By Yuqian Zheng
Water is an essential requirement for life on Earth. Around the world, it is estimated that 9,087 billion cubic meters of water are used yearly with countries like China, India, and the United States leading the consumption. The planet Earth is covered in 75% water, however, of the 75%, only 2.5% is freshwater. Given that water is a finite resource, the question of how long the supply is going to last should not concern us too much because nature has the water cycle that recycles water within the Earth and the atmosphere. Yet, a bigger problem that is plaguing us is water pollution.
Coming to Long Island, I noticed that the water has an unusual, metallic taste. In addition, after boiling water in an electric kettle, there is black residue buildup of what seems to be mineral deposits. Such occurrences rarely seem to happen in New York City. In fact, an article written by the New York Post as well as the Wall Street Journal cites Long Island as having the worst i.e., dirtiest water while New York City having the cleanest water. The reason behind this may be due to the water source protection programs that seek to keep water contaminants away in New York City. Whereas, in Long Island, past industrial practices and lack of regulation for chemicals like 1,4-Dioxane, a human carcinogen has reached harmful levels, thus giving Long Island a distinct recognition, setting itself apart from its NYC neighbors.
Extending beyond developed countries, the problem of water pollution becomes a crisis for places like India, Pakistan, and parts of the Middle East and Africa. Water pollution now does not just become a health issue, rather it has become a social and economic issue affecting everyone particularly the most vulnerable groups. For instance, the water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa is taking away many education opportunities for girls and women to advance themselves from poverty. Girls, in rural areas, have to waste so much time each day collecting water in far places. In addition, the water is contaminated with all sorts of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause water-borne diseases like diarrhea and cholera making babies and little children more vulnerable to illness and even death.
Water pollution can stem from various causes like agriculture, mining, deforestation, urbanization, and a host of other human activities. The resulting effect along with poor waste management is causing stress on the ecosystem. The stress is then manifested disproportionally in low-income communities and developing countries around the world which is serving extreme injustice.
As many scientists and policymakers have predicted, if human activities are not checked, we can potentially destroy life on Earth. One thing we can all do is to make sure that we are mindful of water pollution in our everyday lives whether it be shopping for cleaning products, turning off the faucet when we do not need it, dispose wastes properly, and being more aware and supportive of the many causes that environmental organizations and charities are raising. In this way, we can collectively as a whole make the planet a better place for everyone.
Yuqian Zheng is a third-year Biology major. She is interested in topics such as sustainability, climate change, and ecology. She is currently volunteering with the Ashley Schiff Preserve in hopes of being inspired and challenged by the unbounded imagination that nature offers in providing a home for a diverse set of species.
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