Facts and Figures

Natural arsenic pollution of drinking water is now considered a global threat with as many as 140 million people affected in 70 countries on all continents

  • Today, up to 70 million people in Bangladesh are exposed to water that contains more than the World Health Organization threshold value of 10 micrograms of arsenic per litre. Up to half the estimated 10 million tubewells in Bangladesh might be contaminated with arsenic. 
  • Natural arsenic pollution of drinking water is now considered a global threat with as many as 140 million people affected in 70 countries on all continents.
  • A recent study on drinking water in France estimated that more than 3 million people (5.8% of the population) were exposed to water quality that does not conform to World Health Organization standards (for nitrates, non-conformity was found in 97% of groundwater samples).
  • In 2008, 57% of the world’s population had a piped connection to their dwelling, plot or yard, and 30% used other improved drinking water sources. The remaining 13% (884 million people) relied on unimproved sources. Progress has been greatest in East Asia, with an increase in coverage of improved drinking water sources from 69% in 1990 to 89% in 2008. Except for sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, all regions are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) drinking water target. But if current trends continue, 2.7 billion people will still be without access to basic sanitation by 2015.
  • Globally, the most prevalent water quality problem is eutrophication, a result of high-nutrient loads (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen), which substantially impairs beneficial uses of water. In 1998 approximately 90% of the coastal and marine biotopes in the Baltic Sea were threatened by loss of area or reduction in quality from eutrophication, contamination, fisheries and settlements.

Related themes: Water, Sanitation and Health; Uncertainty and RiskState of the Resource; Millennium Development Goals

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