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13.13: Safety of Water

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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What do you see in this photo?

The Ganges River is sacred to the people of India. It is also a major source of water for drinking and bathing for millions of people. An estimated 400 million people are affected by pollution in the Ganges. What can be done to protect a water body that has so much pressure placed on it?

Scarcity of Safe Drinking Water

The water that comes out of our faucets is safe because it has gone through a series of treatment and purification processes to remove contaminants. Those of us who are fortunate enough to always be able to get clean water from a tap in our home may have trouble imagining life in a country that cannot afford the technology to treat and purify water.


Many people in the world have no choice but to drink from the same polluted river where sewage is dumped. One-fifth of all people in the world, more than 1.1 billion people, do not have access to safe water for drinking, personal cleanliness, and domestic use. Unsafe drinking water carries many pathogens, or disease-causing agents such as infectious bacteria, toxic chemicals, radiological hazards, and parasites.

Exponential growth of bacteria is explained in this video giving the viewer a good idea of how a small number of bacteria can cause a major toxic problem (1e - I&E Stand.): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWfTckls59k&feature=player_embedded (16:00).

Waterborne Disease

Waterborne disease caused by unsafe drinking water is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five in many nations and a cause of death and illness for many adults. About 88% of all diseases are caused by drinking unsafe water (Figure below). Throughout the world, more than 14,000 people die every day from waterborne diseases, such as cholera, and many of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a waterborne disease.

Dracunculiasis, commonly known as Guinea Worm, is contracted when a person drinks the guinea worm larvae.

International aid can sometimes help to provide safe drinking water to people in regions where none is available (Figure below). Sometimes wells are drilled to avoid contaminated surface waters.

Boys avoid guinea worm disease by drinking through a specially designed straw.


  • More than 1 billion people do not have access to water that is safe for drinking and washing.
  • Waterborne diseases cause death and illness to people in many parts of the world.
  • Government programs and international aid help to provide safe drinking water for some people.


Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.


1. What waterborne diseases have they seen in Pakistan?

2. What is AWD?

3. What is the number-one killer of children under age five in Pakistan?

4. How many people have contracted waterborne diseases in Pakistan?

5. What caused the epidemic in Pakistan?


1. Would you go thirsty or would you drink from a water source that was visibly polluted?

2. Why do nations fail to provide safe drinking water for their people?

3. Why do waterborne diseases rarely strike in the developed world?

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Aug 06, 2016
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