Mary Beth Nevulis is associate editor for Water & Wastes Digest. Nevulis can be reached at [email protected].
A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that 1.8 billion people––more than a quarter of the world’s population––are still drinking unsafe water.
The UNC study looked at water quality and sanitary risk information from an earlier study of five countries, and extrapolated the data to estimate global figures. The data suggested that of the 5.8 billion people using piped or "other improved" water sources in 2010, 1 billion likely received contaminated water. Adding that tally to the nearly 800 million people who collect water from unimproved sources would mean 1.8 billion people are drinking unsafe water.
Safe water can be hard to come by both in small villages or big cities across the planet. Lots can go wrong from source to drinker: taps or pipes can break, clean springs and wells can become microbiologically or chemically contaminated, or people have to carry or store water in ways that might not be sanitary.
Even now, in the 21st century, clean water is still not a given resource for 25% of people in the world. Taking steps to ensure that contaminants do not travel into the soil or water table can help us make clean drinking water not just a hope, but a reality.