Until 5.5 billion people could be affected by surface water pollution by 2100, according to a modeling study published in the journal “Nature Water”.

The findings also show that sub-Saharan Africa Africa predicted to become a global hotbed of surface water pollution by the end of the century.

Both climate change as well as socio-economic development are expected to affect water availability in the coming decades.

Pollutants from various water use sectors, such as domestic, manufacturing, livestock and irrigation activities, can affect water quality, and the management required to mitigate these impacts is not consistent globally.

In addition, the global quantitative forecasts for future water quality are minimal.

The research team, led by Utrecht University researcher Edward Jones, used a high-resolution global surface water quality model to simulate water temperature and indicators of salinity, organic and pathogen pollution for the period as in 2100.

As they found, the percentage of the world’s population that will be exposed to pollution by the end of the century ranges between 17-27% (water with salt content), 20-37% (organic pollution) and 22-44% (pathogenic pollution), while poor surface water quality they emphasize will disproportionately affect people living in developing countries.

The challenges are multiple. The illnesses caused by pathogen-contaminated water can pose a significant risk to humans. With the increase in world population, the availability of good quality water for irrigation is of utmost importance.

Also, energy production, which is key to global development, may be hampered by a combination of both low water levels and high water temperatures.

Thus, the study highlights the importance of limiting both climate change and anthropogenic water pollution to ensure human livelihoods and ecosystem health in the future.

Link to the scientific publication: