Issues With Water

This week’s blog was written by Laura M., a Bass alumni. She shares the startling facts that she learned from a presentation about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater.

Recently I asked my mom to come and give a presentation for my Environmental Science class. We were studying sustainability and water treatment which is her profession. She came and gave a presentation on drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. She started her presentation with some startling facts.

  • Earth contains about 366,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water
  • Only 0.007% is potable.
  • 1.2 billion people have no access to clean water.
  • In developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.
  • Over half of the developing world’s primary schools don’t have access to water and sanitation facilities. Without toilets, girls often drop out at puberty.
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.
  • Worldwide, diarrhea kills 4,000 children every day.
  • More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes, and coastal areas.  
  • Every $1 spent on water and sanitation generates $8 as a result of saved time, increased productivity, and reduced health care costs.

She quickly made her point. In the United States, we have water treatment. She said that my grandfather can remember watching trash and sewage float in the river. In the 1940s, the United States was not doing what they needed to do regarding water treatment. By 1970, about two-thirds of our waterways were not safe for intended purposes. She is correct, we can be proud that 50 years after the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, now only about a third of our waterways remain impaired. Because of strict regulations and some very hard work, Americans can enjoy all of the recreational activities our waterways provide. Children in the United States know nothing regarding water-related diseases. They do not watch their friends die of diarrhea. Her facts were startling. I was raised enjoying our waterways; I have jumped rocks, swam, canoed, and fished all over Pennsylvania. I cannot imagine anything other than the fun our waterways bring. Yet, for millions of children around the world, this is not the case. Children around the world go to school without a water fountain that provides a safe water supply. Many do not have a toilet to use. I cannot imagine missing school because of a waterborne disease.

This is trash clogging up a sewer in the UK.

Our waterways, drinking water supplies, public health, recreation and wildlife have benefited greatly from the Environmental Protection Agency. So much so that Americans do not recognize the importance of wastewater treatment and stormwater management. They cannot understand that a child’s educational opportunities could be compromised because of access to a toilet. Americas take our water management programs for granted. However, new challenges to our water industry are emerging and the public’s health is at risk. Americans must be vigilant and cannot become complacent. Water may be an abundant natural resource, however we must work to maintain a safe supply.

The photos used in this blog were sourced from the internet. You can find them here and here.