Thursday, January 20, 2011

Regional Water Needs in India and Around the World

Regional Water Needs in India and Around the World

Reported by Diego Bonta in Water Technology November 2010

Nearly one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean, safe water. Water quantity and quality is a growing concern in many regions around the world. As the quantity of clean water dwindles, communities are forced to find ways to use a broader range of waters that have an ever increasing variety of contaminants. The root causes of these problems span cultures, geographies and income levels. India exhibits many of these common root causes found around the world.

India’s growing population is putting a severe strain on all of the country’s natural resources, including water. According to Water Partners International, India has made progress in the supply of safe water to its people, but gross disparity in coverage exists across the country.

Water stress
Most of the drinking water supply in India comes from groundwater. According to UN World Water Development Report 2006, ground water tables in some parts of India are falling by more than two to three meters a year.

Over extraction of groundwater has led to saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers. It has also resulted in problems of excessive fluoride, iron, arsenic and salinity in water. Groundwater is facing an equally serious threat from contamination by industrial effluent as well as pesticides and fertilizer from farm run-offs. What makes this more challenging is the fact that citizens continue to trust the same compromised water sources that previous generations relied on.

In 1982, it was reported that 70 percent of all available water in India was polluted. The situation is much worse today. Daily news reports show pictures of the contaminated drinking water available in various localities of the country.

Inadequate infrastructure
The urban water supply and sanitation sector in the country is suffering from inadequate levels of service, an increasing demand-supply gap, poor sanitary conditions and deteriorating financial and technical performance.

According to the UN Human Development Report 2006, India will have 270 million more people living in urban areas in 2025 than in 1995. Experts predict that 50 percent of India’s population will be living in cities. This is going to put further pressure on the already strained centralized water supply systems of urban areas.

Health problems
Although access to drinking water has improved, the World Bank estimates that 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water. In India, diarrhea alone causes more that 1,600 deaths daily. According to the United Nations, 5,700 children under the age of five die each year largely for lack of clean water.

Due to the water drawn from wells, rivers and ponds not being adequately hygienic, waterborne diseases like Hepatitis B have sprung up. The common attacks due to the ill-conditioned water in India are Hepatitis A, B, C, and E viruses. Around 3 percent in India fall prey to Hepatitis B. Around 2 percent are affected by Hepatitis C virus, which attaches the bones.

Throughout the world, drinking water sources contain a broad range of impurities. The contaminants can manifest as naturally-occurring as well as result from human activity. More are being found in drinking water supplies every day. Agricultural chemicals (i.e. pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides) and industrial chemicals (i.e. perfluorocarbons (PFCs), trace pharmaceuticals, etc.) are being found in more and more water sources. In some areas, waterborne diseases and dissolved compounds like fluoride, nitrates and arsenic are creating additional health risks in drinking water.

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