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How Lack of Access to Clean Water Impacts Society

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Despite being in the 21st century, there are several areas that do not have access to clean water. Nearly 1 out of 6 individuals do not have access to clean water, which indicates a problem for engineers and society as well. Many of these countries are third world and receive neglect due to this underlying fact. Throughout most countries in the world, water is considered a right and not a luxury, with many restaurants even offering it for free. Nonetheless, such challenges are quite complex for engineers trying to combat them, especially because such areas have little sanitation as well (NAE,2018). Several health concerns surface due to this lack of sanitation and clean water.

According to Montgomery& Elimelech (2007): “However, in developing countries, water and sanitation services are still severely lacking. As a result, millions suffer from preventable illnesses and die every year (1). Many obstacles must be overcome to improve these statistics. The integration of public health into engineering problem solving is critical, but current efforts are insufficient” (Montgomery & Elimelech, p. 17. 2007). Such issues are very important to humanity, because having such access is essential to life. Many of us take clean water for granted, whereas many are consuming brown, or even black water. This was selected as one of the greatest 14 challenges of engineers, because clean water systems are located in nearly all areas other than third world countries. Designing and implementing a better scheme of things has puzzled and concerned engineers for quite some time, however, problems have been left unresolved. This helps reveal why this issue is of utmost importance, and many would like to see it be fixed, because all humans deserve access to clean and sanitary water supplies.

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A societal impact is the effects faced by communities due to activity or conditions. In such cases as this, third world countries face extreme sickness and often even death due to this unclean water they are consuming. Most countries are extremely poor and cannot afford bottled water, so they search nearby streams and so forth just to find water to drink. There are numerous diseases that can be spread to humans through consumption of this water. Amongst these include: cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, worm diseases, and dysentery. All of which are difficult to relieve and cost a lot (Ashbolt,2004). Which, as we have already concluded, many of these individuals cannot afford such fees. Since illnesses are so difficult to treat, many individuals die. Ashbolt stated: “Overall, water, sanitation and hygiene-related death (99.8%) occurs in developing countries and 90% are deaths of children” (Ashbolt, p. 231, 2004). As we can see, the number one cause of death in these undeveloped nations is due to unclean water sources, this should certainly gain the attention of the rest of the world. Despite these issues not directly being related to us, we should still have sympathy for the rest of the world. Water is such a basic need, and few of us ever have to worry about it, however, people in these countries stress over water on a daily basis.

Not only are developing areas having difficulties with access to clean water, but many developed regions are running out of sources of usable water as well. Such issues are one of the leading environmental issues facing modern times. It is expected by the year of 2025, there will be nearly 2-3 of earths population facing water stress (Lee & Schwab,2005). As we can see, not only should we be concerned for those in other countries, but we should also be concerned for us. Although, no one can predict which 2/3 this will affect, this crisis will certainly take its toll on all. With a shortened supply of clean water, we can image that everyone will be fighting over it, and many will die if issues are not resolved by this time. Not to mention, that this crisis is predicted for 2025, which makes it only 7 years away.

In the United States, it is a given right to have access to clean water supplies. According to Murthy 2013: “The framing of water and sanitation as a human right can be understood as an affirmation of the fundamental importance of water and sanitation for human dignity, and as a response to global water service trends that have increasingly emphasized efficiency, financial sustainability, and privatization. The concept of a human right to water and sanitation has been an important vehicle for communities around the world to raise attention to perceived inequities and injustice in access to a vital natural resource and to services that have significant public health implications” (Murthy, p. 89, 2013). Such ideas were made legal by the Clean water act of 1972. Although, this act was only installed in 1972, many civilizations prior to that have worked towards cleaning their water supplies. Nearly 6,000 years back, water treatment technology was discovered by the Greeks. They would utilize charcoal filters, boiling, exposure to sunlight, and even straining techniques to improve the quality of their drinking water (Ashbolt,2004). This reveals that such technology is not new to us, and there is absolutely no reason as to why clean water can not be accessible to all parts of the world.

As discussed above, it is estimated that by the year 2025, 2/3 of the world will suffrage through a water-based crisis. Efforts have been made for centuries in trying to combat such issues, and still are being puzzled even today. For years people have tried to capture, store, and clean water supplies. However, no easy solution has surfaced. Currently, we are running out of options, because water is being contaminated on a national level by many large corporations who pour chemicals in (Gleick,2000). As we can conclude, we have only 7 years before this crisis is expected to hit. Therefore, something needs to be done, and done fast. This idea only strengthens why the NEA has listed this issue as one of their hardest challenges. Water management is one of the only ways in combating such issues. With populations expanding quickly, and many recent droughts placing water resources under extreme pressure, new applications and approaches are being discussed and planned. If society desires to avoid conflicts, environmental degradation is to be completely reserves. Not to mention, that with climate change, such as global warming, the future is not looking bright regarding our water supplies (Ragab & Prudhomme,2002). As we can see, global warming is devastating to the future direction of such issues.

One positive future solution to such issues is found in techniques using Carbon nanotube membranes for water purification. Although, this process is quite complex, it is expected to work effectively in alleviating such issues. Das, et. al., (2014) stated : “This has made it urgent to invent an appropriate water treatment technology that not only removes macro-, micro- and nano-pollutants but also desalinates water to a significant extent (Das, p. 97,2014). Although, unable to fully explain this process, this quote signifies the intended plan for this technology, which should help resolve such issues of clean water.

As we can see, there are several water-based problems within the world today. None of which have an easy solution. We know this, because for thousands of years, such issues have been puzzling civilization. However, engineers much work diligently to help resolve such issues. Many developing nations depend on such strategies to help fix several of the health-related illnesses they are currently facing. NEA listed this as a major concern of the 21st century because of its extreme complexity and need for attention. Although, even when a solution if clarified, even more issues will arise. Clean water should be accessed by everyone, because it is a basic need for all.


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