Recognizing and understanding the need of safe drinking water: A reality check

Water is more essential for human survival than clothing, shelter or even food. Everyone needs about 20 liters of water per day for a safe and healthy life. All over the world the scarcity of clean drinking water is a massive threat, probably as huge as terrorism and civil wars. There are small tribes in Africa who are at war with each other for scarce sources of water. Almost 1.8 million people die each year from waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid. Although the threat might not seem as real in USA, very recent news from Flint, Michigan paints a very different reality.

In USA one in three people depend on natural water sources like small streams and lakes for their home water supplies. This means that about 117 million Americans depend on natural water supplies which come under the scope of the Clean Water Rule. Among them almost 44 million people draw water from private wells. But quite unlike the public streams and lakes, the private wells are not regulated by the officials. The home owners are completely responsible for the safety standards of their potable water.

A very different picture: Captured by credible studies

Study 1

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Analysis of the drinking water from several homes in Flint has shown the presence of a number of regulated substances including pharmaceutical drugs. There are 27 known chemical compounds which could be detected from these samples. 12 of these were pharmaceutical compounds and the rest were categorized as fire retardants, non-stick coatings and artificial sweeteners.

Study 2

Another very recent study conducted by research groups from Silent Spring Institute analyzed water samples collected from 20 separate private drinking wells in Cape Cod. They found that the water was infiltrated with 117 different pollutants; these included PFCs (perfluoroalkyl compounds), flame retardant compounds and pharmaceuticals. These chemicals are most likely to have leached into the drinking water wells from the waste water discharge systems and septic systems.

The gravity of the situation

According to Dr. Laurel Schaider who led the research team, “the PFCs found in the drinking water can cause developmental disorders in children and may also cause cancers. They are proven endocrine disrupters and can easily reach ground water from our household waste water.” As a matter of fact, the PFCs found in the sample water are a part of everyday household products and kitchenware including non-stick coating on frying pans.

Why so fearful?

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Take a look at the dangers, and you’ll know.

  • Waterborne diseases: As a result of water pollution, diarrhea broke out in a number of locations including Boston. 2011 saw the highest number of beach closing and advisory days in the past 22 years due to contamination of sea water with human and animal wastes. Over the past 30 years the citizens of USA have been exposed to a number of diseases caused by waterborne organisms including Giardia, Norovirus, Shigella, Campylobacter, Salmonella and Cryptosporium. Hepatitis A, myocarditis, diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and a milieu of other treatable and untreatable diseases have also been attributed to improper maintenance of drinking water supplies.
  • Antibiotic resistance: Besides causing diseases the presence of antibiotics in the drinking water holds certain risks of causing anti-biotic resistance among common bacteria. Even common E.coli infections may acquire resistance to antibiotics which it has encountered before in the drinking water systems. This poses a real threat towards creation of another superbug and a plethora of obstinate diseases.
  • Aggravating existing conditions: People with high blood pressure or kidney problems are being exposed to chemicals which can exacerbate their condition without their knowledge. The endocrine disrupters can wrack havoc upon the internal organs of a person suffering from tachycardia, coronary disorders and mood disorders. Even the minutest amounts of anti-psychotic pharmaceutical compounds found in the water samples can severely affect the growth and mental development of children.
  • Allergy: Although the pharmaceutical drugs found in water pollution cases observed in Flint were in minute quantities, they were deemed possible risk factors for causing anaphylactic reaction in people allergic certain antibiotics; for example, people who are allergic to penicillin and its derivatives.

Blame it on the lack of funds

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Clean drinking water was never supposed to become a luxury for only the well-off. Almost 44 billion gallons of water are treated and supplied to homes, schools and institutions everyday by the public water systems in USA. Most of the houses depend on public sewer systems to take care of their household wastes. However severe under-funding of sanitation and water filtration projects has caused a lack of infrastructure upgradation which is required to treat sewage water and keep is separate from drinking water supplies.

An EPA survey conducted in 2007 showed that about 334.8 billion dollars are required for a 20 year period for the water and wastewater management systems across the nation. However in 2012 only 1.5 billion dollars were allotted for all ongoing projects across 50 states.

In conclusion

Clean drinking water is required for living a normal life. People ought to enjoy the confidence of drinking water without having to fear the deadly chemicals which may be lacing it. When the model nations of the globe are struggling to ensure safe water supply, in which direction do the less endowed look for help?