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Bad Water: The Consequences of Drinking Dirty, Contaminated Water

By Lucy Clarke · January 3, 2022
Bad Water

When we’re thirsty, we dream of a big cool glass of fresh water to quench our thirst. Water is the elixir of life. But some water will do far more than refresh us. Instead, there are many water supplies all over the world that are contaminated with substances that will make you sick, leading to terrible consequences for your health. 

What’s the root problem of drinking dirty water?

Unfortunately, if your only source of drinking water is dirty, you can’t pick and choose between drinking dirty water or not drinking at all. Dirty water can lead to illnesses like diarrhea and cholera, while abstaining from drinking water will simply lead to dehydration, and ultimately death. 

How does water become polluted?

Water might be one of the substances that is absolutely vital for life, but it is also one of the most solvent substances on the planet. This means that contaminants can easily dissolve into water, and you can drink something deadly while being completely unaware. 

What are the main water pollutants?

​​The water industry tries to keep up with a wide variety of pollutants - starting from microbiological contaminants (e.g. extremely harmful cryptosporidium), and finishing at ever increasing levels of microplastic (The conversation, 2021). Main pollutants include naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (e.g. arsenic, uranium or radon) as well as artificial fertilisers (e.g. pesticides), and finally, wastewater releases (e.g. sewage outrans) (CDC, 2020).


Is waste water polluted?

The majority of waste water is considered largely contaminated and only rarely filtered. In fact, it has proved deadly before - Unesco, in a shocking report from 2017 confirmed that about 80% of the world’s wastewater returns back to the environment, including oceans and rivers - largely untreated!

Water pollution facts 

  • In fact, less than 1% of the world’s freshwater is actually accessible to us, while a whopping 80% of our wastewater gets dumped - often untreated - in our waterways (Unesco, 2017). 

  • The definition of water pollution is when harmful substances - like chemicals, groundwater and sewage - find their way into a body of water (WHO, 2019). 

  • Altogether, this in consequence will degrade the quality of the water, and the water will be not only harmful to humans but to the environment too. 

What happens if you drink bad water?

Drinking contaminated water can have disastrous consequences for your health. 

What diseases are caused by polluted water?

Polluted water causes many illnesses: bad water doesn’t just lead to an upset stomach, but it can have lethal consequences. It is estimated that every year half a million people die of diarrhea - and this isn’t counting the deaths due to other waterborne diseases like cholera or typhoid. 

How many people drink bad water?

However, for many people all around the world, drinking non-contaminated water isn’t a choice they can make. At least two billion people have access only to water that has been contaminated with fecal matter and another 144 million individuals only have access to surface water (WHO, 2019). 

Is safe drinking water guaranteed in developing countries?

Even in developed countries, drinking safe water sometimes isn’t a guaranteed fact. In Flint, Michigan, the water supply was contaminated with lead leading to outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. 

What can I do?

Aside from assuring the quality and source of drinking water, it is extremely important - now more than ever - to save water.

You can also check our dedicated blog post here.

How can you support Elliot For Water so you can help everyone get access to safe, clean drinking water?

By simply adding the Elliot for Water Chrome Extension and setting it as your default search engine, you can help donate clean water every time you search!

How does Elliot for Water work?

Elliot for Water is the search engine that donates safe drinking water with every search. In fact, we use 60% of our profit to finance clean water projects in developing countries. Thanks to our users, we have already been able to realize a clean water project for a community in Guinea-Bissau.