Drinking water quality is critical for public health. Despite recent improvements, access to safe drinking water remains a crucial concern. According to the World Health Organization, over 6% of the world's population does not have access to better drinking water sources, and one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure universal access to water and sanitation by 2030(Sustainable Development Goal 6 is about "clean water and sanitation for all"). Waterborne diseases, among other things, cause diarrhea, which kills approximately one million people each year.

The vast majority are children under the age of five. Simultaneously, chemical pollution is a continuing concern, notably in industrialized countries as well as in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Contaminated water and inadequate sanitation can cause a variety of chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular disease, cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, and polio), as well as adverse reproductive results and impacts on children's health (e.g., neurodevelopment). Individuals are exposed to preventable health hazards when water and sanitation facilities are unavailable, insufficient, or poorly managed.

Although drinking water quality is regulated and monitored in many countries, growing knowledge necessitates a near-constant review of standards and recommendations, both for regulated and newly detected contaminants (Chemical and Microbiological Contaminants). Drinking water guidelines are primarily based on animal toxicity data, and strong epidemiologic studies with correct exposure assessments are rare. The present risk assessment paradigm, which focuses mostly on single chemicals, dismisses potential synergies or interactions from contaminant combination exposures, particularly at low exposure levels. Thus, research on the exposure and health impacts of pollutant combinations in drinking water is required.

In Pakistan, drinking water quality and contamination were analyzed, and sewage water (fecal) mixing with drinking water was identified as the main and predominant pollutant due to the country's inadequate sanitation and sewerage infrastructure. Chemical pollution from toxic substances such as industrial effluents, textile dyes, pesticides, nitrogenous fertilizers, arsenic, and other chemicals is the second source of contamination. Regular inspection of existing treatment facilities is required to maintain and modernize them. The Pakistani government is now installing drinking water filters throughout the country. The findings attracted attention to the fact that sewage pollution of drinking water is a serious environmental and health concern.

There are some strategies to avoid these infections:

  • Make effective use of environmental management. Remove any stools from the toilet and clean the surrounding area with hot water and detergent. It is advised to use a chlorine-based disinfectant.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene. Hand washing should be done frequently and thoroughly by people of all ages. Children's hand washing should be monitored. Rub hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, rubbing hands together briskly and cleaning all surfaces.
  • Hands should be properly washed after using the toilet, changing a diaper, or cleaning up after a kid who has used the toilet, as well as before and after tending to someone who is suffering from diarrhea.
  • Hands should be washed after handling animals, coming into contact with animal quarters, cleaning up animal feces, or gardening.
  • Hands should be washed before and after preparing or consuming meals. Drink properly treated water.
  • Water from private water supplies should be routinely tested twice a year for Total Coliform and E.coli.  Inorganic analysis on private water supplies should preferably be done every two to three years.
  • Do not swallow water while swimming in swimming pools, hot tubs or interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, streams or the ocean.
  • Do not drink untreated water from lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, streams, or shallow wells.
  • Do not drink tap water or use ice while traveling to a high-risk destination unless the water source has been properly treated.

About the Author:  Syed Asad Raza is a student of BS Environmental Sciences, GCUF. He is also an Intern at Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR).