Recent news stories tell us a sobering truth: Not only are we facing rapid depletion of groundwater aquifers,1 much of the world's water supplies are also becoming too contaminated to safely drink or use for cooking or bathing.
One study2 found nearly 60 percent of the groundwater in the Indo-Gangetic Basin contains unsafe levels of arsenic.
This South Asian water basin supplies water to more than 750 million people.3 The water is not even usable for irrigation due to contamination levels and excess salinity (salt).
Cholera and Typhoid Is an Emerging Threat
Another report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) found that pollution levels in rivers and lakes now put more than 320 million people in Asia, Africa and Latin America at risk for cholera and typhoid — life-threatening diseases associated with exposure to contaminated water.
"Between 1990 and 2010, pollution caused by viruses, bacteria and other micro-organisms, and long-lasting toxic pollutants like fertilizer or petrol, increased in more than half of rivers across the three continents …
Population growth, expansion of agriculture and an increased amount of raw sewage released into rivers and lakes were among the main reasons behind the increase of surface water pollution …"
In Africa, up to a quarter of all rivers are severely polluted with pathogens, courtesy of untreated wastewater being dumped right into rivers and lakes. The same situation applies to about one-quarter of rivers in Latin America and nearly half of all rivers in Asia.