Lack of access to clean water forces people to obtain drinking water from unsafe sources. Poor water quality can dramatically increase the risk of developing disease such as typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery and other conditions. Lack of clean water can also lead to plague, trachoma and typhus.
People that live in water-scarce areas often store what little water they have in their homes, increasing the risk of water contamination. Stored water also provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes that can carry malaria, dengue fever and other life-threatening diseases.
Adequate water management is especially important in water-scarce regions. Many countries affected by water shortages are unable to provide the infrastructure needed to supply their populations with clean freshwater. As a result of this poor management, available water is often contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and parasites.
Water is essential to agriculture, and many poor communities in water-scarce areas must use wastewater to irrigate their fields. As a result, over ten percent of the world’s population consumes foods grown in wastewater-irrigated fields that contain disease-causing organisms and chemicals.
The United Nations has made addressing water scarcity an important part of its Millennium Development Goals. Recognizing the importance of clean water for both domestic and productive uses, the UN calls for increasing the use of desalinization and purification technologies, building better management policies in water-scarce countries, managing non-renewable groundwater resources and increasing public awareness regarding water use and conservation. These initiatives are essential to ensure that the world’s water can sustain future generations.