take clean drinking water for granted in the UK. We even flush
our toilets with it.
presence of abundant freshwater supplies has in the
past contributed to the development in the UK of industries
such as textiles, engineering, breweries, chemicals
and dye working. This same demand for water has brought
it's own problems in recent years. The very industries
and other activities which water resources have helped
to develop are threatening the supply and quality of
In the 19th century pollution from major cities would be let
out into the extensive river systems and eventually find its
way to the sea. In modern times the problem can be traced
to several factors.
Sewage pumped into lakes and streams also heavily contributes
to the pollution. Oil and sewage were the two most commonly
identified pollutants in the 25,300 water pollution incidents
in England and Wales in 1993. Each accounted for about a quarter
of substantiated incidents.
concentrations of fertilisers in crops have led to a
huge growth of toxic algae, depleting the water supply.
Along with acid rain, eutrophication
threatens to wipe out more than 15 percent of key wild
areas in England. Excessive production of algae even
threatens human health.
in Severn trent, Anglian, and Thames NRA regions
had the highest levels of nitrates and orthophosphates
In Northwest England high levels of lead are found naturally
in the water supply. Acid rain also causes higher levels of
lead contaminants because the water pipes are vulnerable to
high levels of acidity found in such rain. Replacement of
lead pipes has led to a reduction in levels of contaminants,
but has not all together solved the problem. It is estimated
that 20 percent of the UK still exceeds the World Health Organization
lead standard of 10 micrograms per litre of water.
Another more recent concern of water pollution for the region
has to do with flooded mines. Abandoned copper mines owned
by british Coal, have stained several rivers orange. This
in turn has led to heavier purification costs. british Coal
spends £6 million a year pumping clean water from the Durham
coal field alone.
UK Environmental White Paper "This Common Inheritance"
made cleaner water a clear goal. These goals include
the establishment of an urban wastewater directive and
the possible use of incentive charging for water polluting
discharges and fines.
National Rivers Authority fined Shell £1.5 million for
polluting the Mersey River. Former water authorities
are among those who are also being fined and investigated.
This coincides with EU laws that say "the polluter
An economic measure of the amount of pollution is that
in 1992 UK industrial firms spent £677 million for equipment
to control water pollution. The short term projection
for water pollution control equipment is calculated
to grow 10 percent per year in real terms. And remember
most of that is for pollution that the companies themselves
want to be rid of. For example, breweries need to get
rid of high levels of nitrogen. Imagine if laws tighten
Quality is not just important for drinking water. It
is also important for wildlife. Lakes and reservoirs
are highly valued as sources of freshwater for potable
supply, irrigation, industry, and recreation.
order to sustain and improve water quality and the aquatic
environment, the UK government aims are to:
the discharge of waste water
adequate water resources of sufficient quality are
available for abstraction for treatment as drinking
the recreational use of water where appropriate.
with acidification of freshwater.
Check out UK Indicators of Sustainable Development for
GlobalOver 70% of the
earth's surface is covered by water. 97% of this is
seawater, only 3% freshwater and only 1% is available
uses about 70% of freshwater, while industry uses
about 20%. The World Health Organisation estimates
over 60% of the rural population of the developing
world lack access to reasonably safe supplies of
water. 75% of people in developing countries lack
adequate sanitary facilities.
to the UN, one-third of the world's population
lives in countries facing moderate to severe
shortages of usable water by 2025
average American individual uses 100 - 175 gallons of
water at home each day whereas the average African family
uses about 5 gallons a day.
Most human waste is just dumped in the nearest water.
Human waste has become one of the most dangerous environmental
pollutants. Water bourne disease accounts for 80% of
all sickness in the world and claims about 10 million
lives each year.
In 1981 the United Nations launched the International
Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. The aim was to give
everybody safe water and adequate sanitation by 1990.
Though this target was not reached, about 1,300 million
more people in developing countries were provided with
safe drinking water during the 1980s.
Around 550 million people already suffer chronic water
shortage. Three billion are expected to live in countries
without enough water by the year 2025.
Check out more water facts from
Water Partners International at http://www.water.org/why/fact_sheets.htm