The Vampiric Draining and Poisoning of Lifeblood: Water

"Drop by drop, this precious lifeblood is being poisoned by pollution and drained by vampiric overuse, with water demand expected to exceed supply by 40% by decade’s end" Credit: Bigstock.
  • by Baher Kamal (madrid)
  • Inter Press Service

And that groundwater already provides half of the volume of water withdrawn for domestic use by the global population, including the drinking water for the vast majority of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them via public or private supply systems.

Also that around 25% of all water withdrawn for irrigation, being this a major cause of the fast depletion and pollution of this vital source.

There are two main reasons behind such a dangerous over-exploitation and poisoning of the world’s groundwater:

Vampiric draining…

The industrial agriculture and food supplies systems, imposed by giant private corporations for the sake of increasing their profits, leads to the “vampiric” draining of the world’s groundwater.

Such money-making systems also lead to a growing, deadly poisoning of water, through the irrational abuse of chemicals in intensive agriculture.

… and deadly poisoning

Coinciding with World Water Day, the United Nations inaugurated in its headquarters in New You a two-day Water Conference (22-24 March), which warns that decades of “mismanagement and misuse” have intensified water stress, threatening the many aspects of life that depend on this crucial resource.

According to a joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Water Management Institute, human settlements, industries and agriculture are the major sources of water pollution.

Much so that, globally, 80% of municipal wastewater is discharged into water bodies untreated.

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Industry is responsible for dumping millions of tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes into water bodies each year.

Agriculture, which accounts for 70% of water abstractions worldwide, plays a major role in water pollution. Farms discharge large quantities of agrochemicals, organic matter, drug residues, sediments and saline drainage into water bodies.

The level of water poisoning has largely increased since this joint report was issued in 2017.

The resultant water pollution poses demonstrated risks to aquatic ecosystems, human health and productive activities.

FAO further reports that in most high-income countries and many emerging economies, “agricultural pollution has already overtaken contamination from settlements and industries as the major factor in the degradation of inland and coastal waters.”

Nitrate from agriculture is the most common chemical contaminant in the world’s groundwater aquifers.”

In addition to poisoned crops, billions of people around the world still lack access to water. It is estimated that more than 800.000 people die each year from diseases directly attributed to unsafe water.

More alarm bells

No wonder then that the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has sounded the following alarm bells in his message on the occasion of this year’s World Water Day (22 March):

“Water is the lifeblood of our world. From health and nutrition to education and infrastructure, water is vital to every aspect of human survival and wellbeing, and the economic development and prosperity of every nation.”

”But drop by drop, this precious lifeblood is being poisoned by pollution and drained by vampiric overuse, with water demand expected to exceed supply by 40% by decade’s end.”

“Meanwhile, climate change is wreaking havoc on water’s natural cycle. Greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise to all-time record levels, heating the world’s climate to dangerous levels,” warns the UN Chief.

“This is worsening water-related disasters, disease outbreaks, water shortages and droughts while inflicting damage to infrastructure, food production, and supply chains.”

Key facts

Perhaps a look at some of the key facts and figures about this grim picture, which have been released by major international specialised organisations, would suffice to realise the pernicious dimensions of such a war.

See what they report on the occasion of the 2023 World Water Day:

  • A quarter of the global population – 2 billion people – use unsafe drinking water sources. Half of humanity – 3.6 billion people – live without safely managed sanitation.
  • More than 1 in 3 people lack basic hand washing facilities at home. For at least 3 billion people, mostly in developing countries, the quality of the water they depend on is unknown because the data is not collected routinely.
  • Almost half of the schools in the world do not have proper handwashing facilities with soap and water. Every day, more than 700 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene.
  • Eight out of 10 people who lack even basic drinking water service live in rural areas, and about half of them live in least developed countries. In 2019, more than 733 million people lived in countries with high and critical levels of water stress.
  • Water-related hazards have increased in frequency over the past 20 years. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have increased by 134 per cent, and the number and duration of droughts also increased by 29 per cent.
  • Agricultural and untreated wastewater pose two of the gravest threats to environmental water quality globally. With a well-developed monitoring system, water-quality issues could be identified at an early stage, allowing mitigation measures to be introduced before severe deterioration occurs.
  • The number of city inhabitants lacking safely managed drinking water has increased by more than 50% since 2000. While 86% of people in urban areas have safely managed drinking water services, only 60% of people in rural areas have them.

Survival of the innocent victims

Meanwhile, the drilling of local wells to meet the vital needs of the world’s impoverished communities, in particular areas, who suffer the devastating impacts of severe, long-standing droughts, heat waves, unprecedented floods caused by climate emergencies that they have not caused.

Did you know that one of the continents most hit by such devastation is Africa, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions with a negligible 3%, while bearing the brunt of 80% of its consequences?

What else to say?

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service