B4.1 Environmental Impacts Relating to Water


Without food a person can live for weeks, but without water you can expect to live only a few days.

Water is essential to sustain life and therefore we must protect out natural water resources.

Water environments, including rivers, lakes and the sea are a natural resource of significant importance, in terms of social, economic and natural heritage.


Water Pollution

Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water is available to humans. That’s 0.007% of all water on earth!

All of our natural water environments are affected by human activity, including atmospheric deposition, diffuse non-point sources, direct point-source discharges and accidents. Some waters are used for the disposal of sewage, agricultural and industrial wastes, which must be controlled.

Almost any solid, liquid or gaseous substance entering surface waters or ground waters could cause pollution. This includes chemicals, waste process water, trade effluents, fuels, hot water, rainwater run-off from construction sites and oils.

According to the Environment Agency, each year, they receive reports of about 22,000 pollution incidents – that is more than 60 per day. Since 2000, they have seen a 50% decrease in the total number of substantiated pollution incidents. In 2012, about 3% (617) of all reported pollution incidents in England and Wales were serious or significant in that they caused significant harm to people or the environment through air pollution, destruction of habitats or pollution of rivers. This amounts to about one serious or significant incident every 14 hours.

B4.1 Pollution incidents

Source: Environment Agency, Pollution Incident Report September 2013

© Environment Agency 2013


B4.1 Pollution incidents pie chart


Source: Environment Agency, Pollution Incident Report September 2013

© Environment Agency 2013

Water as a Scarce Resource

In the developed world, it is common for each person to use 160 litres of water every day. In the developing world, 10 litres is more usual, with people having to walk many miles each day to carry water home.

Population growth, rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles and economic development has led to increasing pressure on water resources everywhere. Today over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, over 2.4 billion people do not have adequate sanitation, and 2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from preventable diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.