Unfortunately, most rivers, lakes and even groundwater reservoirs are now being depleted, polluted or otherwise in danger of disappearing. The principal threats to our water sources are population growth; infrastructure development; land conversion (deforestation, agriculture, urban growth); and release of pollutants (agricultural and industrial chemicals, human waste).

Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water courses. Each year between 300-500 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes are dumped into water sources by various industries. In 1998, 40% of the water bodies assessed in the United States were not deemed fit for use due to metal and agricultural pollution. In Europe only 5 out of 55 rivers are considered pristine, and more than 80% of the wetlands along the Danube River have been destroyed. In Asia, all rivers running through cities are badly polluted. By 1998, the Aral Sea (the world’s fourth largest inland sea) had lost 75% of its total volume.

In low and middle-income countries agricultural use accounts for 82% of water use, while only 8% goes to domestic use, and 10% to industries. Meanwhile 70% of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the useable water supply. In upper-income countries 59% of freshwater is used by industry, 30% for agriculture, and 11% for domestic use. More than 80% of the world’s hazardous waste is produced in the United States and other industrialized countries.

Up Next: The Price Of Water

Freatured Image Source: Inhabitat