The Factors Affecting Safe Drinking-Water

10 October 2016

The distribution of population between urban and rural areas: in most developing countries people in urban areas are more likely to have access to safe drinking water than their rural counterparts due to the concentration of investment in urban areas * Socio-economic differences in urban areas: affluent urban districts invariably have better access to safe water than poor districts * The degree of contamination of urban water supplies by industry and lack of sanitation * The degree of contamination of rural water supplies by animal use, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and lack of human sanitation * Civil war and international conflict. E. g. Serbia and Bosnian war Water Pollution: * 450km3 of wastewater discharged into rivers etc per year * Developing world, rivers becoming polluted * 90% sewage in developing countries is discharged into rivers and lakes and seas without treatment e. g. Yamuna river through Delhi has 200million litres sewage draining into it each day * People have to turn to water vendors which cost a lot

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Describe and explain the different factors effecting access to safe drinking water. (10 marks) In the world today, 87% of people drink from improved water sources. This is an increase in 10% since 1990. In the ten year period between 1996 and 2006 it has been estimated that 1. 56 billion people gained access to improved drinking-water sources. Even though there has been such a large increase in improved water sources; water shortages and access to safe drinking water still is a big problem to many people. There are many factors that influence and effect access to safe drinking water which can be broken into two main groups; human factors and physical factors.

Physical factors affecting access safe drinking water can be very problematic in many countries, mainly in Northern Africa and the Middle East. These factors are caused by nature. The main physical factor that affects access to safe drinking water is the amount of precipitation that the area or country receives. Rainfall is a vital source of water, but cannot be controlled. Rainwater provides a sources of clean drinking water. Rainfall catches in highlands and flows downhill in rivers, which are a good source of safe drinking water, if not polluted. If an area does not receive sufficient rainfall it will have to rely on another sources of water for safe drinking water such as aquifers. Some areas unfortunately do not receive enough rainfall to supply a sufficient water source.

A good example of this would be Libya; Only five percent of the nation receives more than 100mm of rain each year. This puts huge stress on the nation as it has to rely on groundwater aquifers for water, which can be depleted. Alongside the amount of precipitation a country receives, another important factor is the seasonal distribution of that precipitation. If the rainfall is not well distributed, some areas may not have access to it. Physical ability of the surface area to store water is very important. If the area is flat, and the ground is very dry and permeable, most if not all of the water that falls on it will seep through and could become inaccessible to the people.

The rate of evapotranspiration is a factor that affects access to safe drinking-water too. Evapotranspiration is the water that is lost from the plants stomata. The faster plants lose water, the more water they require. If the rate of evapotranspiration is high, plants will grow their roots deep and absorb water from the ground, potentially depleting aquifer and/or lowering the water bed. This uses up a good sources of safe drinking-water. Density of surface access points to water is an important influence over drinking-water access. This is the density of the surface area of a country (or area) that has points at which safe drinking water can be accessed from.

Countries with a high density will find that water access is easy, whereas countries with a low density may find that some people have to travel long distances, or may not have any access to water, as there are no water access points nearby. Alongside the density of surface access points to water, ease of access to groundwater supplies if they exist is very important. There may be groundwater supplies may be present but could be inaccessible. For example, the area could be covered with a layer of solid rock which cannot be bored through. Human factors that affect safe drinking water can be just as large of a problem as physical factors, if not a bigger problem. These factors are caused by human action, or lack of action.

A very important factor is the wealth of a nation or region in terms of its ability to construct and maintain water infrastructure. Water needs to be captured and held for it to be distributed and cleaned for use. Without infrastructure to hold the water, or lack of maintenance to this infrastructure, many people who rely on this water sources can be greatly affected. An example of this would be Ethiopia. Although Ethiopia receives a reasonable amount of annual rainfall, the country lacks the infrastructure for capturing and storing water. This makes a large part of the population venerable to drought and food and water insecurity. The distribution of population between urban and rural areas is a factor affecting access to safe drinking water in many countries.

In most developing countries people in urban areas are more likely to have access to safe drinking water than their rural counterparts due to the concentration of investment in urban areas. Hand in hand with the distribution of population between urban and rural areas, socio-economic differences in urban areas affect access to safe drinking-water. Affluent urban districts invariably have better access to safe water than poor districts due to better investment in richer areas. The degree of contamination of urban water supplies by industry and lack of sanitation has large impacts on access to safe drinking water. Industry can often end up pollution water supplies by running their piping alongside and parallel to water pipes. Leakages etc. in the pipes can end up causing pollution of the clean water by the dirty industry fluids.

Factory run-offs are often discharged into lakes and rivers, making them unusable for consumption. An example of this kind of pollution would be in the United States. In the USA, industry is the greatest source of pollution, accounting for more than half the volume of all water pollution and for the most deadly pollutants. Some 370,000 manufacturing facilities use huge quantities of freshwater to carry away wastes of many kinds. The waste-bearing water, or effluent, is discharged into streams, lakes, or oceans, which in turn disperse the polluting substances. Approximately 40% of the nation’s surveyed lakes, rivers, and estuaries were too polluted for such basic uses as drinking supply.

The degree of contamination of rural water supplies by animal use, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and lack of human sanitation also has large impacts on access to safe drinking water. These causes are similar to those as industry. Farms and rural areas tend to have bad sewage systems and run-off systems from their farms and housing. These run-offs of polluted and used water end up flowing into rivers and lakes which make them unsafe to drink from. The polluted water can also seep into aquifers, pollution wells and boreholes in the areas. Civil war and international conflict is a major factor affecting access to safe drinking water. A good example of this would be the Bosnian war.

On 2 May 1992, Bosnian Serb forces established a total blockade of the city of Sarajevo. They cut off water supply, which made people have to use water sources such as rivers and boreholes outside of the city. Many of these sources could not be accessed due to shelling and sniping around these areas. In conclusion we can see that there are many different factors affecting access to safe drinking water. These include physical and human factors. The physical factors include amount of precipitation and the ability of the surface to hold water. Human factors include pollution, warfare and wealth which effects infrastructure to build and maintain dams etc.

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