Friday is the 20th anniversary of World Water Day. Ten years from now, by 2030, the U.S. State Department expects the demand for fresh water to outrun supply by 40 percent. Around the world, over 780 million people lack access to clean drinking water. Water and sanitation could prevent 9.1 percent of diseases and 6.3 percent of deaths. This lack of access is the main reason why 3,000 children under age 5 die every day from water-related illnesses.
For the drinkable water — which stands at just 1 percent of the world water supply — human activity poses its own threats:
Hormone-disrupting chemicals: More than 800 manmade chemicals can be found in household cleaners, makeup, electronics, canned food, and clothing, particularly BPA and phthalates that are widely used in plastics. They can leach into water, contributing to a “a global threat that needs to be resolved,” according to the latest report from the World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Program. Research links these hormone-disrupting chemicals to a host of medical problems.
Hydraulic fracturing: The Environmental Protection Agency has linked hydrofracking to water well contamination. The process itself uses 3 million to 9 million gallons of water per fracture. Groundwater used in fracking can shrink aquifers and cause wells to go dry. And as much of the country battles severe drought, farmers have been outbid by frackers for water supply.
Climate change: Drought fueled by climate change is widening the gap between demand and supply, by drying up important U.S. reservoirs. Environmental Science and Technology found that by 2050 one-third of U.S. counties could face major risk of water shortage, and the International Energy Agency determined that if current policies remain in place, fresh water use by the energy industry could more than double by 2035.