When people think of water crises and a lack of clean, fresh, drinking water, they generally picture scenes from third-world countries. Images from television, magazines, and websites of contaminated, mosquito-infested watering holes come to mind. Thoughts of people having to traverse miles of difficult terrain just to find water to drink may enter the mix.
Those images don’t apply in America. Here, we take clean water for granted. All we have to do is turn on the faucet, and we have a virtually endless supply of purified water to draw from. We don’t have to worry about contaminants or turning on the tap to find only air escaping. Wholesome drinking water is always readily available. Contamination isn’t a problem. But, can we be sure of that? With the Travel Berkey, we can.
Why Worry About Water Contamination?
Many people wonder why anyone should be concerned about water contamination in the U.S. After all, water mains span the nation, bringing clean water to homes far and wide. That water is collected, treated, purified, and stored for local water services to distribute as needed. Where the public water supply falls short, wells bridge the gap, drawing from naturally purified groundwater. All our water-based needs have been taken care of, so why bother worrying?
In truth, fresh drinking water may be more of an issue than most people realize. We all hear about the growing number of power outages across the nation. Between increasingly frequent severe storms and a failing power grid, the likelihood of being without power for several hours or days is becoming more prominent. Research indicates a similar issue could be developing with America’s water infrastructure.
In fact, reports show there are about 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. When those happen, trillions of gallons of treated drinking water are lost. Though they’ll eventually be recovered, repurified, and made available to Americans once again, that process isn’t nearly fast enough to meet the country’s growing demand for clean water. That leaves many people suffering through water outages until band-aid fixes temporarily resolve those localized problems.
Deeper Clean Water Issues
On top of all that, sewer main breaks are becoming more common. Sewer lines are designed to keep wastewater contained and send it to places where it can safely be processed. They keep that contaminated water out of the freshwater supply, so human-generated pollution doesn’t have a chance to spread. When sewer mains break, they reportedly release billions of gallons of filth into the nation’s clean water supply. Again, when the treatment process is weighed against the rate of loss, the process just isn’t fast or efficient enough to make up the difference.
Sewer main breaks aren’t the only problems contaminating our water supply, though. Approximately 332 million people now call the U.S. home, and they make up an estimated 124 million households. According to the latest figures, at least a million of those homes have developed slow sewage leaks, allowing wastewater produced by all those people to seep into the ground and the water supply. There is little doubt that estimate is fairly low considering the number of leaks that have yet to be detected.
What Are the Dangers of Water Contamination?
In light of those issues, water contamination is growing increasingly prevalent in the U.S. Billions of microorganisms could be lurking in drinking water at any given time. Those include a broad range of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Those pathogens can cause any number of health issues from mild, temporary illnesses to conditions that eventually lead to death.
Additionally, agricultural activities are contributing to the nation’s clean water problems. Runoff from farming and livestock operations is responsible for quite a bit of water pollution. Numerous chemicals can enter the water supply from those activities, including pesticides, insecticides, and the previously mentioned microorganisms. Industrial pollution is likewise growing more common, releasing a vast array of chemicals and other contaminants into the environment. Some of them immediately enter the water supply while others gradually work their way there.
Furthermore, pharmaceuticals are making their way into America’s freshwater supply. Improperly disposing of unused medications can leave them free to break down and enter groundwater. Once there, the components they’re made of can cause illnesses, birth defects, cancer, reproductive issues, hormonal problems, and a long list of other potential side effects.
Looking at the Current Water Crisis
As noted, water contamination is becoming more prevalent across the country. Based on recent reports, at least a third of the lakes in the U.S. and half the rivers and streams are too polluted to be safe for swimming, fishing, and other water-based activities. If they’re too contaminated to play in, they’re far too dangerous to drink without first being treated.
Water may seem readily available considering it comprises more than 70 percent of the planet. Keep in mind, though, it has long been said that only about one percent of that water was fresh and consumable to begin with. Most of the planet’s water either exists as salt water in the oceans or ice in the extreme northern and southern regions of the planet. With water contamination becoming more of a problem, the initial freshwater supply has nearly been cut in half, according to recent reports.
Don’t forget about small household leaks, like dripping faucets and running toilets. Reports show that most households in the U.S. have leaks like those, and even minor ones can waste a lot of water per day. At least ten percent of homes in America have more serious leaks that waste thousands of gallons of water each day. Collectively, that adds up to about half the clean, treated water in the U.S. being wasted because of simple leaks.
All those issues point to the fact that the nation’s, and the world’s, fresh water is dwindling at this point. Still, those issues are not the only problems at hand. Studies indicate that Americans use more than 330 billion gallons of water each day. The national level of consumption has been surging in recent years due to increased individual use, waste, and a growing population. In fact, within the next 50 years, the nation’s supply of drinkable water may not be able to meet the demand.
We can’t simply melt the polar ice caps to provide more consumable water. Doing so would cause natural disasters of extinction-level proportions. Trying to purify ocean water on a practical and effective scale would have the same effect. Besides that, any new fresh water we produce would simply become contaminated as well if the current trends hold steady.
Battling the Building Crisis
Efforts are underway to combat the mounting water crisis. Crews are constantly working to reinforce the nation’s water supplies and infrastructures. Unfortunately, though, they’re aging and falling apart at a faster rate than workers can keep up with. Budgetary restrictions are putting a damper on the situation as well. There’s just not enough money for water and sewer line repairs to go around.
For some time now, government agencies have been creating a constantly growing list of regulations and ultimatums to battle contamination. Those may slow the increasing rate of contamination, but change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for conditions to improve, and that timeframe may not be narrow enough to keep pollution from destroying more of the freshwater supply.
In short, contamination and degradation are building faster than authorities can resolve them. In the meantime, water consumption continues to rise. Increasingly common water outages and spreading pollution may ultimately lead to inevitable shortages and leave more people spending days or even weeks without clean drinking water. What currently seems a foreign concept in a first-world country like the U.S. may soon hit closer to home than most people want to think about.
Thwarting the Problem on a More Personal Level
Though the nation’s water crisis is growing, there are ways for people to protect themselves and their families. For one, experts recommend having household water contamination tests performed once a year for families who rely on well water. Having those tests performed in homes that are connected to the public water supply isn’t a bad idea, either.
Having plumbing inspections carried out once every two years is also advised to help stay on top of small water leaks and minor sewer line damage before they get out of hand. Taking measures to reduce water consumption can make a difference as well. Try to do only full loads of dishes and laundry. Take shorter showers, and don’t leave the water running any longer than necessary.
Where contamination is concerned, there are protective measures available as well. Whole-house water filters are on the market to safeguard people against various contaminants that might be flowing through their taps. Personal water filtration systems, travel filters, and numerous other resources are readily available to offer protection when drinking from natural water supplies.
Keeping Contaminants at Bay
Water contamination may not be a primary concern for most Americans. To the surprise of many, though, at least 7 million people get sick from waterborne pathogens and other contaminants each year. Many more may suffer the consequences of polluted fresh water than reports indicate because not all illnesses and medical conditions that actually stem from contaminants are immediately linked to polluted water, and the problem could become even more widespread in the years to come. Minimizing suffering and keeping contaminants at bay during water emergencies could be as simple as keeping an effective water filter on hand.
Read Also: 4 Reasons to Test the Quality of Your Drinking Water