As the planet gets warmer due to climate change, there’s a big concern about water shortage. However, according to the World Bank, we are also facing another type of water crisis: the deteriorating quality of our water.
The World Bank’s research used data from the world’s largest database of water pollution to determine how certain pollutants impact the quality of our water. The researchers used technology such as satellite imaging and artificial intelligence to analyse the data they collected, and to determine how clean the water is. They found that a combination of bacteria, chemicals, plastic, and sewage end up taking oxygen from water supplies and pollute the water, making it dangerous to consume.
Why should we be concerned by this water crisis?
This water crisis is a concern to all. Areas that are heavily affected by water pollution can lead to a drop in economic growth by one-third, due to the effect on health, agriculture, and ecosystems. This impacts every country in the world, but developing countries tend to have a harder time because they have the least resources to deal with a water crisis.
Another concern is the amount of chemicals that is found in polluted water. One of the main water pollutants is nitrogen, which comes from fertilizers. When nitrogen seeps into lakes, rivers, and oceans, it turns into inorganic nitrates. In high concentration, nitrates in water are lethal to fish. Children who are exposed to a lot of nitrates suffer from a lack of brain development and growth. A second toxic chemical found in water is phosphates, and they come from laundry detergents. Phosphates lead to an increased growth of algae, which in turn removes oxygen from water.
Plastic waste (macro and micro) in our oceans is another issue that directly affects the marine ecosystem, and consequently those who consume the seafood. One individual can unknowingly consume about 5 grams of plastic per week (equivalent to one plastic bottle cap). The amount of plastic found in water is alarming. And if the plastic waste continues at the current rate, there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in our oceans by 2050.
What can we do about the water quality and pollution crisis?
- Reduce our plastic waste
- Avoid microplastics
Microplastics are found in synthetic clothes but also in places that most of us would never imagine: skin care products, toothpaste, wet wipes, tea bags, tennis balls, cigarette butts, and glitter. Try to avoid them as much as possible.
- Reduce the amount of laundry
Aside from the microplastics that come from our clothes during washing cycles, laundry also leads to water contamination due to the chemicals found in laundry detergent. Opt for eco friendly detergents instead.
- Buy organic produce
Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are organic and preferably not wrapped in plastic. You can usually find them at a local market, from local farmers, or organic farms.
- Invest in high-quality circular products
Consuming less and investing in durable products is already a good step in reducing our waste and pollution. An even better step is to buy circular products that are waste-based or zero waste, as circular products reduce pollution and extraction of raw materials by recycling, upcycling, and repurposing.
The water pollution crisis has many layers and certainly affects everyone. With a collective effort and a set of small steps we can already reduce our impact, help preserve the quality of water and decrease the pollution of this life essential resource.