Lack of potable water limits economic growth: World Bank

The World Bank today released its report Quality Unknown: The Invisible Water Crisis.The report reveals, with new data and methods, how the lack of drinking potable water affects the world’s economic growth, while drawing attention to factors such as bacteria, sewage, chemicals and plastic material that impact the sources of vital liquid and transform them into poison for people and ecosystems.

Poor water quality can lower economic growth by a third

The multilateral entity points out that the world faces an invisible water quality crisis, as well as, the lack of water diminishes by a third the potential for economic growth in highly polluted areas and endangers human and environmental well-being.

“Clean water is a key driver of economic growth. Deteriorating water quality slows that growth, worsens health conditions, reduces food production, and exacerbates poverty in many countries,” said David Malpass, president of the World Bank.

Urgent appeal to governments to resolve the lack of drinking water

He said that “governments must take urgent action to help solve the problem of water pollution so that countries can grow faster in an equitable and environmentally sustainable manner.

When the biological oxygen demand – a measure of organic pollution in water and a proxy indicator of overall water quality – exceeds a certain threshold, the Gross Domestic Product growth of affected regions falls by up to one-third due to the effects on health, agriculture and ecosystems.

The report notes that agricultural yields fall as water and soil salinity increase as a result of more intense droughts, storm surges and increased water withdrawals. Due to water salinity, enough food is lost each year to feed 170 million people worldwide.

Proposed action plan

The report also recommends a set of measures and projectdevelopment and management. that countries can adopt to improve water quality, including: environmental policies and standards; careful monitoring of pollution loads; systems to ensure compliance with standards; water treatment infrastructure backed by incentives for private investment; and dissemination of reliable and accurate information to households to inspire citizen participation.

Potable water definitions

Drinking water is water that we can consume or drink without endangering our health. Drinking water should not contain substances or microorganisms that can cause disease or harm our health.

Therefore, before the water reaches our homes, it must be treated in a water treatment plant. At these sites the water is cleaned and treated until it is fit for human consumption.

From the water treatment plants, the water is sent to our homes through a network of pipes that we call the water supply network or water distribution network.

What treatments does a water treatment plant perform?

In order for the water we collect in reservoirs, wells, lakes, etc. to be suitable for human consumption, it is necessary to treat it to make it drinkable. This process is called potabilization and is carried out in water treatment plants. There are different drinking water treatment methods and technologies, although all of them consist, more or less, of the following stages:


After an initial filtration to remove large solid fragments, chlorine (to remove microorganisms from the water) and other chemicals are added to encourage the solid particles to precipitate into flakes (flocs).


In this phase, flocs and other particles present in the water are removed.


The water is passed through successive filters to remove sand and other particles that may remain, eliminating at the same time the turbidity of the water.


To eliminate the most resistant microorganisms and for the disinfection of the pipes of the distribution network.

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