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6.6: Safety of Water

Difficulty Level: Basic 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?

Water Safety

The water Americans get from their faucets is safe. This water has been treated and purified. At least 20 percent of the world’s people do not have clean drinking water always available. That's more than 1 billion people. They must drink water from where they can get it. Maybe straight from a river or pond (see Figure below). Human wastes may be in the water. If that's the case the water will probably contain pathogens. Pathogens are organisms that cause diseases.

This girl is getting drinking water from a hole that has been dug. It may be the only source of water in this remote part of Tanzania where she lives.

Waterborne Disease

Unsafe drinking water causes 88% of diseases worldwide. In many nations, these diseases are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. More than 14,000 people die every day from such diseases. Cholera is caused by bacteria. A person gets guinea worm from drinking the guinea worm larvae (Figure below). The cholera bacteria and guinea worms are pathogens.

Guinea worm.

International aid can help people get safe drinking water. The boys below avoid guinea worm disease by drinking through a specially designed straw (Figure below). Wells can be drilled to avoid contaminated surface waters.

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


  • pathogen: Disease causing organisms.


  • 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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pathogen Disease causing organisms.

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Difficulty Level:
6 , 7
Date Created:
Jan 04, 2013
Last Modified:
Aug 29, 2016
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