Providing access to clean water is a very popular topic in today’s world. In developing countries, clean water is extremely hard to come by. Most places with clean water will often find it contaminated. These contaminants can be natural, such as bacteria, or they can be from humans, such as industrial waste (Riley 2011). Around the world, there are hundred of millions without clean water. Not having clean water accessible has caused about 3.5 million deaths every year (Archambault 2016). This problem has been listed on the grand challenges of engineering due to the amount of deaths and issues it has caused.
Drinking contaminated water can cause many diseases. According to “Journal of Biological Engineering,” diarrhea related diseases causes about five thousand deaths among children every day (Riley 2011). Groundwater is a very relied upon in the United States (Archambault 2016). In the United States, arsenic has been found throughout groundwater systems (Zierold 2004). There are a major amount of diseases caused by arsenic (Zierold 2004). Some of these diseases are cancer, basal cell cancer, bladder, kidney, liver and lung tumors, damage to blood vessels, vascular and cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (Zierold 2004). These diseases can be deathly and harm those who are exposed to that kind of water.
Not only does lack of clean water cause diseases, but it also disrupts the life of women and children. These individuals spend their time every day to collect water that would be suitable to drink (Voelker 2004). Instead of spending the majority of the day with their families, women spend anywhere up to six hours a day doing this (Voelker 2004). According to Jama Network: Access to Clean Water, “Women risk pain, fatigue, and injuries from balancing on their heads or backs heavy containers that may hold up to twenty liters of water” (Voelker 2004). Children also collect water and sometimes get diarrheal diseases from this water which both take time away from their schooling (Voelker 2004).
Gaining access to clean water is a challenge because freshwater is limited. Considering the Earth is majority saltwater, ninety-seven percent saltwater and one percent drinking water, scientists have used the process of desalination to recover some freshwater (Voelker 2004). According to, “Journal of Biological Engineering,”the desalination process has improved over the past decade (Riley 2011). Most third world countries do not have the funds for this process (Riley 2011). This makes water even harder to come by since their current source is usually contaminated and there is no other access to clean water (Riley 2011). Having access to a clean water source is essential to nearly every life form. Therefore, not having a source of clean water can be deadly.
The United Nations made a plan to improve the amount of drinking water by 2015 but this plan was met in 2010 (Williams 2014). The amount of available drinking water has been increased but still has a high possibility of being contaminated (Williams 2014). Due to this risk, more sanitation plants need to be built to be sure that the stored clean water will not be contaminated (Williams 2014). Without these facilities in the few years after, according to ProQuest, 2.4 billion people will be unable to have these access to sanitation plants (Williams 2014). There was also a study done to see the amount of inorganic arsenic in water and the effects it had on those drinking it (Zierold 2004). This study found that those with little to no arsenic have had depression while those with too much have diseases (Zierold 2004). Before this study was even conducted, the US Environmental Protection Agency established a rule to reduce the highest amount of arsenic in water (Zierold 2004).
More recently, there have been laws made to minimize pollution and waste to preserve clean water. For example, according to The United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act of 1948. The purpose of this was to downsize the amount of pollution and requires a permit for industries to put waste in water (EPA 2018). However, only industries need this permit to dispose of waste (EPA 2018). The publication of this act helps with the preservation of clean water because it downsizes the amount of water being polluted.
Desalination has been used in the past but is also being used currently to recover clean water. The most recent version of desalination is a reverse osmosis membranes technique (Greenlee 2009). Reverse osmosis desalination is used with saltwater but also another source called “brackish water” (Greenlee 2009). According to Greenlee and other authors, this technique will be used more often with renewable energy and energy recover to make it more common for communities to use. (Greenlee 2009). This technique is still being used today and scientists are finding a better way to control it (Bradley 2018). Other ways to use desalination is to remove salt from water by putting it through a salt filter (Reeves 2018). To remove the salt you could also use thermal evaporation which desalinates the water (Reeves 2018). This used to be the only way to remove the salt and was mostly used where gas and oil were not so costly (Reeves 2018). These ways are the most popular ways to desalinate water today.
In conclusion, providing access to clean water is a challenge because freshwater is so limited. The lack of access to clean water takes away the lives of women and children who have to collect it as well as those who are diseased from contaminated water (Voelker 2004). Chemicals in the water have also been known to cause multiple diseases (Zierold 2004). Clean water has been recovered in the past by former ways of desalination (Riley 2011). There have also been laws put in place to protect the amount of clean water (Williams 2014). Today the access to clean water is still a challenge but is being improved by reverse osmosis desalination (Greenlee 2009). Over time, this new technique of desalination will improve the amount of clean water each country has access to and will help those being affected by the contaminants of water.