A tall, refreshing glass of water doesn’t only quench our thirst—it aids in digestion, boosts energy and keeps cells healthy. Water is so important that humans can only go about three days without it before facing dire health consequences, or even death.
Drinking a few glasses of clean water each day isn’t a problem for many people in developed countries. Still, 2.2 billion people globally don’t have access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).
As you can imagine, some countries have it worse off than others. Here’s a look at the countries with the worst sustainable management of water, broken down across the different regions of the world.
EMEA Region: Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Widespread starvation, terrorism and government coups are just a few of the news items we see coming out of Africa and the Middle East on a regular basis. But another leading issue that doesn’t get enough media coverage is a lack of safe drinking water in the EMEA Region.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), 115 Africans die every hour from diseases linked to contaminated water, poor sanitation and improper hygiene. A few of the leading causes of water pollution in Africa include agriculture runoff, pollution from mines, deforestation and rapid urbanization without sufficient infrastructure.
While water contamination is a problem throughout Africa, Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda are a few of the countries with the worst water pollution. Despite adequate supply in some areas, approximately 181 million people across these countries lack access to safe drinking water.
The Middle East
Despite sharing a border, religious difference is just one of the many things that put India and Pakistan at odds with one another. One unfortunate thing they have in common, though, is water contamination.
Both surface and groundwater in Pakistan are contaminated with pesticides, toxic metals and bacteria. The problem is widespread throughout the nation, with 21 million people lacking access to safe drinking water. The issue is much worse across the border—163 million Indians don’t have safe drinking water. Fluoride and arsenic contamination are present in 1.96 million homes across the country. That pollution, paired with severe drought in two-thirds of the country and overuse, make for dire consequences when it comes to finding clean, safe water.
While access to clean water is harder to come by in rural areas of India, it’s also a problem in some of its largest cities. Look no further than the Yamuna River, which runs right through Delhi. Approximately 58 percent of the city’s waste is dumped directly into the river without receiving any treatment. Sadly, millions of Indians rely on this dirty water for drinking and bathing.
APAC Region: Asia Pacific
With a population of over 2.89 billion, the APAC region is the most densely populated area in the world. With so many people and so many manufacturing plants, it stands to reason that the region would be heavily polluted. The primary cause of water pollution in the APAC region is factory and farm runoff. But just like in India, raw sewage dumped directly into freshwater sources leads to contamination and serious health consequences.
Bhutan, Nepal, Cambodia, the Philippines and China face some of the worst water contamination in the region. It’s estimated that nearly 60 million people in these countries lack access to sufficient clean drinking water.
Pollution isn’t the only problem leading to insufficient water sources in these countries, though. Chinese mega-dams—like the Three Gorges Dam spanning the Yangtze River—work to generate billions of megawatts of renewable energy each year. Unfortunately, the cost of that renewable energy is restricted water access and water pollution in downstream countries.
For example, the Yangtze runs directly through Cambodia, yet three million people don’t have access to clean water—partially due to upstream dams.
It’s expected that the water conditions in these countries will improve as they modernize. But, as is the case, across the globe, granting greater access to clean water is far from easy. It will take governments and private organizations working together to deliver safe water worldwide.
AMER Region: North, Central and South America
While the West represents a significant portion of first-world countries and modern infrastructure, there are still appalling water conditions across North America, as well as down into the Central and South America regions.
Many folks assume America has clean drinking water from coast to coast. Unfortunately, the water crisis in Flint, MI proved that’s not the case. According to a study by the U.S. Water Alliance, two million Americans don’t have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Some of the states with the worst water include Ohio, Florida, Texas, California and Michigan, with organic and inorganic water pollution is spread throughout the country. A few of the most polluted bodies of water in the U.S. include the Ohio, Mississippi, Detroit and Cuyahoga Rivers, and Onondaga Lake in Syracuse.
Government organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working hard to clean water up. But without setting stricter pollution measures on manufacturers, this daunting challenge could take several decades to set straight.
With 12 million Mexicans lacking safe drinking water, America’s neighbors to the south fare much worse than the U.S. Mexico theoretically does have the infrastructure to provide safe drinking water. However, many of the distribution networks in major cities are poorly maintained, resulting in 35 percent water loss from the source to the tap.
In addition to poorly maintained water systems, another problem facing Mexico’s water systems is corruption. Corrupt private companies in charge of water purification impose exorbitant rates for clean water, making it an expensive private good instead of a public service. Many impoverished citizens can’t afford to buy safe water, so they’re forced to drink unsanitary tap water.
Lush rainforests, vibrant festivals and world-class soccer might be a few of the things that come to mind when you think of Brazil. One thing you might not realize, though, is that the water in South America is some of the most polluted. Three million people across the country don’t have access to safe water, but even those with clean water still face service disruption and water supply downtimes.
Because tourism is such an important part of the country’s economy, their national government has stepped up to work towards addressing the issue. But with widespread deforestation and ground pollution, Brazil’s water outlook isn’t too promising for the future.
How to Safeguard Yourself Against Polluted Water
Whether you live in an area with some of the worst water pollution in the world or you’d just like to ensure your water is free of contaminants, the best thing you can do is invest in a state-of-the-art water purification system from a manufacturer like Aquaspace®.
Aquaspace® Water Systems range from whole-house filtration to individual water bottles that purify water, while still leaving behind vital nutrients and minerals. It’s the smart, safe solution to getting not just clean drinking water, but also healthy drinking water—especially if you’re located in one of the regions listed above. Learn more about Aquaspace® filtration systems and how they restore cleanliness to water and peace of mind to the people drinking it.