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Factors affecting access to safe drinking water
Physical factors
Amount of precipitation – higher rainfall should mean more safe water for people to use.
Seasonal distribution of precipitation – rain falling all year means access all year.
Relief – mountains and valleys create opportunities to construct dams and create reservoirs
which store water for human consumption.
Geology – Aquifers form on top of layers of impermeable rock. Where rock is permeable
water is not stored and therefore is not available for use by people. Depth of aquifer can
also affect accessibility.
Evapotranspiration rates – water is lost to the atmosphere quickly in hot dry places.
Prevalence of water-based infectious diseases – eg Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) caused by
parasitic worms.
Human factors
Level of economic development – Wealthy countries have the technology to access and
treat water supplies so that they are safe for human use. This can be via wells, canals,
reservoirs, or the construction of desalination plants that convert sea-water into safe
drinking water.
Urbanisation – More urbanised places often see greater access to safe water supplies as the
required infrastructure is often in place.
Wealthier areas of a place often have better access to safe supplies.
Level of contamination due to lack of proper sanitation – Lack of latrines often results in
water becoming contaminated by human waste. Can lead to disease.
Level of contamination due to industrial waste – Some industries create toxic waste that can
leak into water supplies. In some countries the laws preventing this are either weak or else
not enforced (corruption). Also, toxic chemicals in land-fill waste sites can enter
groundwater supplies. These include heavy metals like cadmium found in electronics.
Level of contamination due to agricultural practices – pesticides, fertilizers and other
agrochemicals can contaminate water supplies.
Conflict and war – safe water supplies may become infrequent or stop completely due to
destruction of equipment or the inability to maintain it.