Dimensions of Pollution

Freshwater

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Around the world, some 2 billion tons of human waste are disposed of in water courses every day. All of that pollution has significant health impacts: 4,000 children die every day from diseases caused by polluted water and inadequate sanitation. Each year, some 1.8 million people (mostly children) are killed by diarrhoea alone. The impacts on wildlife can also be severe. Runoff of fertilizer and other chemicals into freshwater bodies can trigger nutrient pollution, an overgrowth of plant life that starves fish and other animals of oxygen.

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4,000 children die every day from diseases caused by polluted water and inadequate sanitation.

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UN Environment’s work to protect freshwater sources is guided by our Freshwater strategy 2017-2021. We promote and facilitate investments in wastewater management through the Global Wastewater Initiative. Our Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS Water) project provides the world community with sound data on fresh water quality to support scientific assessments and decision-making. Meanwhile, our Global Partnership on Nutrient Management works at the national and global levels to promote policies and investments that will reduce nutrient pollution as a result of both farming and industrial activity.

Get more details on pollution in our background report, Towards a pollution-free planet.