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World Water Day: The Global Crisis of Groundwater Pollution and Strategies for Improvement

Mar 22, 2022 09:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo

( Image by Nestle via Flickr )

Water is an integral part of survival, and the deadly issue of access to clean drinking water continues to plague at-risk communities. For example, every minute a child dies from diarrhea. In 1993, to create awareness about this issue, the United Nations created World Water Day, celebrated yearly on March 22nd, to campaign for water access and adequate management of water, and to highlight the importance of freshwater.  This year’s theme is ‘Groundwater - Making the Invisible Visible’.

The National Groundwater Association reports that in addition to being the most extracted raw material in the world, groundwater comprises half of the world’s drinking water and that 70% of groundwater is utilized for agriculture. Groundwater begins as snow or rain that enters the ground through the soil and moves among rocks and soil, where it is known as groundwater. It continues flowing until it gets to rivers and oceans.

 ( A water cycle or hydrologic cycle. Image by AIRS, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder via Flickr )

The UN reports that 2 billion people in the world utilize drinking water that is contaminated with feces and that drinking water that is contaminated contributes to 485,000 diarrhea-related deaths annually. Other water-related diseases that affect populations in countries like Africa, Asia, the Middle East, India, and Latin America include cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, polio, and hepatitis A.

The cause of groundwater pollution varies, but often includes contamination of toxic chemicals, leachate landfills, septic tank waste, atmosphere contaminants, hazardous waste, pesticides, fertilizers, salts, oils, and gasoline that enters the soil. Most of these pollutants are man-made. Groundwater also may include microbes that can potentially cause harm to humans, including viruses and protozoa.

 ( Groundwater contamination. Image by SuSanA Secretariat via Flickr )

Groundwater is also an overused resource, with unequal access in different parts of the world. Many rural areas utilize water wells as main community water sources, as private boreholes and dug wells can be costly for under-resourced communities. Some community members travel miles to access water resources that may be deadly.

Communities can lessen the impact of groundwater pollution and scarcity by recycling, limiting the use of water, lessening the use of chemicals like pesticides, and investigating possible groundwater contamination in areas of usage.

Testing the water quality of water wells and maintaining them are crucial aspects of ensuring water safety. Philanthropic individuals or organizations may be able to positively impact at-risk communities that use community wells through providing testing or undertaking water-access projects.

Learn about WaterAid, a global non-governmental organization focused on providing clean water, hygiene, and decent toilet access, here:

Works Cited

 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ).

Read more from Nana Ama Addo:

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