Drinking water is such a vital and fundamental part of our lives that we have a tendency to take for granted that our water is safe to drink. In the U.S., federal legislation like the Safe Drinking Water Act which Congress passed in 1974, mandates that the more than 160,000 public water systems in America must be monitored to ensure that the water they provide is safe to drink.
For the most part, these public water systems do a pretty good job providing millions of Americans with drinking water that passes the Environmental Protection Agency�s standards for drinking water contaminants. In other parts of the world, the situation is not so rosy. Here are some facts about drinking water worldwide:
Water supplies are falling while the demand is dramatically growing at an unsustainable rate. Over the next 20 years, the average supply of water worldwide per person is expected to drop by a third.
By the middle of this century, seven billion people in 60 countries may be faced with water scarcity (at least two billion in 48 countries currently face such a harsh reality).
Water consumption has almost doubled in the last 50 years. A child born in the developed world consumes 30 to 50 times the water resources of one in the developing world.
Over 1.5 billion people lack ready access to drinking water, and, if current consumption patterns continue, at least 3.5 billion people � nearly half the world�s projected population � will live in water-stressed river basins in just 20 years.
Producing a fast food lunch--hamburger, french fries, and a soft drink--uses 1500 gallons of water. This includes the water needed to raise the potatoes, the grain for the bun and to feed the cattle, and the production of the soda.
Five million --- the number of people, mostly children, who die each year from illnesses caused by poor-quality water supplies.
Asia�s rivers average 20 times more lead than rivers in the industrialized world and average 50 times more bacteria from human feces than the World Health Organization guidelines allow.
This is just a small sampling of the alarming statistics that were compiled by the World Wildlife Federation.
As long as populations continue to rise at the current rate, some of the projected figures mentioned above will certainly come to pass. In the U.S., we are not immune to these concerns as our supplies of drinking water are compromised by:
- Industrial and Agricultural Pollution
- Bacteria, Viruses, and Parasites
- Growing Populations in Arid Climates in the West and Southwest
- Seepage from Landfills
- Toxic Contaminants from Underground Storage Tanks
- Wasteful Use of Water
It is up to each of us to make a sober assessment of how we use, and waste, the precious water resources that we take for granted. We are the current stewards of our land, and water and future generations are not likely to regard our wastefulness with respect and affection.