Future Water Supply and Human Health
Water is a natural resource without which existence of humans, plants and animals would be impossible. However, as time goes on, this natural resource is slowly going to waste, especially since it is not being taken care of. This is in tandem with other natural resources, which are also diminishing as time goes on (Vörösmarty et al., 2000). Therefore, as a society, we are obligated to conserve whatever is left of our natural resources with the aim of preserving it for future generations. It is necessary to mitigate the negative effects of human activities on water since it has caused water pollution as well as other negative effects.
The quality of life is directly dependent on the supply of fresh water in the land. Indeed, water covers an estimated 70% of the earth’s surface, making it the most abundant resource on earth. However, more than 95% of the water in the world is found in oceans and is therefore too salty for human consumption. This leaves a small percentage that can be used for drinking, which should therefore be conserved (Gleick, 2000). Moreover, the human body is made of 70% water. However, the uses of water for humans are now restricted to drinking. Water is the single most important resource necessary in the industry; both directly to produce energy and indirectly in other processes (McMichael, 2006). It makes up an important part of the transportation network, and is also used as a vehicle for disposal of waste. In addition, it offers essential amenity and culturally values and is a basis for people’s outdoor recreation in terms of sports and games.
Future Water Supply
The greater percentage of freshwater is held on the icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica while some is found deep underground (Bates et al., 2008). Interestingly, this water is too far away from human to be used for practical purposes and intents since it is not accessible. Therefore, this only leaves an estimated 0.3% of the freshwater on the earth that is in lakes and rivers that is accessible for human use. This translates to an approximate100000 cubic kilometers of water are available for use by humans. The future water supply is bleak because of three main reasons, namely climate change, pollution, and the increasing world’s population. Climate change is responsible for declining levels of icecaps, ice sheets, and glaciers in the mountainous regions and at the Polar Regions. These glaciers and icecaps have been very essential sources of clean water flowing in most rivers originating from these regions. In the long term, global warming would result in few icecaps and glaciers, which would translate to less water from melting that would be flowing into rivers and lakes, which are the major sources of world’s water supply (Howe et al., 2010). In the tropics, climate changes have increased the severity of rainfall scarcity and drought conditions. These hot conditions would increase the rates of evaporation of surface water reservoirs, such as lakes and dams, thereby reducing the amount of water supply available to humans. The scarcity of rain would continues to negatively affect the recharge of underground water reservoirs as there would be less water percolating through the soils and rocks to these reservoirs. The implication is that aquifers would be continuously be depleted, thereby resulting in inadequate water supply. With inadequate water supply, people will have less water to consume and use for hygienic purposes, thus could adversely affect their health. Apart from climate change, pollution of water resources would be another major cause of inadequate future water supply. The increasing rates of industrialization across the world, especially in developing countries, would continue polluting water resources both directly and indirectly (Varis et al., 2008). Industries have continued to use rivers as the most economical means of disposing industrial effluent containing harmful chemicals. The continued discharge of such chemicals into the rivers and lakes would make the water in these resources unsafe water human use. The implication is that increased industrial pollution would reduce the availability safe water for human consumption from these water resources. The discharge of wastes into the main water resources would continue increasing the levels of toxic chemical concentrations in water resources, some of which are known to cause cancer conditions. Some chemicals encourage the increased growth of microbes, which are known to cause dangerous waterborne diseases such as typhoid. Finally, the rapidly increasing world population is already straining the available water supplies. The growth of the world’s population at such a rate in the future would definitely result in water supply crisis across the world. With increased global population, people would continue withdrawing water from reservoirs at a higher rate than its recharge rate. This would increasingly result in increasing water shortage available to individuals, which would not only reduce the amount of water people take, but also which they use to maintain acceptable hygienic standards. Inadequate water to support healthy body functions and cleanliness would contribute to increased cases of deteriorating human health due to body organs’ malfunctions and waterborne disease infections. In general, there exist all indications that future water supply is heading towards a crisis situation. Furthermore, the world appears to be reluctant in taking appropriate measures that would minimize or avoid this impeding crisis, which would potentially escalate into a disaster in the long-term. For instance, governments, corporations, and individuals have shown less commitment to reduce global warming that is contributing to climate change. Governments and individuals are not taking the responsibility to reduce the growth of world’s population through enacting family planning measures. Moreover, countries are still intensifying their industrialization efforts to attain economic development while disregarding the environmental implications, especially on water. Surely, the future water supply is bleak because the adverse effects of climate change, industrial pollution, and population growth would continue reducing the available water resource that are safe for human consumption. Today, more than 1.2 billion people, which is approximately 20% of the world’s population, live in areas in which sustainable water use limits have been reached and in many cases breached (Gleick, 1993). These areas are inclusive of areas considered the breadbasket areas of the world such as the Colorado River, North China Plains, the Indus and Murray Darling River. The UNDP has estimated that by the year 2025 there will be an estimated 3 billion people in the world who live in regions that ate water stressed (McMichael, 2006).
The bleakness of the future directly influences the health of humans in the world. Without clean drinking water survival is virtually impossible (Vörösmarty et al., 2000). In spite of developed world’s preoccupation with ensuring that chemicals and their purported health risks are addressed, the greatest risks arising from waterborne diseases in the globe still come from microbes. Microbes typically cause diseases and in the end kill people. Drinking water that is contaminated contributes a great deal to the burden of waterborne infectious diseases in the globe. Except a few select chemicals such as lead, fluoride and arsenic, the risk of illness and maybe even death is low and has not been proven.
In contrast, the major causes of waterborne diseases worldwide are the pathogenic microbes (Gleick, 2000). The efforts to reduce the burden of water borne diseases by reducing waterborne pathogens have been quite successful. However, many still pose a risk to the lives of humans both in the United States and in the world over. The pathogens involved are however not understood properly, and are at times not even recognized. The challenge that is experienced to date is detection and identification of the pathogens. Of all the microbial indicators used at present, none of them has the capability of detecting the presence of pathogens or even predicting the risk of pathogens. This is inclusive of state-of-the-science methods used by scientists today.
In spite of all the progress made in identification of drinking waterborne pathogens and reduction of their diseases risks (Gleick, 1993). However, people in various communities and countries are still at a high risks in contracting waterborne diseases. The efforts to manage these risks are not adequate. Furthermore, there are no exact estimates, both in and out of the United States, in regards to the risks arising from waterborne diseases. This does not however mean that the risks themselves are being underestimated. It is therefore necessary for scientists to focus on the populations and water supplies that are most vulnerable.
Role of the Government
In the United States as well as many other countries in the Western world, the responsibility for the providing clean drinking water lies in the hands of institutions and authorities rub by governments, and perhaps private water companies. In some cases, some home owners provide their own water for their household use. In both these cases, there are specific deficiencies that often lead to health risks and poor performance. The public water supplies that are run by government institutions many times lack scientifically sound input to inform the process as well as improve the decisions and performance. There is a complete lack of consideration of attitudes, human behavior, practices and knowledge in regards to drinking water and health. The members of society who are the poorest as well as the least served are also the ones with the least ability to provide themselves with drinking water that is safe. There is no understanding or appreciation of the behavioral, social as well as cultural aspects of drinking water (Vörösmarty et al., 2000). In addition, there is a failure to create and use the political and social structures that provide systems which increase knowledge in order to improve the science and technologies used on water as well as provide safe water for more people.
An example of the social and human behavioral aspects of health and water is how water is used in the beverage and water market place. Today, the consumption of bottled commercial water is higher than never before both in the United States and outside. In the United States for example, people are willing to pay more than $1 or one bottle of water or any other beverage such as soda. Moreover, they are willing to pay in order to have a water filter installed or any other device for water treatment. Ironically, these same people complain when the rates of water supply increase by only a few percentages in a year. This is regardless of the fact that the water is less than $0.01 for ever liter (Gleick, 2000). It is therefore important to establish the factors influencing the public’s willingness to pay for water. The willingness to pay as well as the forces that that drive this willingness be understood and therefore utilized to provide people with drinking water. The water supply industry agents as well as other stakeholders that deal with water have not done a good job in regards to marketing drinking water for the community. This is especially because they have not paid enough attention to the consumers as individuals who have behavioral and social attitudes that influence their decisions in regards to drinking water.
Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage
Already, people in the United States use point-of-use treatment for the water that they use in their homes. The question is can this treatment be used in order to provide safe water treatment for every household? The probable answer is that yes indeed it can. Both piped and not-piped water are considered unsafe or perceived as unsafe then is it not logical for the water to be treated at the point of entry. People can take charge of their personal water usage and make deliberate efforts to ensure that the water is safe. People should be taught how to assemble and utilize electronic equipment. If individuals have learnt how to use complex equipment for example computers, home entertainment systems, wireless networks as well as other household systems then creating improved systems for making water safe for drinking?
In the case that both public and private supplies will never really be sufficiently safe, in what ways would we get safer water for communities. Sometimes, the idea of treating household water seems far fetching or too unworkable or unscientific to be a practical choice. However, it is important to consider the fact that many people do not have access to clean drinking water whether piped or not. Lately, the global communities for water, sanitation and health in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) have launched an International Network to Promote Household Treatment and Safe Storage of Drinking Water. The aim of this organization is to educate the masses on simple methods of treating and storing water in the home that are supposed to improve the microbial quality of water as well as reduce waterborne diseases in the house (Gleick, 2000). The network is working on research, implementation, communication and advocacy to promote treatment and storage of water. This approach has already garnered some impressive results in the first few years of existence.
As the climate of the world becomes increasingly drier, and the population of people in the world increases (Gleick, 1993), there is a pressing need to come up with alternative supplies of water in order to build a portfolio of sources of water so as to increase the world’s resilience to the changes of climate. Clean drinking water is directly related to human health. Without clean drinking water and/or sanitation the result is cholera, malaria as well as diarrhea. In India for example, more than 1000 children die in India every day because of polluted water. Interestingly, more than 700 million people in the world drink water that is contaminated. In order to reduce the chances of the spread of these life threatening waterborne diseases, it is imperative for people to take action and stop polluting sources of water. People should be educated about the harmful effects of contaminated water.
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Gleick, P. H. (1993). Water in crisis: a guide to the world’s fresh water resources. Oxford University Press, Inc..
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Howe, C., Smith, J. B., Henderson, J., American Water Works Association., & IWA Publishing. (2010). Climate change and water: International perspectives on mitigation and adaptation. Denver, CO: IWA Pub.
McMichael, A. J., Woodruff, R. E., & Hales, S. (2006). Climate change and human health: present and future risks. The Lancet, 367(9513), 859-869.
Varis, O., Tortajada, C., & Biswas, A. K. (2008). Management of transboundary rivers and lakes. Berlin: Springer.
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