Essay Sample on Clean Drinking Water

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Harvey Mudd College
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Limited access to clean drinking water is a major problem in many regions around the world. Statistics indicate that more than 1 billion of global population lack access to safe drinking water. With the expected increase in the world's population, the problem of inadequate access to safe drinking water is likely to worsen. For instance, the current demand for clean water is expected to increase by 40% in 20 years due to the expansion of uses of water in segments such as agriculture, urban population, and industry (Tarrass & Faissal, 2012). As the planet begins to experience the full impact of climate change, the situation can be expected to be more complicated as more and more formally water-rich areas become dry. An increase of dry areas will further stretch the demand of water and water resources in these areas as episodes of water scarcity become more unpredictable. Yet hydrological studies done by Srinivasan (2012) reveal that, despite projections that global population will reach 9 billion by 2050, the planets endowments in renewable freshwater will remain the same. So, where does the problem lie?

As evidenced around the globe, the problem of access to safe water has been engineered by a number of factors. For one, different agents have been associated with aggravating the problem of safe water shortages, and this agency varies across countries. As intimated in the preceding paragraph, increase in population stretches water resources due to expanded in demand in not only for water-related products but also the application of water into various uses in societies. A lack of proper policies from relevant governments only serves to exacerbate the problem (Curry, 2010; Tarrass & Faissal, 2012). However, the crisis of water in the world is not a function of population increase alone. The interplay of different factors generates complex situations that have been responsible for the declining quality of water systems around the globe.

Why there is a Water Crisis

The interaction between human beings and water resource systems has been considered as the greatest contributor to the global water crisis. Hydrological scholarship reveals that utilization of water resources is pegged to the cultural values, historical factors, and political realities of a given jurisdiction. Since human behavior is greatly constrained by the limitations of the natural environment, such scenarios as overutilization of waters resources are likely to be witnessed thereby contributing to shortages of clean and safe water (Srinivasan, 2012).The process of exploiting the natural environment further interacts with the increase in human population to put more pressure on water resource systems.

Water is considered polluted if there is a concentration of chemical substances or pathogens to a level that is unfit for human use. Pollution has been described as the presence of pollutants and pathogens in water bodies in elevated levels making the water unsuitable for bathing, cooking, drinking, and other purposes (Curry, 2010). Invariably, factors such as industrial waste, sewage discharges, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, among others, have been highlighted as the leading contributors to unsafe water systems (Srinivasan, 2012; Curry, 2010).A group of these factors may combine to pollute water systems. However, individual action in regards to pollution varies from country to country and is, to a large extent, influenced by environmental protection policies of relevant governments (Srinivasan, 2012).As such, pollution of water systems from the agents that have just been highlighted would depend on the how the law, human beings, and the environment relate to each other. The product of this relationship may determine as to whether a given geographical area is more likely to experience pollution than others.

Pollution from industrial waste relates to the sludge and other effluent discharged from industries into water systems that human beings rely on consumption. This problem is widespread in developed nations, especially in leading economies of developing countries. Industrial waste poses a significant threat to supplies of clean water and has been responsible for much of the water crisis in the developed and newly industrialized nations as it accounts for the largest percentage of water pollution (Hanna-Attisha, 2015; Curry, 2010).Lax regulation has been consistently cited as responsible for the continuous discharge of chimerical substances into water bodies of these nations (Srinivasan, 2012). For example, it has been documented that over 25 billion tons of unfiltered pollutants were discharged into water waterways in China in a single year, and the country remains the leading emitter of pollutants globally (Curry, 2010).If unregulated, such voluminous discharges could cause extensive water pollution not only to Chinese citizens but also in other countries especially the neighboring nations.

Population increase has led to a rising demand for food. In turn, more land is being irrigated to meet the rising needs of the global community. For instance, Curry (2010) records that between 1950 and 1990, the size of land that was put under irrigation schemes to meet the food demands increased from 94 million hectares to 154 million hectares. In Russia, expanded irrigation projects have led to 66% drop in water volume in the Aral Sea. With the world population anticipated to reach 9 billion by 2050(Srinivasan, 2012), more water suppliers will be put under stress. Besides, expanded agricultural activities have a positive correlation with pesticides and fertilizer pollution and the burning of fossil fuels, especially in developing nations. Other sources of pollutants include mining activities, natural disasters, marine dumping, and oil spills (Curry, 2010).

Categories of Water Contaminants

Pathogenic contaminants

These are micro-organisms that are channeled into the water systems through pollutants such as sewage seepages and flooding. They are parasitic and bacterial organisms which require municipal water treatment so as to prepare the water for human consumption. In the United States, the scarcity of clean water due to the presence of micro-organisms is not a major problem (Curry, 2010). On the flipside, the presence of disease-causing microorganisms in water supplies in developing nations poses several challenges to health care systems (Pandey et al., 2014). According to Curry (2010), this problem has been worsened by the lack of funding, poverty, and agricultural practices that are not sustainable.

Chemical Pollutants

As the literature reviewed in the previous sections of the paper have suggested, this is the primary source of pollution in developed democracies. Radioactive materials such as uranium, radium, and plutonium have identified as a major source of water pollution. Organic contaminants such petroleum products also account for a substantial source of water pollution around the world. Seepage of toxic metals such as lead and copper into water pipes and water systems has been found to be serious polluting agents. Due to the challenges of industrialization in developed nations, this category is a major source of water contamination in these countries (Curry, 2010).It is worth noting, however, that water bodies can be contaminated by naturally-occurring chemical pollutants.

Water pollution can have considerable negative consequences on human health and the ecosystem. A negative impact on the human population and the ecosystem is likely to affect the economic activities of nations in the long-term (Curry, 2010). Evidently, economic development and human health are interrelated but the former does not fall within the confines of this paper, and therefore, the subsequent sections of the paper shall focus on the latter.

Relationship between Water and Health of Human Population

The problems of water contamination in developed nations such as United States, France, Canada, and the UK are markedly different from those experienced in developing nations. As noted earlier, in most developed nations, a large portion of water contamination results from heavy use of fertilizers and industrial waste (Hanna-Attisha, 2015). Although developed nations have designed better mechanisms of dealing with the effects of pollution, there are still a host of cases of water pollution that have been documented. These incidences have been attributed to gaps in coverage of water treatment policies and improper wastewater treatment methods. Additionally, the pervasiveness of the ecological water cycle means that pollution in one country may have a spill-over effect to another (Curry, 2010) thereby making those countries with watertight regulations less immune from pollutants.

Scholars have done an extensive investigation into the relationship between pollution of water bodies and human health. The scarcity of clean water results in poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation in the affected communities. These conditions place a heavy burden of health costs upon communities (Tarrass & Faissal, 2012).For instance, inadequate access to clean and safe water leads to the death of millions of people around the world due to infections from water-related diseases. According to Curry (2010) and Tarrass and Faissal (2012), 1.6 million deaths occur globally due to poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation.25, 000 of the mentioned figure die from consumption of contaminated water. An overwhelming majority of these deaths are recorded in children and women.

In spite of the fewer number of people dying from water contamination, the health issues created by this type of pollution are enormous. Unlike in developing nations where a majority of contamination results in water-borne diseases, pollution in developed countries leads to consumption of heavy metals mostly generated from industrial waste (Hanna-Attisha, 2015; Tarrass & Faissal, 2012, Curry, 2010). In the US, estimates indicate that one in five citizens consumes water that is untreated from industrial waste. However, that this ratio includes the potential for water contamination in the ecological cycle (Curry, 2010).This figure implies that a majority of Americans face the risk of contracting infections that are linked to elevated levels of chemical substances.

Incidents of Water Pollution: The Flint Water Crisis and the Case of Bangladesh

The Flint Water Crisis

Over the last three years, the water crisis in the city of Flint has generated a lot of interest from both scholars and policy makers. This is due to the circumstances that culminated in the occurrence of the crisis. According to Bellinger (2016), the problem occurred when the citys management decided to switch the supply of water from Lake Huron in favor of Flint River in order to save on costs. In a case of managerial lapses, the regulatory corrosion-control treatments in regards to copper and lead were discontinued. Inappropriate treatment of the new source of water further heightened the corrosivity of the water. As such, lead (a highly soluble metal) dissolved into the water and later found its way into the taps of the residents of the city.

For many centuries, lead has been known as a contaminant with far-reaching polluting effects (Bellinger, 2016).During the industrial revolution in the United States, lead was widely included in products. As a result, epidemics arose in many parts of the nation culminating in its elimination from products such as gasoline and paint (Hanna-Attisha, 2015; Bellinger, 2016).In spite of such level of awareness, lead contamination continues to take place in water in systems. For instance, the constant use of lead-laden materials in water infrastructure, changes in water sources, use of water disinfectants has channeled a lot of lead solutions into water systems, resulting in widespread b...

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