The scarcity of clean water is no longer an issue in low-income countries. Prosperous nations like the US are also vulnerable to waterborne diseases and contaminated water. The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared that access to sanitation and clean water is the right of all humans. In this declaration made on August 3, 2010, the assembly equaled the right to clean water to other fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, liberty, and education.
Water Scarcity In The US; Problem Equal In Towns And Cities
Contaminated water contains harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea and schistosomiasis. The spread of these diseases becomes widespread when human waste mixes with groundwater or water that people use for drinking or bathing. Amidst such impacts, people are fast recognizing their right to clean water.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that access to treated water has increased globally from 61% to 71% between 2000 and 2017. Access to well-managed sanitation facilities has also increased globally from 28% to 45% during the same period. But this progress is not huge, given the prevailing availability of contaminated soil and water for drinking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1.7 billion children below age five years suffer from diarrhea. The number of death cases of diarrhea worldwide is more than 445,000. Additionally, cholera, which is also a waterborne disease, accounts for 3 million cases of infection. The disease also causes more than 90,000 deaths every year. Besides water, poor sanitation is also a major concern. Parasitic worms spread from contaminated soil, which, in turn, affects hundreds of people every year. All these indicate the scarcity of clean water.
Data suggests that more than 2.2 million people in America do not have access to a proper sanitation system or clean water. There is also a lack of indoor plumbing and running water. The Navajo Nation is the most affected part of the country. More than 30% of the households lack running water. Electricity is also a scarce resource in the place. To get access to clean water, people are forced to travel 40 miles upwards. For those who do wish to travel so far, the only option is contaminated water bodies such as ponds.
Surprisingly, water scarcity is not an issue specific to rural areas. Of the million people in the US who lack access to water, a majority lives in the largest metropolitan areas. For instance, more than 65,000 of New York’s population lack access to a proper water supply. This is confirmed by a study conducted by the researchers at the King’s College London in the United Kingdom and the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The study further suggests that lack of running water is more prevalent among people of color. People dwelling in rented houses or mobile homes are also at higher risk of facing water issues. These findings are somewhat indicative of racial and societal inequalities.
Proposed solutions to these problems come from the plan of action called Closing the Water Gap in the United States. This action report was prepared in 2019 by Dig Deep and the US Water Alliance. These are two non-profit organizations that believe community efforts can greatly help to reduce water issues. They also advise the Government to provide with the necessary funds and technical assistance to overcome this issue.
Meanwhile, a prediction of the U.S. Forest Service indicates that global warming and rainfall scarcity in the following years will pose a great threat to water availability. Communities that are economically and socially backward are most likely to be affected by the upcoming challenges.