Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Water Facts

Water Facts

Oct 14, 2010 by Giovanna De Gennaro

The earth is a closed system with limited water resources. Read on to find out the main causes of the global water crisis and other facts about water.

The earth is a closed system with finite resources such as water, a fact which has devastating implications for the growing world population. The water crisis is caused mainly by two factors: scarcity of usable water and water pollution. This article outlines the main causes of water contamination, the effects on human health and other global facts about water.

Water Facts

• According to the United Nations the total volume of water on earth is about 1.4 billion km3. The volume of freshwater resources is around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 percent of the total volume.

• About 70-75% of the earth's surface is covered with water.

• The average person in the United States uses about 80 - 100 gallons of water each day, much of which is taken up by flushing toilets.

• Roughly 340,000 million gallons of fresh water are used every day in the United States.

• People can only use about three tenths of a percent of all the available water on the earth.

• Usable water comes from freshwater lakes, rivers, underground aquifers and the atmosphere.

• About 80 percent of the water in the United States is used for irrigation and thermoelectric power.

• The earth rarely loses or gains extra matter; this makes it a close system, meaning that the same amount of water that existed millions of years ago is still present today.

• It takes 2000 to 5000 liters of water to produce food for one person per day.

• The daily drinking requirement per person is 2 to 4 liters.

• Overuse and pollution of water resources are responsible for harming biodiversity.

Water Contaminants

Water can be contaminated by a number of micro-organisms that produce pathogens. These include bacteria, parasites, viruses and cysts. It is also contaminated by toxic, organic, inorganic and radioactive contaminants.

Toxic Contaminants

The presence of these toxic chemicals and metals in water include pesticides, trihalomthanes (THMs) which form when chlorine combines with organic matter, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) such as gasoline and fuel additives, solvents and degreasers.

Organic Contaminants

Detergents, chlorinated solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons including motor oil, fuel combustion byproducts, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuels, insecticides, food processing waste

Inorganic Contaminants

These include toxic metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic and can cause cancer and poisoning, among other things. Another inorganic contaminant is nitrate found in sewage, fertilizers and animal waste. Also included are chemical waste such as industrial by-products, fertilizers that contain phosphates, ammonia,

Radioactive Contaminants

Radon is a radioactive element gas that occurs naturally when uranium decays. Radon is generally associated with lung cancer and it is generally present in buildings rather water supplies.

Not all contaminants, however, pose an immediate threat to health and the long term effects of contaminated water are still being researched.

Sources of Pollutants

• Sewage waste water (containing urine, feces, laundry waste).

• Industrial waste such as asbestos which is carcinogenic (when inhaled its fibers can cause lung cancer) and sulphur which is harmful to marine life.

• Oil spills from ships, tankers, drains and dumps.

• Atmospheric deposition which is polluted water as the result of pollution in the air. Acid rain is caused by particles of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the air that mix with water particles in the air. Acid rain harms marine life by polluting aquatic habitats such as rivers, lakes and oceans.

• Marine dumping can take a toll on sea life. From cardboard and foam to aluminum and plastic, these materials can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 400 years to degrade.

• Global warming causes an increase in water temperature which disrupts the natural habitat of marine life. For example, a rise in water temperatures causes damage to coral reefs and the marine life that feeds and depends on it.

• Nuclear waste which comes from a number of sources such as nuclear power stations that produce radioactive waste, as well as industrial, medical and scientific nuclear fuel cycles.

Effects on Health

The presence of microbial pathogens in drinking water can cause gastrointestinal infections that cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, dysentery, salmonella and shigellosis.

Contaminants in drinking water can also cause health effects that can occur over the long run such as birth defects, liver and kidney damage and cancer.

UN Global Water Facts

• Only 63% of the world's population have access to improved sanitation, 1.4 million children die each year as the result of waterborne diseases,

• According to UNESCO's World Water Assessment Programme we all need 20-50 liters of non-contaminated water each day and children in the developed world consume as much as 50 times as much water as those in the developing world.

• Human activities, health and well-being are linked to certain conditions: safe drinking water, healthy freshwater ecosystems, being free of water-related diseases, an adequate sanitation.

• Over 80 percent of all waterborne diseases are caused by contaminated drinking water, poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation.

• 1 billion people don't have access to improved water supply.

• The world population (six billion people) is using 54 percent of all the freshwater contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers.

• According to trends observed since 1990 it is estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa neither sanitation nor drinking water targets will be met by 2015.

• Only 24% of the population in Africa has access to piped water through household connections and 13% has access to sanitation linked to a sewage system.

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Norland International manufacturers and provides turnkey drinking water treatment and bottling systems around the world.