Nearly 785 million people live without access to clean water. However, access to clean water can positively affect health, gender equality, economies, conflict resolution, and Earth’s many species. Here are 10 ways clean water is shaping the planet.
1. Improve sanitation and hygiene
Approximately 32% of the world’s population lacks adequate sanitation or hygiene due to the water crisis. Basic sanitation includes access to a safe facility to dispose of human waste, industrial waste management, wastewater treatment, and the ability to practice good hygiene.
As outlined in a recent report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), 3 billion people will not have access to clean water for sanitation and hygiene by 2030 unless progress quadruples. Likewise, during the pandemic, when a potable water supply is needed for frequent hand-washing to stop the spread of COVID-19, the biopharmaceutical industry requires purified water to manufacture vaccines, testing kits, and therapeutics for global distribution.
2. Lessen death and disease
Finland sets stringent policies and uses current filtration technology to ensure that 85% of its fresh water is pure for drinking and hygiene. However, many countries lack this technology to maintain a safe water supply.
Clean drinking water can reduce the risk of exposure to severe health conditions like cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, and dysentery. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 829,000 people die every year from diarrhea because of contaminated water.
Measures to protect clean drinking water include covering water containers to prevent pests and improving industrial and agricultural wastewater management.
3. Boost sustainable agriculture
Clean water helps boost sustainable agricultural productivity and crop diversification. As the global population increases to over 10 billion people by 2050, ensuring the world’s food security is critical. Expanding the agricultural sector by 70% and allocating clean water to water-stressed localities will be vital.
Sustainable measures to move clean surface and groundwater resources towards the agricultural industry will help safeguard food and goods in the future.
4. Enhance school attendance
In developing countries, nearly 3 million children walk 30 minutes to collect water for their households. As such, school attendance may lag due to their daily chores and combating waterborne diseases.
With access to clean water, children can spend less time traveling for water and putting themselves in danger, and instead spend more time in the classroom.
5. Address gender inequality
Women are typically responsible for fetching clean drinking water in developing countries. Collectively, women may spend around 266 million hours a day searching for water and bathroom facilities.
By improving access to clean water and sanitation, women can:
- Have more time to work in an occupation or receive an education
- Prevent assault or abuse experienced during water collection
- Meet gender-specific hygienic needs with dignity, such as menstruation and pregnancy
6. Aid impoverished communities
According to the United Nations, approximately 1 billion people lived in slums or informal settlements in 2018, most of which reside in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
By increasing access to clean water in impoverished communities, economic opportunities can flourish and families can save money in health care expenses.
7. Reduce wastewater
Sustainable water management is essential for reducing pollution and treating wastewater. By improving water quality, applying a series of water management best practices, and improving water usage, nations can address water scarcity and prevent many diseases in water-stressed regions.
Wastewater treatment is an investment in water supply and sanitation. As urban populations increase, there is an opportunity for investors to make sustainable changes to water resource recovery.
8. Support biodiversity
Not only do a third of Americans get clean drinking water from 60% of our nation’s streams, but clean water supports biodiversity as well. In fact, freshwater is home to 10% of all living species on the planet.
While clean water protects biodiversity, the loss of biodiversity dramatically impacts how well ecosystems thrive and perform as a natural filter for excess nutrient loads in our water supply.
9. Reduce international conflicts
Competition for clean water resources is likely to escalate as populations and economic demands increase and climate change impacts water resources.
By preserving groundwater collectively, countries most impacted by water scarcity — for example, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran on the Tigris-Eurphates Basin — can avert clashes with each other. Although, reducing international conflicts over water scarcity will not be a straightforward effort.
10. Ease climate change impacts
Climate change disrupts weather patterns and livelihoods, from rising sea levels to extended droughts.
Access to clean water can ease some of the impacts of climate change, such as preventing sickness, maintaining crop production and, most importantly, access to drinking water.
Clean water for a better future
There are many ways clean water can shape the world. As our most precious resource, we must all do our part to ensure that we have access to potable water for generations to come.