Definition and Availability of Clean Water
Clean water or potable water refers to water that is pure and consumable without any risk of short-term or long-term harm to the consumer. It is expected that this water improves the quality of life. (Roberts 3). The water consumed in most developed countries in households and industries is of standards that qualify its classification as potable water. In most parts of the world, people consume impure water laden with disease causing microorganisms that are a source of diseases. This is attributed to the increased cost of purifying and providing clean water that denies people the easy, cheap access. The widespread scarcity of clean water in the world prompts this consumption of unpotable water. Using clean water can tremendously reduce the cost incurred in medication as a result of waterborne illnesses. (Roberts par 14). This responsibility belongs to the public health department of the government. The United States is currently experiencing a water scarcity crisis that will definitely continue in future (Synder par 1). There are several issues contributing to this problem and addressing them would be the first step to availing clean water to households and industries. This paper will give a clear definition of clean water and discuss how much is available for consumption in the United States. In addition, it will discuss inherent issues that are presenting obstacles to provision of clean drinking water in the US and the extent of their impact.
Clean drinking water refers to water that is uncontaminated with materials such as soil residues and wastes from industries that is fit for consumption without causing any harm. It may also refer to water deficient of disease causing organisms consumed in households and homesteads. Clean water is important because most households use it for preparing food and for drinking. As such, clean water prevents contracting diseases that have been a major cause of death cases in most parts of the world. Secondary uses include washing and cleaning. In recent times, water scarcity has become a widespread problem even to developed countries like the US (Synder par 1). The US is currently experiencing a water scarcity problem that has been caused by several factors. These include changes in reclamation of land to create space for cities, climate patterns, wasteful use of the currently available water and other environmental factors such as pollution. Other causes include growth of hyacinth, agricultural activities with diffusion of pesticides and artificial soil nutrients. These pollution activities have led to increased salinity levels in water and this makes it hard to get pure water. They also destroy the ecological balance in nature and this indirectly affects the local population because aquatic life supports with essentials such as food (Roberts par 8). At present, most rivers that provide clean drinking water to millions of people in the US are in the verge of drying up. For instance, the Mississippi is extremely polluted by pesticides and bacteria. This a critical issue that calls for changes in policies and large-scale cooperation between the government and the people. Upgrading of water management facilities and development of programmes to ensure protection of the environment is important (Leob, par 4). This will help in conserving the available water sources and use the available water well to do more.
Amount of available potable water
Statistical data reveals that only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water. The other percentage is composed of salty water (Geiger 31) .About 35 million people in the US get water from domestic wells. This has led to 23% of the US population being exposed to only water borne illness. (Kumar, Adak and Patrick par 4). In the US currently, little clean water is available for consumption. Analysts project a clean water crisis in the near future, if policies and programs are not established to conserve the available water sources and encourage the economical use of the available one. This scarcity has been aggravated by the high demand and wasteful use of the available water.
Several issues emerge whenever the availability and quality of water is considered. Water scarcity is initiated by high demand and wasteful use, environmental factors, climatic changes, and the high cost of clean water provision (American Water Resources Association par 1). Water quality is decreased by pollution that leads to scarcity of clean drinking water. Each of these factors has an impact on the availability of clean water and all serve to decrease the amount and quality of available water.
There are projections that demand for water will increase by approximately 8% every year and the expenditure will reach about $17.8 billion by the year 2016 (U.S Environmental Protection Agency par 2).This high demand is fueled by need to renew the sewer system that is dilapidated and increase in construction that raises demand for plumbing services and water. In the US, water is important and use for several purposes: industrial use, irrigation, household consumption and public use (American Water Resources Association par. 4). The increased demand has resulted from increase in population in the urban areas and demand by the many sectors of the economy that include residential, industrial and commercial sectors. This demand has led to an increment in expenditure of increasing the capacity of supply systems in the US. Demand of clean water by urban populations has been rising over the years but has now reached its peak (U.S Environmental Protection Agency par 30. The quantity of water required depends on the population of an area and the industrial establishments in that area (USGS par. 2). With the increasing number of industrial and commercial holdings, more water is needed.
It is important to develop economies of scale because with increasing demand and scarcity of water, there may be imbalance in demand and supply of clean water (USGS par 4). Most households do not use the available water economically and this has further contributed to the scarcity problem. Use of non-insulated pipes, installation of flush toilets that use a lot of water and the use of showerheads in bathrooms that release a lot of water are ways in which homestead wastewater. In addition, few households recycle water. Water recycling is an important way of conservation and consequently availing more water for other uses such as irrigation.
Climatic changes are responsible for the availability of water and consequent scarcity because it reduces run-offs from rivers and discharges from underground geological features. Surface water is risky when it comes to microbial contamination therefore it requires care when collecting and using it (Schijven et al par 3). Exploitation of underground water sources is important in order to supplement the already inadequate surface water sources. The rising sea levels are also a cause for concern which has necessitated the US military to intervene and thaw to counter act this (Brzoska par 2).
Change in the climate patterns is the main determinant of the availability of clean water globally. Climatic warming is currently a great contributor in the depletion of the available water sources. This has had a great impact on water sources in the US that supply millions of people. For example, several rivers are beginning to dry due to climatic warming. The Colorado River and Lake Mead are drying up (Snyder par 4). Lake Mead alone provides water to cover 22million people in the US (Snyder Par 4). Because of the scarcity that has resulted from climatic changes, many people have started illegally getting water from the Colorado River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has started taking legal action on people found drawing water illegally from the river. The bureau is responsible for preservation of water sources, meet the demand for water and prevent shortages.
Climatic warming has been cited as the main cause of the drying up of water reserves in the Colorado basins. The lower courses of the Colorado River are actually drying because of the high demand. Most people in the area use it for both irrigation and household consumption. As a result, it has been able to sustain the demand and the people living in the environs face a real scarcity threat in future (Triana, Labadie, John and Gates par 3).
Environmentalist concerned with preservation of water sources suggest establishment of more energy sources or incentives to encourage people to use less water and energy. These alternative water solutions are both cost-effective and sustainable. These low-cost alternatives have successfully worked in china and would work well in the US to counter the scarcity and high demand for clean water (Brzoska par 4). In addition, water conservation initiatives need to be joint ventures between the government, environmentalists and landowners. If people are able to adapt other sources of water and energy, the cost of water will be sustainable.
Scarcity of water is in most cases taken to mean the supply of inadequate water. However, in cases where plenty of water is available and becomes polluted, the issue to be dealt with becomes quality and not quantity. Concentrations of toxins in the atmosphere lead to polluted cloud water with some with a PH of 5.0-5.25 (Dukett et al par 2).
Water pollution refers to the presence of materials in the water that make it unsafe for consumption. There are two sources of such contaminants: Point and non-point sources. Point sources refer to those contaminants that come from a common source. Examples include contamination of the watersheds in the US. Non-point sources refer to contaminants that come from many different sources. As such, a single source cannot be held responsible for causing pollution. These are triggered by increased housing, poor agricultural practices and infrastructure especially roads (Brown and Froemke par 3).
Due to the increased pollution, there is lack of safe drinking water and this calls for hygienic measures to provide clean water. The treatment of piped water is a major step towards provision of safe water .This can be done by ensuring all water directed towards domestic use is stored in one central place where treatment is done before piping. Treating from a central place ensures acceptable purity for use in households for cooking, drinking and cleaning. To increase safety, education on house hold treatment is also necessary. People will be able to take initiative in treating water and this is more reliable as compared to public treatment. Available means of purification include diluted chlorine available in chemists to kill germs in water. In addition to purified water hygiene will largely contribute towards maintaining the purity of drinking water. If clean safe water is not preserved through storage in clean containers, and handling with clean hands then the purity may be questionable (Roberts par 7).
The current trend in water provision that involves privatization of water sources may present a great obstacle to conservation of water sources in an effort to curb the scarcity. Private companies 8use these sources to bottle water for sale and in the process interfere with the natural water source. Increased urbanization has led to overtapping of large water sources to cater for the growing population in urban areas. Encouraging economic uses of water in households and enforcing policies that regulate industrial use of water are the most important steps in improving the availability and quality of drinking water (Snyder par 6).
Water conservation is an important issue that should be addressed to deal with the current water scarcity in the U.S. Water management plan involves the control of both water supply and consumption (Neighbors and Durand 67). Water consumption directly determines the level of demand. To improve water consumption, recycling and economic use should be encouraged in households and industries (Neighbors and Durand 76). This has successfully worked in the in the past and can now be successfully implemented. Public embracement and acceptance of water conservation is also important. The public should take it as a responsibility to conserve and use water economically for sustained supply. This is not well executed because many households consider it as a way of restricting them on their ways of consuming water.
The public is not fully aware of the ongoing water scarcity problem and therefore do little to conserve the little that is available. Supplies restrict the avenues through which households use water. For example, they encourage reduction of water use for car washing and watering lawns and gardens (Neighbors and Durand 83). They may also reduce the number of days that households receive water. Conservation efforts have not been very successful because homeowners perceive it as unnecessary intrusion and since they pay for the water, consider it unimportant.
Controlling supply is also important. This will limit the amount of water supplied to homesteads and industries. Limiting the amount will encourage economical use and recycling. In addition, this includes proper maintenance of supply systems and facilities. This is achieved by frequent assessment of the systems to repair damages such as leaks that lead to water loss and openings that cause pollution (American Water Resources Association par 8). Measuring and monitoring the amount of water supplied to each household enables the supplier compute the rate of water consumption for proper planning. Installation of water meters makes it easy to determine the amount of water consumed by each consumer and as such charges foe excessive use are appropriately placed.
Water is an important commodity in the sustenance of human life. However, its availability has been on the decrease in recent times. This scarcity has resulted from several factors. They include changes in climatic patterns, high demand due to the growing population and pollution of water sources (Roberts par 3). These factors play different roles in accentuating the problem of water scarcity. The U.S. is currently facing great water scarcity. Climate changes have caused a rise in global temperatures that have consequently increased the rate of evaporation. This is contributing in the drying of the major rivers and lakes that supply water to millions of households in the U.S. The growing population and increased rate of urbanization has raised demand for clean water (Snyder par 2). In addition, establishment of more industries has contributed greatly in raising the demand. The demand is too high that the available water is not enough to cater for all sectors: commercial, industrial and the households.
Pollution causes scarcity by decreasing the quality of water and consequently the amount available (American Water Resources Association par 3). There are many sources of water pollution, both man-made and natural. Man-made pollution termed as non point, is the main cause of pollution and controlling it would avail more clean water for consumption. Various efforts are being made and their success is a major source of hope for the availability of more clean water. These natural causes such as storms and drought have been attributed to changes in climatic patterns. These can only be avoided by anticipating the expected effects and coming up with disaster preparedness strategies to counter act their effects. The current amounts of water available can support the population sustainably if pollution was reduced. Reduced pollution coupled with continuous purification of the available water and healthy hygienic practices will result in availability of clean water.
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