for better maintenance of ecological integrity. It also makes sure that these spaces are not used for agriculture or other building projects, which could seriously damage the water quality in Liechtenstein as a whole.

Clearly, Liechtenstein has demonstrated its commitment not only to preserving water quality but also to preserving biodiversity and the natural beauty of its many water sources. In this, Liechtenstein serves as a role model for all of Europe and, by extension, the world, by challenging us all to make water quality and conservation a priority.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

The quality of water in Europe is often taken for granted by travelers, and there are some countries where it is best to stay on the safe side and use bottled water. Poland is one of many European countries with conflicting reports about tap water quality. Some sites such as TripAdvisor have multiple people vouching for the safety of the tap water, with some even saying that it tastes better than the water in many other European countries such as France and the U.K. Other travel sites have warnings about Polish tap water, claiming that it is unhealthy to drink and tastes horrible. For this reason, it can be difficult for travelers to understand the true water quality in Poland.

According to Poland’s Department of Economics and Management, about 60 percent of Poles are wary of the water quality before boiling it. They fear general pollution, and many are concerned that the smell and taste of the water, which is cited from mildly unsettling to disgusting, could be an indication of unhealthy drinking water. However, despite so many doubts from the locals, the government notes that more than 90 percent of the water in all areas meets the necessary health standards and is safe to drink, and any water that does fall below the safety line only barely fails to meet proper requirements. For the areas where the water quality is not up to the proper levels, water filters can easily improve the quality, both in terms of safety and taste.

Though the government assures that the water quality in Poland is safe to drink, many Poles and tourists use bottled water, especially mineral water, instead of tap water. Poland has a large bottled water industry, and some locals believe that this is one of the reasons that tap water is so distrusted. Since there is a great deal of advertising for natural mineral bottled water, it is easy to imagine why people would avoid the soft tap water in favor of the crisper bottled water.

However, in Poland and many other countries, more than 25 percent of bottled water is just treated tap water. Bottled water is often nothing more than expensive tap water run through a filter, something that can be done in any home for a much smaller cost than buying bottled water. Bottled water is also an environmental burden. The bottles are usually used once then thrown away.

Since the tap water is safe to drink, especially with a filter, it makes little sense to continue to rely on bottled water, especially when considering the economic and environmental costs of bottled water. Despite mixed reports, there is good water quality in Poland, so it is safe to go ahead and drink up.

Rachael Lind

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in MontenegroMontenegro is a small European country in the Balkan region with a population of about 620,000. Since breaking off from Yugoslavia in 1992 and gaining independence in 2006, the country has improved economically and is now classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country. Along with this progress, water quality in Montenegro, as well as water availability, have improved.

In 2015, the World Bank reported that 99.5 percent of Montenegrins had access to an improved water source, up from 97 percent in 2000. This percentage puts Montenegro at some of the highest water coverage in the Balkans, compared to countries like Albania, which is currently at 95.1 percent. Though there has been a history of water and air pollution in the Balkans, Montenegro currently reports low levels of water pollution, even though in recent years the government has identified climate change and wastewater from settlements as potential hazards affecting quality.

Much of Montenegro’s economy depends on its diverse water sources, from its complex system of rivers to its coastline. In terms of its water utility, Montenegro harnesses hydropower as its most important energy resource, though due to seismic risks and other environmental concerns, the country harnesses only 17 percent of its potential hydro power.

Another factor improving water quality in Montenegro is the prevalence of conservation as industry demands for water have changed in recent years. Due in part to economic factors and environmental sanctions, thermo-energy and mining industries have reduced their total water use, helping secure overall water quality, as well as water availability for other industries such as farming.

In the last decade, environmental issues have prompted Montenegro to examine how climate change may affect water quality and accessibility in the future. In 2010, the Initial National Communication on Climate Change of Montenegro recognized that climate change could affect national water resources in a way that may threaten certain industries and the overall availability of quality water.

Due to these threats, the Montenegrin government is looking into developing a national water information system to monitor any changes in water bodies, as well as changes in water quality in Montenegro’s water networks. The United Nations’ Development Program is assisting Montenegro in this endeavor, working alongside the government to create a reliable and responsive water information system as climate change and other factors may cause future changes to the country’s water resources.

Both water quality and availability have improved in the last few decades, with a productive economy helping Montenegro achieve some of the highest water availability in the Balkan region. Despite this, the government has lagged behind in creating a comprehensive water data and information system to help combat changes caused by climate change. In order to secure the quality and availability of its water in the future, Montenegro must meet these challenges head on.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in KyrgyzstanEighty-two percent of the world’s urban population has access to clean drinking water. This fact may sound impressive until it is juxtaposed with the 51 percent of the world’s rural population without the same benefit. In total, that’s 2.4 billion people without access to proper water sanitation. In Kyrgyzstan, a country in Central Asia, about 64 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Water quality in Kyrgyzstan is, therefore, a major threat to everyday life. Here are some facts about water quality in Kyrgyzstan:

  1. Of the 1,805 rural villages in Kyrgyzstan, 595 do not have access to centralized drinking water, and 390 have no water supply networks at all. Instead, people drink from open water sources.
  2. The 150,000 people in those 390 villages depend solely on aryk for drinking water supply. Aryk water is from open irrigation channels that are vulnerable to contamination from animals, debris and trash. Even something as simple as leaves falling into the aryk in autumn significantly increases the number of acute waterborne diseases.
  3. In villages without access to clean water, homes, schools and hospitals must all collect water in buckets. The water should be filtered through cheesecloth and then left overnight to let the dust settle to the bottom. Finally, the water should be boiled. Unfortunately, those without the time or patience to go through this process pay the unfair price for skipping steps.
  4. The poor water quality in Kyrgyzstan offers an ideal breeding ground for diseases. Consumption of contaminated water causes 24 percent of acute intestinal infections due to parasites and 86 percent of typhoid cases.
  5. The impacts of climate change also threaten the water quality in Kyrgyzstan. The average rise in temperature in Kyrgyzstan due to climate change is three times higher than the global average. This climate change can cause droughts and therefore, a lack of water for the population.
  6. Glaciers cover 4.2 percent of the land in Kyrgyzstan. Glaciers can often be a steady source of water. However, one impact of climate change is the transformation of glaciers into glacial lakes. The accumulation of such mass amounts of water in unprepared terrain leads to the threat of mudslides, landslides and floods, all of which threaten water supply and water quality in Kyrgyzstan.
  7. Thankfully, Kyrgyzstan’s government has taken notice of the water crisis in its abundant rural regions. In 2017, the government launched a new program to develop the water supply and sanitation sector. The program, called “Ala-Too bulagy,” allocated $51 million toward the program’s implementation in the areas of Osh, Chui, Issyk-Kul and Jalal-Abad.
  8. The World Bank has already promised to allocate $36 million to the “Ala-Too bulagy” program in its second stage beginning in 2018.

While the “Ala-Too bulagy” program holds much promise for the future of water quality in Kyrgyzstan, the situation in the country’s rural communities is much too dire to simply write off the issue as resolved. Further efforts to both increase water supply and sanitation services and decrease the effects of climate change are necessary to help Kyrgyzstan and the countless other nations affected by the global water crisis.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Uzbekistan
As one of the largest countries in Central Asia with a population of 32 million, Uzbekistan is a regional economic and political leader. Recently, Uzbekistan has turned its attention to the pressing issues of environmental protection and water quality. In the last decade, water quality in Uzbekistan has been a main focus thanks to government and service providers’ efforts to expand and modernize the water sector across the country. Although access to an improved water source has declined by less than one percent, increased investment in water supply and sanitation has provided the foundation for reform in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has amassed the largest borrowing portfolio for water projects of any Central Asian nation, including the Alat and Karakul Water Supply Project. Started in 2013 with financing from the World Bank, the project has improved quality and efficiency of water supply for more than 220,000 Uzbeks from the districts of Alat and Karakul in the Bukhara region. The World Bank has partnered with Uzbekistan since 1992, and its total commitments to the country exceed $1 billion.

The government has taken on these initiatives in response to the recent problems facing water quality in Uzbekistan, including water availability and pollution. More than half of Uzbekistani households do not connect to a piped water system; sewerage systems serve only 40% of the population. Much of the government’s efforts concentrate in the rural region of Karakalpakstan; it has some of the worst water quality in the country and has dealt with setbacks due to a uranium scare in 2008.

While the government-established State Committee for Environmental Protection has made limited efforts to curb water contamination in the last 15 years, nongovernmental organizations have spearheaded the effort to establish regulation to reduce harmful runoff and protect water resources.

Much of Uzbekistan’s economy relies on its environment, from its booming cotton industry to its oil and natural gas supplies. Environmental issues pose a threat to the country as a whole, with water availability as a top concern. Studies have shown that global warming may hit Central Asia the hardest in terms of temperature risings and potential drought. Uzbekistan must confront existing issues such as chemicals from cotton production contaminating freshwater, as well as future threats from climate change.

Though the government has acknowledged the extent of the country’s environmental problems, and the State Committee for Nature Protection has looked to contain environmental issues, grassroots organizations have called for the government to lay down further regulation and take more urgent action. Water quality in Uzbekistan has improved, but environmental issues threaten the country’s welfare if further action is not taken.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Tunisia
Water quality in Tunisia has been a long-standing problem in the country located in the northernmost part of Africa. Data indicates that most water resources are polluted and that the majority of these pollutants stem from wastewater discharge, industrial effluents and agricultural activities. Although efforts have been made within the last decade to create wastewater facilities, overall the quality of the water remains poor and could continue to worsen if more is not done to reverse the increasing pollution.

There is a large demand for water that has not been polluted—per capita renewable water resources are 489 cubic meters per year for a population of 9.6 million people. The annual per capita water scarcity threshold is 1,000 cubic meters, making Tunisia’s 489 cubic meters far below what is accepted. In addition, 16% of withdrawn water goes to households, tourism and industrial uses, while a whopping 84% is used for agricultural irrigation. Water used for agricultural purposes has doubled in the past 15 years.

Various government strategies and activities have been implemented in regard to the water quality in Tunisia and how to better protect its water resources. Water quality management is dispersed among a few institutions. The Ministry of Agriculture’s role is planning and managing the water sector, while the Ministry of Environment controls water pollution sources, among other responsibilities.

Recently, efforts have been made to improve water quality in Tunisia by Japan, which has granted the country credit for construction of a seawater desalination plant in Sfax, a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This credit has been given more specifically to the National Water Supply and Distribution Company, also known as SONEDE. The amount of the grant is about 780 million dinars (MD) and will be paid back over 25 years with a seven-year grace period, at an interest rate of 1.7%.

This credit will reinforce the capacity and water quality in Tunisia that is used for drinking by helping SONEDE provide 100,000 tons of water to the region of Greater Sfax, which is the second-largest city in the country. This credit will come to the aid of one million people residing in Sfax.

Sabri Bachtobji, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, stated that the grant given to construct a seawater desalination plant in Tunisia is the first Japanese commitment that is part of the promises given at the TUNISIA 2020 Conference on Investment that was held in November 2016.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Pixabay

Water Quality in Romania
Upon traveling to Romania, one will find that there are no significant health risks. At least, no more than “any other European country,” according to the Lonely Planet‘s current health guide. In fact, the only water which travelers need to be wary of is collected water found in the country’s many mountainous areas, which make up 31% of Romania’s landscape.

However, despite being surrounded by water, water quality in Romania is still fairly poor, and Romania ranks 13th in Europe in terms of water resources. Many native Romanians living in rural areas still struggle with wastewater management, owing in large part to pollution from sudden economic development between the 1960s and 1980s.

The majority of Romania is in the Danube basin, with over a third of the Danube river’s length flowing through the country. As such, Romania relies heavily on water from the Danube, water that has had some inconsistent quality over the years.

Prior to the 1950s, water quality in Romania was fairly steady, with the Danube river providing a good source of clean, easily-accessible water. Beginning in the 1960s, however, large-scale economic and industrial growth led to widespread water pollution. The main form of pollution was agrochemical fertilizers, which released copious amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the water. This continued until roughly 1989 when new regulations to correct this problem were introduced, and development began to slow. Since then, water quality in Romania has increased significantly. However, it remains inferior to the quality present before this development.

In many areas of the country, groundwater still contains many nitrates, leaving 35% of the population without consistent access to public clean water and 47% without access to wastewater collection and treatment. Instead, many people in Romania simply opt to drink bottled water, as it’s cheap and available nearly everywhere in the country.

In Romania, it seems that to live in an urban, wealthier area means that the threat of unsafe water is relatively nonexistent. Meanwhile,  in poorer, rural areas, it is still a major concern. However, Romania does seem to be making some strides toward making water safe for all its citizens.

On March 22, 2008, the date which the United Nations has dubbed “World Water Day,” the Romanian government came together to organize conferences and discussion sessions and launched a campaign of social responsibility aimed at making clean water, which the UN names as a “fundamental human right,” available for all Romanians.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Water Singapore
Singapore’s Public Utility Board (PUB) believes that it has an innovative answer as to how to improve water quality in Singapore.

PUB is responsible for the collection, production, distribution and reclamation of water in Singapore. For a country that, for a large amount of its lifetime, relied on importing water from Malaysia to moderate its water scarcity, water quality in Singapore is an important issue. Hence, the PUB’s mission to “ensure an efficient, adequate and sustainable supply of water” is quite a big deal.

The organization’s solution came the form of a project called the “Four National Taps,” comprised of imported water from Malaysia, local catchment, NEWater and desalinated water.

Understanding how these “taps” work is essential to understanding why the water quality in Singapore is now reported to be very good. The local catchment tap involves the collection of rainwater running through more than 8,000 kilometers (or 4,970.97 miles) of waterways to one of the 17 reservoirs located around the country.

Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater. Singapore’s two desalination plants alone allow PUB to meet 25% of the nation’s water need. The NEWater tap includes the use of advanced technologies to treat used water so it may be used for drinking and industrial use– essentially recycling water. This tap has been proven to be both cost-effective and efficient and is used to supply 30% of the nation’s water demand; by 2060 it is expected to meet 55% of the nation’s demand.

The NEWater tap includes the use of advanced technologies to treat used water so it may be used for drinking and industrial use, essentially recycling water. This tap has been proven to be both cost-effective and efficient and is used to supply 30% of the nation’s water demand; by 2060 it is expected to meet 55% of the nation’s demand.

PUB takes water quality in Singapore very seriously, claiming that Singapore’s tap water is now “well within the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines and U.S. Environmental Public Health (Quality of Piped Drinking Water) Regulations.”

The drive for Singapore to have and maintain high-quality water is further illustrated through its initiation of several community-focused programs to educate citizens on the importance of the conversation and appreciation of water. Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stated: “Although we can be confident of meeting our water needs, let us remember that every drop of water is precious. Do continue to practice good water-saving habits and avoid unnecessary consumption. We can make every drop count.”

Obinna Ikechukwu Iwuji

Photo: Flickr