10 Interesting Facts About Water Scarcity

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Source: Healing Waters International

Clean and fresh water isn't a privilege—it's a necessity. Although water covers a large portion of our planet, most of that water isn't fit for human consumption. According to the World Wildlife Federation, only three percent of all earth's water comes from freshwater sources. Most significantly, approximately two-thirds of clean water is inaccessible. The majority of freshwater is located inside the polar ice caps and glaciers.

Without interventions from organizations like Healing Waters, water scarcity can undermine human health. Over the next five to ten years, water scarcity could affect as much as two-thirds of the population adversely. The following are ten shocking facts about water and why scarcity is a global problem.

High Childhood Mortality Rates Linked to Clean Water Scarcity

Every year, an estimated 446,000 children younger than five years of age perish from diarrhea. Many of these children come from low- and middle-income countries that don't have access to healthy water sources. Unsafe water that causes diarrhea has often been contaminated before being consumed by children. More childhood deaths occur from diarrhea than the mortality rates caused by malaria, measles, and AIDS combined. Infectious diseases linked to diarrhea include cholera and dysentery. Without safe water treatments, contaminants like feces can enter water sources.

Basic Sanitation Affects 21% of the World's Population 

Countries worldwide face a severe problem with providing basic sanitation for their citizens. An estimated 1.7 billion people cannot access essential sanitation services and facilities. The figure is approximately 21 percent of the world's population. Basic sanitation means the person lives in a hygienic space with proper human waste disposal facilities and regular garbage collection. The homes would also have handwashing stations with soap and clean water.

An Estimated 50% of Child Malnutrition Linked to Unsafe Water

Malnutrition occurs when a person's diet doesn't incorporate enough proper nutrients. When a child suffers from diarrhea illnesses caused by unsafe water, they do not absorb the vitamins and minerals needed to thrive. Malnourished children may be shorter or thinner compared to healthy children in the same age group. Malnourished children will also have compromised immune systems and a higher risk of infections. The children are also more prone to breaks and sprains, since bones are softer.

Water and Sanitation Fuels Productivity 

Water and sanitation are investments that can financially benefit the community and local businesses. For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of at least $4 is returned in increased productivity. Without clean water, employees are more likely to get sick and need to stay home from work. Since children can also get ill due to unsafe water, employees may need to stay home to care for them. With improved water and sanitation, studies have shown that households gain an additional 1,000 hours per year for work and to go to school.

829,000 Deaths Occur Annually Due to Unsafe Water

Children and adults perish every year due to health conditions related to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and lack of hygiene. Cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid, and polio are all diseases that could prove fatal if left untreated. Infectious diseases are more likely to occur in areas that don't offer clean water and sanitation facilities. Poor management of wastewater also puts individuals at risk for health issues. Untreated water can also prove poisonous to individuals since certain hazardous chemicals may be present—including lead and arsenic.

Over the Last 20 Years, 6 Billion People Gained Access to Improved Drinking Water

Since 1990, 5.8 billion people have consumed safe drinking water. More products and services, including filtration systems, have made the increase possible. Safe drinking water is defined as water sourced on-premises, and that can be used on demand. The water must also be free of any fecal contamination and not contain any dangerous levels of chemicals. Areas with basic drinking water services need a safe water source within a round trip of 30 minutes or less. Limited water services require more than 30 minutes to complete water collection.

By 2025, Half of the Population Will Live in Water Scarce Areas

Over the next several years, experts estimate that half of the world's population will live in water-stressed areas. To achieve universal basic water coverage, the rates of progress would need to double by 2030. However, many challenges prevent universal safe drinking water. Challenges include climate change and a surge in population growth. External agencies need to assist in counteracting the effects of higher population numbers and climate change.

Females in Low-Income Countries Spend 40+ Billion Hours Collecting Water

Adult women and young girls in low-income and developing countries spend billions and billions of hours collecting water to provide for their households. Girls are twice as likely than boys to have the responsibility of gathering water from sources to bring back home. School attendance is also directly affected by how close households are to water sources and how long it takes them to collect for their families.

Approximately 80% of Wastewater Flows Back into the Ecosystem

Water pollution has increased at a steady rate and has become a problem, especially in industrial and agricultural areas. The use of pesticides and fertilizers pollutes water sources. Also, untreated sewage can flow back and contaminate groundwater and surface water. A large amount of wastewater gets sent directly into the closest drain or water source without any treatment. Contaminants in the wastewater include household chemicals, urine, fecal matter, and other toxic agents.

Each Person Needs a Minimum of 20-50 Liters of Water Per Day

Many lists that include fun facts about water overlook the amount individuals need daily. The UN suggests that each person needs approximately 20-50 liters of water daily to ensure their basic needs. Each person should drink at least four to seven liters of clean water per day. If women lactate, they should drink around 7.5 liters of clean water daily. Individuals also require about 2 liters for food preparation purposes. The rest of the water is necessary for personal sanitation, clothes washing, and other hygiene tasks.


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