An old saying goes, “Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink.” Taken from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it sadly rings true in much of the world today.
Most people in industrialized nations take potable water for granted. They turn on the tap and get a reward of clean, pure water fit for every use. Much of the world is not so lucky. Two million people die in misery every year from water borne diseases, most of them in developing nations.
Potable water is drinking quality water, free from dangerous chemicals, and bacterial contamination. It is safe for cooking, drinking, bathing, irrigation, and for animals to drink. The availability of potable water depends on the supporting infrastructure, substandard or non-existent in many places, and the availability and proper use of sanitary facilities.
One need not wonder why we need it. A glass of cool, clear water quenches thirst like nothing else. Water supports life, people need it to survive and maintain health and vitality.
We divide the sources of water into four parts. Surface sources include lakes and rivers. We derive much water from the ground in the forms of wells and aquifers. The sky provides rain, snow, sleet, fog, and other precipitation, and other sources consist of animals and plants.
Potable water helps quell the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhus, and infant diarrhea, which kills hordes of children under five around the world.
Coli form bacteria, and E. Coli, infect many bodies of water around the world, including American lakes and rivers. Every year countless beaches close due to the bacterial contamination of the water.
Viruses and protozoan such as Giardia cause many nasty illnesses. Heavy metals, lead, nitrates and nitrites, and arsenic are chemical polluters of water. Sanitation problems such as open or non-existent sewers, add greatly to the problem.
Less than half of people in Africa have access to potable water. A quarter of the population of other less developed areas lack good water.
In all countries, storms such as hurricanes may temporarily cut off access to potable water. In such situations, boiling water, or treating with chlorine tablets and running it through a filter, decrease the disease potential of the water.
“Water, water, everywhere, but we can make it safe to drink.” This mantra taken up by governments across the world, coupled with an increase and improvement of sanitary facilities, and better treatment and filtration promise to bring a new era where no one dies from drinking the water he needs in order to live.