Poor water quality saps one-third of potential economic growth in the most heavily polluted areas, according to a new global analysis by the World Bank that underscores how crucial clean water is to productivity.
“Deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth, worsening health conditions, reducing food production, and exacerbating poverty in many countries,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement.
Gross domestic product growth falls by 0.82 percentage points in regions downstream of heavily polluted rivers, compared with an 2.33 percent average rate, according to the report.
In middle-income countries, the impact is even larger, with almost half of growth lost, and in high-income nations, GDP declines 0.34 percentage points.
The report recommends policy solutions such as better information gathering including with blockchain technology, greater prevention efforts, and more investment in protecting water resources.
The report said bacteria, sewage, chemicals and plastics can reduce oxygen in water and increase toxicity.
In particular, increased nitrogen levels in water can impact growth and mental development among children and reduce future adult earnings by as much as 2 percent compared with those who weren’t exposed.