How our growing footprint is raising our drinking water costs

As the population continues to grow, we’ll likely hit nine billion people by 2050 and according to a recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, our human footprint is already detrimentally affecting our most precious resource—drinking water.

The research suggests that urban watershed pollution has increased around the world since 1900 and it is substantially raising the cost of water treatment.

A watershed is an area of land that drains into a large body of water, such as a lake, stream or the ocean. While traveling over impervious surfaces, water can pick up a whole range of contaminants including dirt/sediment, chemicals, oils, bacteria from manure or human sewage and trash, becoming the leading source of pollution in our drinking water supplies.

Historically, when cities have an increase in pollution and degradation in their watersheds, water agencies invest in more complex — and more expensive — systems to ensure the safety of their water supplies for human consumption.

Using a model (based on previous research) that identifies the relationship between human activities and water quality, the new study compiled the data of more than 300 cities worldwide, with populations over 750,000 people.

The researchers found that the decline in water quality —due to an increase in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment levels— raised the complexity of the water treatment required, leading to a 50 percent inflation of water treatment costs in almost a third of the most populous cities around the world.

Robert McDonald, a lead scientist with the Nature Conservancy and the lead author of the new paper, suggests that new policies involving strategies on conservation initiatives or incentives could help the protect watersheds which are the cradle of human life.

The implementation of new policies along with the use of  water efficient technologies such as waterless and hybrid urinals, can help us avoid water waste and prevent future damage to existing water supplies.

As human population continues to grow, every person on this planet have the responsibility to protect our water resources—our very existence depends on it. We invite you to try one of our products and join us to build a stronger, water resilient infrastructure.