Drinking water, also known as potable water, is water that is safe to
drink or to use for food preparation. The amount of drinking water
required varies. It depends on physical activity, age, health
issues, and environmental conditions. Americans, on average, drink
one litre of water a day and 95% drink less than three litres per
day. For those who work in a hot climate, up to 16 liters a day may
Water is essential for life.
Typically in developed countries, tap water meets drinking water
quality standards, even though only a small proportion is actually
consumed or used in food preparation. Other typical uses include
washing, toilets, and irrigation.
Greywater may also be used for
toilets or irrigation. Its use for irrigation however may be
associated with risks.
Water may also be unacceptable due to levels
of toxins or suspended solids.
Globally, by 2015, 89% of people had access to water from a source
that is suitable for drinking - called improved water source. In
Sub-Saharan Africa, access to potable water ranged from 40% to 80% of
the population. Nearly 4.2 billion people worldwide had access to tap
water, while another 2.4 billion had access to wells or public
World Health Organization
World Health Organization considers access to safe
drinking-water a basic human right. About 1 to 2 billion people lack
safe drinking water.
2 Importance of access to safe drinking water
3.2 United States
4 Access to potable water
4.1 Developing countries
4.2 Climate change aspects
5 Health aspects
5.1 Diarrheal diseases
5.2 Well contamination with arsenic and fluoride
5.2.1 Identifying hazardous substances
6.1 Improved water sources
6.2.1 Point of use methods
7.1 European Union
7.2 United States
7.3 Russian Federation
8 Other animals
9 See also
11 External links
Only 61 percent of people in
Sub-Saharan Africa have improved drinking
According to the World Health Organization's 2017 report, safe
drinking-water is water that "does not represent any significant risk
to health over a lifetime of consumption, including different
sensitivities that may occur between life stages.":2
A 'safely managed drinking water service" is "one located on premises,
available when needed and free from contamination." By 2015, 5.2
billion people representing 71% of the global population used safely
managed drinking water service.
The terms 'improved water source' and 'unimproved water source' were
coined in 2002 as a drinking water monitoring tool by the JMP of
UNICEF and WHO. The term, improved water source refers to "piped water
on premises (piped household water connection located inside the
user’s dwelling, plot or yard), and other improved drinking water
sources (public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected
dug wells, protected springs, and rainwater collection)." Improved
sources are also monitored based on whether water is available when
needed (5.8 billion people), located on premises (5.4 billion), free
from contamination (5.4 ), and "within 30 minutes' round trip to
collect water.':3 While improved water sources such as protected
piped water are more likely to provide safe and adequate water as they
may prevent contact with human excreta, for example, this is not
always the case. According to a 2014 study, approximately 25% of
improved sources contained fecal contamination.
The SDC basic drinking water service is one in which a "round trip to
collect water takes 30 minutes or less." Only Australia, New Zealand,
North America and Europe have almost achieved universal basic drinking
Importance of access to safe drinking water
A fountain in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. The sign reading Eau
potable indicates that the water is safe to drink.
According to the World Health Organization, "access to safe
drinking-water is essential to health, a basic human right and a
component of effective policy for health protection.":2
Main article: Fluid balance
The amount of drinking water required is variable. It depends on
physical activity, age, health, and environmental conditions. In a
temperate climate under normal conditions, adequate water intake is
about 2.7 litres (95 imp fl oz;
91 US fl oz) for adult women and 3.7 litres
(130 imp fl oz; 130 US fl oz) for adult
men. Physical exercise and heat exposure cause loss of water and
therefore may induce thirst and greater water intake. Physically
active individuals in hot climates may have total daily water needs of
6 litres (210 imp fl oz; 200 US fl oz)
or more. The
European Food Safety Authority
European Food Safety Authority recommends 2.0 litres
(70 imp fl oz; 68 US fl oz) per day for
adult women and 2.5 litres (88 imp fl oz;
85 US fl oz) per day for adult men.
In the United States, the reference daily intake (RDI) for total water
is 3.7 litres per day (L/day) for human males older than 18, and 2.7
L/day for human females older than 18 which includes drinking water,
water in beverages, and water contained in food. An individual's
thirst provides a better guide for how much water they require rather
than a specific, fixed quantity. Americans, on average, drink one
litre of water a day and 95% drink less than three litres per day.
Water makes up about 60% of the body weight in men and 55% of weight
in women. A baby is composed of about 70% to 80% water while the
elderly are composed of around 45%.
The drinking water contribution to mineral nutrients intake is also
unclear. Inorganic minerals generally enter surface water and ground
water via storm water runoff or through the Earth's crust. Treatment
processes also lead to the presence of some minerals. Examples include
calcium, zinc, manganese, phosphate, fluoride and sodium
Water generated from the biochemical metabolism of
nutrients provides a significant proportion of the daily water
requirements for some arthropods and desert animals, but provides only
a small fraction of a human's necessary intake. There are a variety of
trace elements present in virtually all potable water, some of which
play a role in metabolism. For example, sodium, potassium and chloride
are common chemicals found in small quantities in most waters, and
these elements play a role in body metabolism. Other elements such as
fluoride, while beneficial in low concentrations, can cause dental
problems and other issues when present at high levels.
Fluid balance is key. Profuse sweating can increase the need for
electrolyte (salt) replacement.
Water intoxication (which results in
hyponatremia), the process of consuming too much water too quickly,
can be fatal.
Drinking water vending machines in Thailand. One litre of potable
water is sold (into the customer's own bottle) for 1 baht.
Water covers some 70% of the Earth's surface. Approximately 97.2% of
it is saline, just 2.8% fresh. Potable water is available in almost
all populated areas of the Earth, although it may be expensive and the
supply may not always be sustainable. Sources where water may be
Ground sources such as groundwater, springs, hyporheic zones and
Precipitation which includes rain, hail, snow, fog, etc.
Surface water such as rivers, streams, glaciers
Biological sources such as plants.
Water supply network
Atmospheric water generator
Springs are often used as sources for bottled waters. Tap water,
delivered by domestic water systems refers to water piped to homes and
delivered to a tap or spigot. For these water sources to be consumed
safely, they must receive adequate treatment and meet drinking water
The most efficient way to transport and deliver potable water is
Plumbing can require significant capital investment.
Some systems suffer high operating costs. The cost to replace the
deteriorating water and sanitation infrastructure of industrialized
countries may be as high as $200 billion a year. Leakage of untreated
and treated water from pipes reduces access to water. Leakage rates of
50% are not uncommon in urban systems.
Because of the high initial investments, many less wealthy nations
cannot afford to develop or sustain appropriate infrastructure, and as
a consequence people in these areas may spend a correspondingly higher
fraction of their income on water. 2003 statistics from El
Salvador, for example, indicate that the poorest 20% of households
spend more than 10% of their total income on water. In the United
Kingdom authorities define spending of more than 3% of one's income on
water as a hardship.
In the USA, the typical single family home consumes 69.3 gallons (262
litres) of water per day. Uses include (in decreasing order)
toilets, washing machines, showers, baths, faucets, and leaks. In some
parts of the country water supplies are dangerously low due to drought
and depletion of the aquifers, particularly in the West and the South
East region of the U.S.[better source needed]
The drinking water in Canada's cities is regularly tested and
considered safe, but on many native reserves clean drinking water is
considered a luxury. The latest Canadian government of 2015 was to
spend additional funds to fix the problem but has not had
Access to potable water
Solar water disinfection
Solar water disinfection application in Indonesia
Significant progress had been made as access to improved water sources
increasing globally. In 1990 only 76 percent of the global population
had access to drinking water. By 2015 that number had increased to 91
percent. 89% of people having access to water from a source that is
suitable for drinking - called "improved water source". In 1990,
most countries in Latin America, East and South Asia, and Sub-Saharan
Africa were well below 90%. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where the rates are
lowest, household access ranges from 40 to 80 percent.
Nearly 4.2 billion had access to tap water while another 2.4 billion
had access to wells or public taps.
Estimates suggest that at least 25% of improved sources contain fecal
contamination. 1.8 billion people still use an unsafe drinking
water source which may be contaminated by feces. This can result in
infectious diseases, such as gastroenteritis, cholera, and typhoid,
among others. Reduction of waterborne diseases and development of
safe water resources is a major public health goal in developing
Bottled water is sold for public consumption in most parts
of the world.
One of the
Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN includes
environmental sustainability. In 2004, only 42% of people in rural
areas had access to clean water worldwide. Projects such as
Sanitation Governance by Means of
Socio-Technical Innovations work to develop new accessible water
treatment systems for poor rural areas, reducing the price of drinking
water from US $6.5 per cubic meter to US $1.
The World Health Organization/
UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP)
Water Supply and
Sanitation  is the official United Nations
mechanism tasked with monitoring progress towards the Millennium
Development Goal (MDG) relating to drinking-water and sanitation (MDG
7, Target 7c), which is to: "Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people
without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic
According to this indicator on improved water sources, the MDG was met
in 2010, five years ahead of schedule. Over 2 billion more people used
improved drinking water sources in 2010 than did in 1990. However, the
job is far from finished. 780 million people are still without
improved sources of drinking water, and many more people still lack
safe drinking water. Estimates suggest that at least 25% of improved
sources contain fecal contamination and an estimated 1.8 billion
people globally use a source of drinking water which suffers from
fecal contamination. The quality of these sources vary over time
that get worse in the wet season. Continued efforts are needed to
reduce urban-rural disparities and inequities associated with poverty;
to dramatically increase safe drinking water coverage in countries in
sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania; to promote global monitoring of
drinking water quality; and to look beyond the MDG target towards
WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) coverage and monitoring in
non-household settings such as schools, healthcare facilities, and
work places, is one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
One organisation working to improve the availability of safe drinking
water in some the world's poorest countries is
Operating in 26 countries,
WaterAid is working to make lasting
improvements to peoples' quality of life by providing long-term
sustainable access to clean water in countries such as Nepal,
Ghana and India. It also works to educate people about
sanitation and hygiene.
Water for All (SWA) is a partnership that brings
together national governments, donors, UN agencies, NGOs and other
development partners. They work to improve sustainable access to
sanitation and water supply to meet and go beyond the MDG target.
In 2014, 77 countries had already met the MDG sanitation target, 29
were on track and, 79 were not on-track.
Climate change aspects
World Wildlife Fund
World Wildlife Fund predicts that in the Himalayas, retreating
glaciers could reduce summer water flows by up to two-thirds. In the
Ganges area, this would cause a water shortage for 500 million people.
The head of China's national development agency in 2007 said 1/4th the
length of China's seven main rivers were so poisoned the water harmed
United Nations secretary-general
Ban Ki-moon has said this
may lead to violent conflicts.
Contaminated water is estimated to result in more than half a million
deaths per year. Contaminated water together with lack of
sanitation was estimated to cause about one percent of disability
adjusted life years worldwide in 2010.
Over 90% of deaths from diarrheal diseases in the developing world
today occur in children under five years old.:11 Malnutrition,
especially protein-energy malnutrition, can decrease the children's
resistance to infections, including water-related diarrheal diseases.
Between 2000 and 2003, 769,000 children under five years old in
sub-Saharan Africa died each year from diarrheal diseases. Only
thirty-six percent of the population in the sub-Saharan region have
access to proper means of sanitation. More than 2000 children's lives
are lost every day. In South Asia, 683,000 children under five years
old died each year from diarrheal disease from 2000 to 2003. During
the same period, in developed countries, 700 children under five years
old died from diarrheal disease. Improved water supply reduces
diarrhea morbidity by 25% and improvements in drinking water through
proper storage in the home and chlorination reduces diarrhea episodes
Well contamination with arsenic and fluoride
Some efforts at increasing the availability of safe drinking water
have been disastrous. When the 1980s were declared the "International
Decade of Water" by the United Nations, the assumption was made that
groundwater is inherently safer than water from rivers, ponds, and
canals. While instances of cholera, typhoid and diarrhea were reduced,
other problems emerged due to polluted groundwater.
Sixty million people are estimated to have been poisoned by well water
contaminated by excessive fluoride, which dissolved from granite
rocks. The effects are particularly evident in the bone deformations
of children. Similar or larger problems are anticipated in other
countries including China, Uzbekistan, and Ethiopia. Although helpful
for dental health in low dosage, fluoride in large amounts interferes
with bone formation.
Half of Bangladesh's 12 million tube wells contain unacceptable levels
of arsenic due to the wells not dug deep enough (past 100 metres). The
Bangladeshi government had spent less than US$7 million of the 34
million allocated for solving the problem by the
World Bank in
1998. Natural arsenic poisoning is a global threat with 140
million people affected in 70 countries globally. These examples
illustrate the need to examine each location on a case by case basis
and not assume what works in one area will work in another.
Identifying hazardous substances
In 2008, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and
Technology, Eawag, developed a method by which hazard maps could be
produced for geogenic toxic substances in groundwater.
This provides an efficient way of determining which wells should be
Drinking water quality standards
Water pollution, Appropriate
technology § Water, and
Water sampling stations
EPA drinking water security poster
Parameters for drinking water quality typically fall within three
Physical and chemical parameters include heavy metals, trace organic
compounds, total suspended solids (TSS), and turbidity.
Microbiological parameters include Coliform bacteria, E. coli, and
specific pathogenic species of bacteria (such as cholera-causing
Vibrio cholerae), viruses, and protozoan parasites.
Chemical parameters tend to pose more of a chronic health risk through
buildup of heavy metals although some components like
nitrates/nitrites and arsenic can have a more immediate impact.
Physical parameters affect the aesthetics and taste of the drinking
water and may complicate the removal of microbial pathogens.
Originally, fecal contamination was determined with the presence of
coliform bacteria, a convenient marker for a class of harmful fecal
pathogens. The presence of fecal coliforms (like E. Coli) serves as an
indication of contamination by sewage. Additional contaminants include
protozoan oocysts such as
Cryptosporidium sp., Giardia lamblia,
Legionella, and viruses (enteric). Microbial pathogenic parameters
are typically of greatest concern because of their immediate health
Throughout most of the world, the most common contamination of raw
water sources is from human sewage in particular human faecal
pathogens and parasites. In 2006, waterborne diseases were estimated
to cause 1.8 million deaths while about 1.1 billion people lacked
proper drinking water. It is clear that people in the developing
world need to have access to good quality water in sufficient
quantity, water purification technology and availability and
distribution systems for water. In many parts of the world the only
sources of water are from small streams that are often directly
contaminated by sewage.
There is increasing concern over the health effects of engineered
nanoparticles (ENPs) released into the natural environment. One
potential indirect exposure route is through the consumption of
contaminated drinking waters. To address these concerns, the U.K.
Water Inspectorate (DWI) has published a "Review of the risks
posed to drinking water by man-made nanoparticles" (DWI 70/2/246). The
study, which was funded by the Department for
Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra), was undertaken by the
Food and Environment Research Agency
(Fera) in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of experts
including scientists from the Institute of Occupational
Medicine/SAFENANO. The study explored the potential for ENPs to
contaminate drinking water supplies and to establish the significance
of the drinking water exposure route compared to other routes of
Test have found 83% of 159 water samples from around the world were
contaminated with plastic fibers.
Improved water sources
Main article: Improved water source
Access to safe drinking water is indicated by safe water sources.
These improved drinking water sources include household connection,
public standpipe, borehole condition, protected dug well, protected
spring, and rain water collection. Sources that do not encourage
improved drinking water to the same extent as previously mentioned
include: unprotected wells, unprotected springs, rivers or ponds,
vender-provided water, bottled water (consequential of limitations in
quantity, not quality of water), and tanker truck water. Access to
sanitary water comes hand in hand with access to improved sanitation
facilities for excreta, such as connection to public sewer, connection
to septic system, or a pit latrine with a slab or water seal.
Water purification and
Most water requires some treatment before use; even water from deep
wells or springs. The extent of treatment depends on the source of the
water. Appropriate technology options in water treatment include both
community-scale and household-scale point-of-use (POU) designs.
Only a few a large urban areas such as Christchurch,
New Zealand have
access to sufficiently pure water of sufficient volume that no
treatment of the raw water is required.
In emergency situations when conventional treatment systems have been
compromised, waterborne pathogens may be killed or inactivated by
boiling but this requires abundant sources of fuel, and can be
very onerous on consumers, especially where it is difficult to store
boiled water in sterile conditions. Other techniques, such as
filtration, chemical disinfection, and exposure to ultraviolet
radiation (including solar UV) have been demonstrated in an array of
randomized control trials to significantly reduce levels of
water-borne disease among users in low-income countries, but these
suffer from the same problems as boiling methods.
Another type of water treatment is called desalination and is used
mainly in dry areas with access to large bodies of saltwater.
Point of use methods
Portable water purification
Portable water purification and Self-supply of water
The ability of point of use (POU) options to reduce disease is a
function of both their ability to remove microbial pathogens if
properly applied and such social factors as ease of use and cultural
appropriateness. Technologies may generate more (or less) health
benefit than their lab-based microbial removal performance would
The current priority of the proponents of POU treatment is to reach
large numbers of low-income households on a sustainable basis. Few POU
measures have reached significant scale thus far, but efforts to
promote and commercially distribute these products to the world's poor
have only been under way for a few years.
Solar water disinfection
Solar water disinfection is a low-cost method of purifying water that
can often be implemented with locally available
materials. Unlike methods that rely on firewood, it
has low impact on the environment.
Guidelines for the assessment and improvement of service activities
relating to drinking water have been published in the form of
International standards for drinking water such as ISO 24510.
Water supply and sanitation in the European Union
The EU sets legislation on water quality.
Directive 2000/60/EC of the
European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing
a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, known
as the water framework directive, is the primary piece of legislation
governing water. This drinking water directive relates
specifically to water intended for human consumption.
Each member state is responsible for establishing the required
policing measures to ensure that the legislation is implemented. For
example, in the UK the
Water Quality Regulations prescribe maximum
values for substances that affect wholesomeness and the
Inspectorate polices the water companies.
Drinking water quality in the United States
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets
standards for tap and public water systems under the Safe Drinking
Water Act (SDWA). The
Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates
bottled water as a food product under the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
Bottled water is not necessarily purer pure,
or more tested, than public tap water. Peter W. Preuss, former
head of EPA's division analyzing environmental risks, has been
"particularly concerned" about current drinking water standards, and
suggested in 2009 that regulations against certain chemicals should be
In 2010 the EPA showed that 54 active pharmaceutical ingredients and
ten metabolites had been found in treated drinking water. An earlier
study from 2005 by the EPA and the Geographical Survey[who?] states
that 40% of water was contaminated with nonprescription
pharmaceuticals, and it has been reported that 8 of the 12 most
commonly occurring chemicals in drinking water are estrogenic
hormones. Of the pharmaceutical components found in drinking
water, the EPA only regulates lindane. In 2009, the EPA did
announce another 13 chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics that could
potentially be regulated. In 2011 EPA announced it would
develop regulations for perchlorate.
Water supply and sanitation in Russia
A list of normative documents that regulate the quality of drinking
water in Russia:
Sanitary norms and rules SanPin 188.8.131.524-01 "
Hygienic requirements for water quality of centralized drinking water
supply. Quality Control. "
Sanitary norms and rules SanPin 184.108.40.2066-02 "
Hygienic requirements for water quality, packaged in a container.
Quality Control. "
A cat drinking tap water
The qualitative and quantitative aspects of drinking water
requirements of domesticated animals are studied and described within
the context of animal husbandry. However, relatively few studies have
been focused on the drinking behavior of wild animals. A recent study
has shown that feral pigeons do not discriminate drinking water
according to its content of metabolic wastes, such as uric acid or
urea (mimicking faeces-pollution by birds or urine-pollution by
Bacteriological water analysis
Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys
Right to water
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