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Today marks the annual celebration of one of the world’s most precious, and most wasted, resources. The theme for World Water Day 2017 is wastewater, and the urgent need to reduce and reuse it.
Wastewater is any water that has been used in the home, in a business or as part of an industrial process that is returned to the natural environment — and the world’s mismanagement of wastewater is putting the health of humans and the environment at risk.
Currently, over 80 percent wastewater flows back into the environment untreated. This has severe, cascading effects. For example, it exacerbates the rates of water-related diseases, and the World Health Organization reports that every 90 seconds a child dies from such diseases. It can cripple marine and freshwater life, creating poisoned, unproductive areas called “dead zones” that plague the ocean. One of these “dead zones” that forms annually in the Gulf of Mexico can be as big as the state of Connecticut; a result of excess nutrient loading influenced by poorly treated wastewater in the Mississippi River basin.