Freshwater is not for everyone

When doing our research on freshwater, we mainly focused on availability and pollution. Our findings surprised us, in regards to how many people lack access to freshwater, yet how pollution levels are still in acceptable conditions. A great way to summarise our findings is that there is enough freshwater for everyone, yet 500 million people are in scarcity of freshwater.

In regards to the problems of water pollution, we found the problems are more dominant in areas such as Latin America, Africa and Asia. Water pollution has been found to have worsen since 1990 on these three continents, meaning that pollution is indeed a growing problem. However, it is notable that most the rivers on these continents are in acceptable conditions. Even though water pollution is becoming an increasing problematic challenge facing these three continents, it is worth mentioning that:

  • About two third of the rivers in these continents are of low level pathogen pollution
  • More than three quarters have low level organic pollution
  • About nine-tenths have low salinity pollution

However, it is important to emphasise the criticality of the situation and those affected by it:

  • The remaining of the rivers polluted with pathogen can affect hundreds of millions encountering these rivers.
  • The high level of organic pollution trends is affecting freshwater fishery. A lot of poor rural people who live in these are dependent on freshwater fish as their primary source of protein in their diet, in addition to those who rely on freshwater fishery to support themselves.
  • The salinity pollution is affecting the agriculture in the areas that are dependent on these rivers.

More detailed information on water pollution can be found here

Our research on water scarcity showed that access to freshwater varies around the year and many studies do not take that into consideration, and in many cases underestimating how problematic it truly is. According to recent studies:

  • two-thirds of the humanity experiences severe water scarcity at least one month during a year (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2016). Nearly half of those people live in India and China.
  • Half a billion people don’t have access to water all year around. It is caused by unprecedented consumption and production.
  • Global water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years, because of the increasing wealth and consumption (UNESCO, 2009). Current demands exceed sustainable supply in many places of the world, which is likely to have a serious negative impact in the long-term perspective (2030 Water Resources Group, 2009).
  • Agricultural, industrial and domestic water withdrawals have steadily increased. Agriculture is the largest global consumer of freshwater, with withdrawals for this purpose being unsustainable in many places. Water affects every single area of our lives and the water scarcity and its possible future impact is considered to be the most serious issue of the 21 century (World Economic Forum, 2015)

More information on freshwater access can be found here and here 

It is upsetting that the majority of people from high socioeconomic background takes access to freshwater for granted, where almost half the population at some point in the year has a scarcity of freshwater. Furthermore, even though pollution levels are at acceptable conditions, it is important to take measures to maintain these levels. It is also beneficial for the hundreds of millions affected to decontaminate the polluted freshwater sources that so many rely on.

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