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Finding Solutions to Our Water Challenges

Updated on August 16, 2017
Fresh creek water flows down from the mountain at Looking Glass Falls in western North Carolina.
Fresh creek water flows down from the mountain at Looking Glass Falls in western North Carolina. | Source

Water is necessary for life. Although over 70 percent of the earth is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is freshwater. Only one percent is readily available for human use. This one percent is found in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and in groundwater that is shallow enough to be affordably tapped. This is also the amount of water regularly renewed by precipitation and thus sustainable for use.This one percent of all the water on earth must stretch somehow across a population of seven billion people and counting.

Here Switzerland provides the highest quality tap water in the world free for people and cows.
Here Switzerland provides the highest quality tap water in the world free for people and cows. | Source

How does freshwater become tap water?

Water treatment can also produce water of varying qualities for industrial, medical, or laboratory use. For the purposes of this article, water treatment is the process by which freshwater is taken from natural sources in the environment and made safer for drinking.

The water treatment process may be comprised of many different steps depending on the initial quality of the natural source. Some common steps in the water treatment process may include:

  • Coagulation- Chemical like alum are added to water to form tiny sticky "floc" particles which attract and stick to dirt suspended in water.
  • Sedimentation- The combined weight of dirt and floc become heavy enough to settle to the bottom to be removed from the process while the clear top water moves on to filtration.
  • Filtration- The clear water passes through a set of filters that help remove even smaller particles and improve the taste.
  • Storage- Filtered water is placed in a closed tank and disinfected.
  • Disinfection- A small amount of chlorine is added or some other disinfection method is used to kill any bacteria or microorganisms that may be present. The disinfected water then flows through pipes to taps in the community.

What is in your water and why?.
What is in your water and why?. | Source

Chlorine, Fluoride, and Why What We Add Matters

Some additives are necessary to make water safe to drink. Right now much of our water is treated with chlorine in order to kill the many microorganisms that are harmful when ingested. Chlorine is probably not the healthiest solution possible to this problem, but is cheap and effective. Unfortunately the addition of chlorine to untreated water causes the formation of DBPs, which are linked to elevated cancer risk according to the CDC. The health benefits of adding chlorine arguably outweigh the health risks of doing so. This does not mean that we should give up looking for safer options for better public health in the future.

Fluoride is another common additive to drinking water, especially in the United States. Fluoride, unlike chlorine, does not make drinking water in any way safer. In fact, it is known to cause health problems when ingested. The human body doesn't require a minimum amount of ingested fluoride the way it requires calcium or iron. Adding fluoride into drinking water is a bad old idea that should be stopped immediately.

Current proponents of drinking water fluoridation likely haven't considered all the facts as they are known today. Proponents will point to the decrease in cavities reported in children's teeth since fluoridation first began in the US, probably unaware that children's cavities have decreased at a similar rate in non-fluoridated populations across the world wherever most kids have ready access to fluoride toothpaste (which is supposed to be spit out and rinsed, rather than ingested) and regular dental care.

White spots on teeth of teens who never had braces are almost always due to fluorosis.
White spots on teeth of teens who never had braces are almost always due to fluorosis. | Source


In the United States today, the majority of teens (about 80%) have teeth exhibiting signs of fluorosis, or fluoride poisoning. Fluoride poisoning actually causes tooth decay in young and old alike.

Unfortunately teeth are not the only parts of the body harmed by ingested fluoride. Fluorosis adversely effects bones and organs too, including the brain. Fluorosis causes bone loss and is linked to the rise of osteoporosis in the elderly as well as to the increase in childhood bone cancer. It has also been associated with lower IQs in children in 43 separate scientific studies conducted across the globe (which represents 86% of all studies ever conducted.)

Currently, newborns and older people without any teeth, teens already suffering from fluoride poisoning, and the rest of us (regardless of the states of our health) are receiving medical treatments that we didn't ask to get. We receive them anyway every time we cook with the water or take a drink from our taps.

To How Many Sources of High Fluoride is Your Family Exposed?

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There is no way to control the fluoride dosage each person is receiving on a daily basis when tap water is fluoridated. How much a person gets depends on too many factors.

Some of these factors include how much fluoridated tap water the person drinks daily (active children and teens, dieters, heavy caffeine users, and athletes tend to drink more,) the fluoride levels in the tap water, how much fluoride is received from other sources including in foods (many of which are grown, processed, and cooked using fluoridated water) as well as whatever is absorbed or ingested through the use of toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental fluoride treatments, and through bathing in fluoridated water, since fluoride is absorbed through the skin.

Adding anything unnecessary to drinking water safety into our tap water is terrible public policy, no matter how admirable the intentions for doing so. This is especially true if what is being added is known to be harmful at any dosage.

Is your water footprint. smaller than average?
Is your water footprint. smaller than average? | Source

What is a Water Footprint?

In the developed world, we rely on turning on a tap to get as much water as we need to drink, bathe, water our gardens, fill our pools, and wash our clothes, pets, and cars. According to the United States Geographical Survey, 80 gallons per day is the most conservative estimate for how much treated water fit for human consumption the average American uses for indoor and outdoor residential purposes.

If 80 gallons of water usage per day per person sounds like a lot of water, it is. In comparison, the average person in the UK uses about 40 gallons per day. The average person in Cambodia, Angola, or Haiti uses just 4 gallons per day.

However, residential use makes up only a small percentage of our water footprint. The rest hides in the foods we eat, the energy we use, and the products and services that we purchase. If America's commercial and industrial water usage is added to our total domestic usage and divided per capita, then the average American uses over 2000 gallons per day. This number is what is known as our national water footprint. America's water footprint is the largest of any nation on earth.

An escaped droplet of precious water forms a sphere before returning to the rest.
An escaped droplet of precious water forms a sphere before returning to the rest. | Source

What is Water Scarcity and What Can We Do About It?

Water scarcity refers to an insufficient water supply to meet the demand in a given region. This is a man-made problem as well as a natural phenomenon.

There is enough freshwater readily available to support the earth's current population. Unfortunately water is not always located where it is needed. Likewise much of the available water on earth is polluted, wasted, or otherwise poorly managed.

Every 21 seconds, a child dies from drinking contaminated water. In many parts of the world, the infrastructure necessary for delivering safe drinking water through pipes to communities in need just doesn't exist and may never be built in the average child's lifetime. Instead we are starting to explore more immediate and portable solutions to provide safe water to the most remote locations on the planet.

One day we may expand the one percent of fresh water readily available to us. Water purifying technology continues to advance. Solar powered water desalinization plants could convert enough ocean water on a large scale right now if we had the political will to invest the money.. Graphene filters may soon make it possible to filter ocean water into potable drinking water as easily as pouring the water through a funnel.

The solution to our world water problems will likely be a complicated one that will involve better water management and conservation, as well as improved infrastructure and new portable technologies.

One Portable Water Technology That Is Helping to Change Lives

How Can You Help?

No matter how old or how young, one person can inform and inspire others and help to create a real difference and a better future for everyone. Try to find your own creative ways to conserve water. Don't pollute. Get involved in a water project or a clean up effort in your own community.

All of us can also help by supporting responsible charities dedicated to solving our world water problems. Here are two worthy ones that you might consider:

  • Columbia Water Center/ Earth Institute /Columbia University, NY, NY- is a consortium of educators, scientists, and researchers specializing in hydrology, public policy, engineering, agriculture, and finance, creatively addressing global sustainability and allocation problems and designing specific solutions. Projects are tailored to the needs of each particular region. They have water projects in the US, Brazil, Ethiopia, Mali, and India.
  • Charity:Water is nonprofit that brings clean, safe drinking water to the neediest
    communities in the developing world. This nonprofit gives kids, schools, clubs, and people who can't afford to donate on their own the chance to start their own fundraising campaigns on the website. 100% of donations go directly to providing wells, water filtration, and other needed water technologies through water projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.


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    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 18 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

      A proper root-canal procedure would not likely cause immediate problems as much of the tooth was drilled out. In time the remaining tooth will develop bacteria which cannot escape through the capped surface and will enter the body through the gums causing unknown & untold maladies not just MS.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 18 months ago

      Yikes, Sgt Prepper, my sister just had a root canal and a crown done before the holidays. Thanks for the info. We will keep an eye on it. A good friend of my parents who has MS died a few years back. No idea about her dental situation. I do know she was a dental hygienist though. Have heard it is more common inside the medical/dental professions than in the general populous. I figured it was because they are exposed to everything more often but who knows?

    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 18 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

      Besarien, my bestfriend, Mark, was also my best-man and I was his. After years as wild& crazy bachelors we found our soul-mates and settled down. Mark's dentist gave him a root-canal & a gold-crown in a single visit. I thought that was great however Mark suddnly developed several allergies and MS he battled for ten years before his death. Now studies have shown people with MS are very likely to have root-canals and crowns. One lady had her crowned-tooth extracted and her MS went into immediate remission. Go figure!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 18 months ago

      Hello Sgt Prepper ! I have heard those theories too. Sad that all of it is so much easier to believe than buying that our government really gives a hoot about people's teeth. Getting rid of toxic waste may be how it started but now we actually import fluoride from China to poison our water supplies, environment, farmland, and bodies. Dentists still debate whether fluorosis is a real disease or not. Most will not admit fluoride is a neurotoxin or even that it is unsafe at higher levels than "ideal" for drinking water. Nor will most admit that fluoride is cumulative from many sources. When a dentist is about to give a fluoride treatment she first must ask a series of questions and make certain that the patient doesn't have active caries. Yet, the government just dumps it into drinking water. Other countries have fluoridated by offering fluoridated salt which is cheap and voluntary. You swish and rinse like your own fluoridated mouth wash. Don't want it, cool dude, don't use it! Here, if your local water if fluoridated, rich people who can afford to attach reverse osmosis units to incoming water mains are the only ones who have the privilege of not bathing in it. I'm not even against the responsible use of fluoride to impede tooth decay. I am against a)everyone not having a choice and b)what I consider an irresponsible method of delivery.

    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 18 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

      I have read that fluoride was used by the Nazis to dumb-down and make docile the residents of concentration camps and that communist Russia implemented a similar program more recently. Fluoride is a toxic by-product of aluminum production corporations would otherwise have to pay big-time to dispose of. Better for their bottom-line to sell it to municipalities to add to city water.

      Ask yourself this question! Do I really know anybody whose teeth were saved by flouride?

      A mayoral candidate in my city running for reelection once confided in me there is a move to put everybody in our county on city water even if the groundwater has to be poisoned to make it happen. His Number One issue now is drilling a "new city well" to provide flouridated water to the entire county. Water is very profitable because it starts out free. Just ask the Nestle CEO who at a meeting of the global-elite recently said "Water should not be free." Many tree-huggers & yuppies agree.

      If it is yellow - let it mellow! I drink almost no water whatsoever, except in my coffee and I often make that out of free springwater which is unflouridated. Showering, cooking & using baking soda to brush my teeth I still get flouride from my city water through my skin pores, stomach and mucus membranes.

      As a Squad Leader for a year in the Kuwaiti Desert I had to monitor the urine output of my men to make sure they drank the required one and a-half gallons of BOTTLED water daily. With hundreds of thousands of troops and contractors drinking ONLY bottled water for a dozen years in Southwest Asia Evian, Anheuser-Busch & Nestle have made billions off the taxpayers through our Defense Department. It is more because of water, lithium, nickle and the White Poppy we have troops in SW Asia than it is about oil.

      And soon the United Nations will require everybody to pay for every drop of flouridated water they drink, cook with, flush and wash with. See Project-2030 which has been called "Agenda-21" on steroids!

    • ValKaras profile image

      Vladimir Karas 19 months ago from Canada

      Very interesting and well written hub, Besarien. Here in Ontario we have pretty good drinking water, but I am still using "Zero" filter to eliminate solids. Then I replenish minerals by adding Celtic salt to it. Well aware of "nocebo effect" (negative of placebo), I don't fuss much about issues, because worrying may be more toxic to our bodies than the substances themselves. Well, anyway - that's me. Again, you are a real pro, Besarien, and it's pleasure to read your stuff.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 20 months ago from The Beautiful South

      If I drink tap water I either boil it or send it through a coffee maker and filter. I hope it helps. I catch water outside for my garden and plants so hope that helps some. Thanks for all the info; very interesting read.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 20 months ago

      I think the world's water problems could easily be solved through solar desalination. The problem is that at both the state and national level we have politicians who like to use problems as excuses to achieve political objectives. They seem to be allergic to actually solving problems.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 23 months ago

      a responsible hub

    • cinderella14 profile image

      Sharon 2 years ago from Philippines

      Great article! Water is indeed the primary problem in the community I am currently assigned with. Hopefully I could be able to help them addressed this before I return to my place or be assigned in another place. But they have other priorities that they need to address at this time.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Excellent article. Nestle continues to yank water out of California like it is without end. Unless we all come together to do what we can, we will be in serious trouble. Even though some of us have plenty of rain this year, doesn't mean that it will continue to proliferate. Awesome and up for getting the word out that we must conserve as much as we can no matter what it is.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      It's amazing that with the earth being 70 percent covered by water, only about 1 percent is directly usable by humans. That stat alone helps to put the importance of conserving our water into perspective.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      I will simply ditto Au fait's comment and scored this Up, Useful, Awesome, and Interesting. Well done.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      we use water filter but the sands still gets into the kettle

    • Indianstudent profile image

      Dinesh 2 years ago from Delhi

      Really very informative post. Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Very good hub filled with useful information. I drink 'Smart Water' because of the added electrolytes. Thanks, and will share.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I hope readers pay attention to the important warnings you post about fluoride in water. It is harmful. You write very well and with great style!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      What a lot of information you have here, and I must say I learned a great deal and was reminded of a few things, too. Excellently written. I hope everyone will read and learn from this article and your great work of putting it all together. Voted up!

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      i want to thank you for writing such an informative piece. Well done.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 2 years ago

      Well done, Besarien. I live with plenty of water here in N. Michigan and N. Ontario. But I feel the wolf at the door and more and more drought-challenged areas look to our water supply. I grew up with fluoride in my water and fortunately do not have dental issues because if it. Now I've moved away from all city water sources and well water has served me for many, many years. Water is an issue that must stay in the forefront! Especially given the fact that even though we acknowledge some areas are stressed for lack of water we are still carelessly polluting our water through disposal of plastics, fracking, and other manufacturing processes.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 2 years ago

      This is very well written, besarien. For a water expert like me, it's not often that I read articles on water quality that keep me fully engaged, but yours does. Keep 'em going!

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 2 years ago from London UK

      Such an interesting and well written hub. Thanks for all the information. I am very worried about fluoride but here in the UK it's impossible to avoid it has been imposed upon us in our water. Also, adverts telling us that it's good for teeth etc don't help - where can I buy toothpaste with no fluoride in it! Voted up.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Besarian, a well thought out article. This is so timely for those of us who live in California where water is scarce this year due to the drought. Conservation is always at the forefront. Every bit we save makes a difference.

      I'd like to see more effort put in desalination. The cost and environmental impact needs to be decreased, but the ocean is all around us and could provide water in much needed areas.

      There is also the concept recycled water. There is a plant in my area that has perfected eliminating human waste from waste water and making it potable. It's an unsavory idea. Then again, what gets in our reservoirs, lakes, and rivers that we don't think about? This could be another way to bring water to people.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I taught about this often in my science and environment classes. I was amazed then how many kids simply didn't care about it. I hope things are changing. Articles like this one will help to raise awareness. Nicely written my friend.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 years ago from California

      Very informative and well-written! I've written about the woes of water fluoridation myself, but I still found lots of interesting relevant information in your hub. And I agree: water fluoridation and fluoride dental treatments should be banned, now!!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Hey Suzanne! As I understand it hypercalcification can cause white spots especially amongst people who have worn braces. Also Celiac's disease and certain genetic disorders can cause white spots but by far the most common cause seems to be Fluoride poisoning.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      An informative hub. I didn't know white spots on teeth were caused by fluorosis - my mother has these and told me it was calcium tablets or some such thing. Thanks for letting me know, voted useful!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Hi hardlymoving! My dentist told me back in '97 that he uses fluoride toothpaste but drinks the reverse osmosis water from what was then a local version of Whole Foods since they added back minerals.

      We got a reverse osmosis unit not too long after. I add a pinch per gallon of Himalayan salt which has a mineral balance and tastes great.

      There has been a lot more research since back then. I hope you get the chance to a look at it and draw your own conclusions. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      A very appropriate hub for us in California, where our governor won't invest in desalination plants because he wants to run his bullet train through the Central Valley, where there is not a drop of water anymore. I had ni idea the fluoride in my water was making me dumber, it all makes sense now! Exceptionally well written and informative hub!

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Had an interesting discussion with my dentist about Fluoride. He is emphatic that, ingested, it does no harm to the human body. That a lot of the so called ill effects is not scientifically substantiated. Otherwise, a good article.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      There just isn't much that is more important than the water we drink.

      Interesting read.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      What a beautiful, necessary and holistic Hub. Very educational also. My friends have contributed to water filters in Africa and will do much more.

      Good for those needing to highlight the plight and trouble with one of our foremost commodities for living. Love.

    • MHiggins profile image

      Michael Higgins 2 years ago from Michigan

      Great hub, Besarien. Water is something that is really taken for granted. Enjoyed the read and voted up.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Hey poetryman6969 ! I hadn't heard about worms to desalinate but that is really exciting. I am definitely going to check it out.

      I do know Lockheed Martin is the defense contractor working on graphene salt removal tech while Saudi Arabia is building the largest solar desalinization plant in the world. That's right, SA isn't waiting for cheap oil to run dry!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      The graphene salt water filters sound quite interesting. I hope they will take advantage of that in California.

      They are talking about treating water with worms in an article I came across:

      Cleaning water with worms: technique is industrialized in Colombia

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      very detailed, informative and helpful thank you for sharing this hub my friend :)

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Hi everybody! Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you think this topic is important too. Luke M. Simmons and Richard (both of whom I am following) wrote great water hubs recently. I took care not to repeat their info. If you want to read more on water conservation and water crisis definitely check them out!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      yes, fresh water if you can get from the stream would be better but living in the city, no way to get near there

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This is an important hub besarien. Many people just use water however it comes and use more than they need because it is on tap. I live in the "driest continent on Earth" and my family knows the value of water. We live in a rural area without town water, so have rainwater tanks. We filter all our drinking are free from fluoride contamination through our water. We wash our clothes in a basin as we shower and then reuse that to water plants. We do get fluoride through toothpaste and some food but that's all. It has been left up to local councils her to either add fluoride to the water supply or leave it out and many have chosen to forgo it's use due to citizen's concerns. Voted up.

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Besarien, thank you for sharing such ideal information. I try to drink alkaline water as much as possible. I hear it is better for our body systems.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub, Besarien. The current California drought is the worst on record and highlights the importance of conserving water. It is truly a vital resource.