Keeping it clean – how you can take action for safe water
Good water quality is essential to human health, social and economic development, and the ecosystem. Environmental sustainability can be incorporated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while the water and sanitation SDG (SDG6) clearly includes the target to improve water quality. As populations grow and natural environments become degraded, ensuring there are sufficient and safe water supplies for everyone is becoming increasingly challenging. But there are different ways for people to get involved and take action for safe water.
The availability of safe and sufficient water supplies is inextricably linked to how wastewater is managed. Increased amounts of untreated sewage, combined with agricultural runoff and industrial discharge, have degraded water quality and contaminated water resources around the world.
Globally, 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, contributing to a situation where around 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
A major part of the solution is to produce less pollution and improve the way we manage wastewater. Consumers can reduce their grey water footprint for example by not disposing medicines, paints or other pollutants through the sink or toilet. Businesses can bring water pollution to zero through recycling and treatment. Farmers can optimize the usage of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as improve wastewater management.
Governments can support consumers and businesses towards reducing pollution, as well as invest in sustainable wastewater management. Sustainable wastewater management could help protect our ecosystems and give us energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials, as well as play a major role in meeting our growing water demand.
Water must therefore be carefully managed during every part of the water cycle: from fresh water abstraction, pre-treatment, distribution, use, collection and post-treatment, to the use of treated wastewater and its ultimate return to the environment, ready to be abstracted to start the cycle again.
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