Water Pollution Facts

Some water pollution facts are alarming like “more than one in six people worldwide (894 million) don’t have access to improved water sources” (WHO, UNICEF and JMP).

Some of those significant facts, statistics and number based on the findings of United Nations UNWATER, UNEP and UNHABITAT are listed below:

Water Pollution facts on Human Health

  1. Worldwide, infectious diseases such as waterborne diseases are the number one killer of children under five years old. More people die from unsafe water annually than from all forms of violence, including war. Source: WHO (2002).
  2. Unsafe water causes 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year, and results in 2.2 million deaths, mostly of children under five. This means that 15% of child deaths each year are attributable to diarrhea – a child dying every 15 seconds. In India alone, the single largest cause of ill health and death among children is diarrhea, which kills nearly half a million children each year. Source: WHO and UNICEF (2000).
  3. More than one in six people worldwide - 894 million - don't have access to improved water sources. Source: World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme on Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP).
  4. 18% of the world’s population, or 1.2 billion people (1 out of 3 in rural areas), defecate in the open. Open defecation significantly compromises quality in nearby water bodies and poses an extreme human health risk. Source: UNICEF WHO (2008).
  5. Globally, diarrhea is the leading cause of illness and death, and 88 per cent of diarrheal deaths are due to a lack of access to sanitation facilities, together with inadequate availability of water for hygiene and unsafe drinking water. Source: JMP
  6. Nearly 70 million people living in Bangladesh are exposed to groundwater with arsenic above WHO recommended limits of 10 ug/L. Source: UN WWAP (2009).
  7. Sanitation and drinking water investments have high rates of return: for every $1 invested, there is a projected $3-$34 economic development return. Source: UN WWAP (2009).

Water Pollution Facts on Ecosystem

  1. Half of the world's wetlands have been lost since 1900. Source: WWAP.
  2. There has been a widespread decline in biological health in inland (non-coastal) waters. Globally, 24% of mammals and 12% of birds connected to inland waters are considered threatened. Source: UN WWAP (2003).
  3. In some regions, like the Mediterranean and Madagascar and other island groups in the western Indian Ocean, more than 50% of native freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibians are at risk of extinction. Source: Vié et al. (2009).
  4. Freshwater species have faced an estimated extinction rate five times greater than that of terrestrial species. Source: Ricciardi and Rasmussen (1999).

Water Pollution facts on Pollution Discharge

  1. Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water. Source: UN WWAP (2003).
  2. 70% of untreated industrial wastes in developing countries are disposed into water where they contaminate existing water supplies. Source: UN-Water (2009).
  3. 60 % of the world’s 227 biggest rivers have interrupted stream flows due to dams and other Infrastructure. Interruptions in stream-flow dramatically decrease sediment and nutrient transport to downstream stretches, reducing water quality and impairing ecosystem health. Source: UN WWAP (2003).
  4. Chlorinated solvents were found in 30 % of groundwater supplies in 15 Japanese cities, sometimes ending up as much as 10 km from the source of pollution. Source: UNEP (1996).
  5. In a comparison of domestic, industrial, and agricultural sources of pollution from the coastal zone of Mediterranean countries, agriculture was the leading source of phosphorus compounds and sediment (UNEP, 1996). Nutrient enrichment, most often associated with nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff, can deplete oxygen level and eliminate species with higher oxygen requirements, affecting the structure and diversity of ecosystems.


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