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Water – A Precious Resource | World Water Week 2019

Water – A Precious Resource | World Water Week 2019
CC: WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

What makes life possible on earth and not on other planets? It is the colourless, odourless liquid called water, the elixir of life. As significant as oxygen, water is quintessential for the survival of all the life on the planet earth. Making up nearly 71% of the earth's surface, 96.5% of this water is in the form of oceans. The amount of freshwater available to us is, therefore, very limited. Only 3.5% is available as fresh water, and its quality is under constant threat. Humans have proved themselves to be inefficient users of this precious resource. Preserving the quality of freshwater is, therefore, extremely vital for the continuity of drinking-water supply, production of food, and recreational use.

Looking into the statistics, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO ), 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water, and at least 2 billion people are bound to use a drinking water source polluted with faeces. Waterborne diseases are creating havoc in terms of healthcare costs and DALYs owing to the high morbidity and mortality rates associated with them. The diseases that are transmitted via water include but are not limited to diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, schistosomiasis, and polio. Contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year. According to WHO , it is estimated that by 2025, nearly half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Availability of safe drinking water is critical to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection.

Water Pollution:

Water pollution is one of the most serious ecological threats we are facing in the 21st century. Water pollution is the degradation of water quality due to dissolution and deposition of toxic substances, such as heavy metals, plastic and micro plastics, as well as various infectious agents. This not only threatens the existence of the aquatic life but also seeps through soil into the groundwater reservoirs, making it unfit for human consumption.

There are various types of water pollutants ranging from organic, inorganic, and radioactive.

Organic pollutants are bacteria and viruses that are present in the water, generated by manure, animal and vegetable waste.

Inorganic pollutants are the nitrates and phosphates of pesticides, drugs for human and animal use, household products, heavy metals, acids and hydrocarbons used in industries.

Radioactive water pollutants result from radioactive fallout from the cloud of a nuclear explosion, or from other such sources.

Preventing Water Pollution:

We all are accountable for today’s water pollution problem. Few simple ways can be adopted to prevent water contamination or at least limit our contribution to it. Below are some little actions to start with:

  • Decrease plastic consumption as much as possible.
  • Reuse or recycle plastic whenever you can.
  • Properly dispose of chemicals, oils, industrial waste, sewage and non-biodegradable materials.

Water Scarcity:

Water scarcity can indicate limited availability due to physical shortage, or restricted access because of a failure to guarantee a regular supply, stemming from a lack of adequate infrastructure. Water scarcity already affects almost every region of the world. It is estimated that over 2 billion people are living in countries experiencing high water stress (UN, 2018), and close to 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030 (Global Water Institute, 2013).

Prevention of Freshwater Crisis:

Freshwater is a valuable commodity, and it should be used with great care for the sake of our future generations. Some of the measures that can be adapted to preserve our water resources include:

  • Educating to change consumption and lifestyles
  • Inventing water conservation technologies
  • Recycling wastewater
  • Improving irrigation and agricultural practices
  • Appropriately pricing water
  • Controlling pollution & better sewage treatment
  • Developing energy-efficient desalination plants
  • Improving water catchment and harvesting
  • Sustainable water management
  • Holistically managing ecosystems

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the Western Pacific Region:

Specifically talking about the Pacific region of the world, more than 14,000 people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. Universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and adequate hygiene (WASH) services are essential for population health, welfare and development. Preventable water-related diseases claim tens of thousands of lives in the Western Pacific region. According to WHO, the Region made considerable progress between the years 1990 and 2015, with most of the countries achieving global targets for drinking water and sanitation. Still, nearly 90 million people in the Region do not use a basic drinking water facility, and more than 400 million do not use a basic sanitation facility. Sufficient, affordable and safely managed drinking water, sanitation, and improved hygiene behaviours can cut this number dramatically. In adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global community pledged to achieve universal coverage of safely managed drinking water and sanitation services and to eradicate open defecation by the year 2030.