Thursday, December 30, 2010

Drinking Water Problems

Drinking Water Problems

Nov 7, 2010 Zeeshan Amin

Safe drinking water is not easily accessible to many; poor quality of water is a leading cause of waterborne diseases like dysentery and cholera.

According to World Health Organization, almost 3.5 million people die each year due to water-related diseases. A sustainable supply of safe water for drinking and household use is a fundamental necessity of life; however, lack of clean water or bad quality of drinking water can be threatening to life. As a matter of fact, many developing countries lack access to appropriate quantities of safe drinking water.

Drinking Water Supply System

The primary objective of a drinking water supply system is the accessibility of safe drinking water at affordable prices. There are two types of sources for obtaining water for drinking: surface water sources such as lakes and rivers and ground water sources like wells. The water obtained from these sources is treated by adding disinfectants like chlorine. The water with certain minimum quality requirements is then distributed to the end-consumers.

In addition to the quantity and quality parameters, drinking water must be accessible at affordable prices as well. The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 3 to 5 percent of a person’s income should be spent on water needs; the scarcity of fresh water resources and wasteful consumption has lead to rise in water prices in many congested cities of the world.

Scarcity of Drinking Water

Studies indicate that only 3 percent of world’s total resources are fresh water; most of this fresh water is locked in ice caps and underground deep aquifers, thus its acquisition poses many technological and economical challenges. Further to that, only 0.3 percent of total fresh water reserves represent usable resources for drinking and household. The situation has deteriorated due to wasteful consumption of water in regions where drinking water is abundantly available.

The lack of fresh water resources and the wasteful consumption makes access to drinking water difficult; in certain developing countries, people have to fetch water for drinking and household needs from faraway sources. In many cultures, the burden of carrying water from lakes is the responsibility of women and children. This hinders the children from schooling and other fruitful activities; in addition, pregnant women suffer miscarriages due to carrying heavy loads.

Drinking Water Quality

Chemicals released from fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture are the leading cause of contamination in drinking water resources. In addition, dumping of household and industrial wastes without treatment also spoils water quality. The chemicals added to drinking water include lead, arsenic and benzene. Additionally, physical hazards like stones, glass chips and metal fragments can also cause injuries.

World Health Organization statistics show that only 62 percent of the world’s population has access to improved sanitation. Improper sanitation and poor disposal of human wastes adds microbes to drinking water sources; the presence of microbes such as bacteria, viruses and parasites leads to waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

Lack of Safe Drinking Water

In many regions of the world, sustained supplies of safe drinking water are not accessible to people at affordable prices. Waterborne diseases associated with poor quality of drinking water are a leading cause of deaths in many developing countries. The careful consumption of available water and proper disposal of industrial and household wastes are critical to combat this issue.


• 2007,Encyclopedia of Environment and Society, Sage Publications.
• Water Crisis Facts, accessed Nov,2010.

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