Economic activities add contaminants to water.

As economic activities accelerate around the world, people move to urban areas and their needs for consumer products and energy goes up. Higher living standards come with many environmental costs, including fresh water contamination. This secular impact of higher consumption is compounded further by weather changes and severe droughts.

As more people want higher living standards, we need to produce more goods, and more goods require more energy. And of course we have to feed more mouths with more nutrient-rich food. All of these activities (agriculture, energy production, mining, goods production etc) create their own unique fresh water pollutants.

Many industries need facilities next to fresh water sources - to use water as a product or process component. Any release of contaminated products, accidental or not, will invariably affect the utilities who draw on that water further down the watershed. As a result, water owners and managers have to keep a hawk eye on the level of contaminants - in real time.

As farms aim for higher productivity, or battle new diseases and pathogens, they use newer fertilizers, insecticides and genetically modified crops. Irrigation water contaminated with these chemicals will invariably flow down into ground water or surface water sources. And least we forget energy production: plants that burn fossil fuels to generate electricity and nuclear plants work hard to manage their discharge quality - but accidents or leaks can occur despite best intentions.

As population pressures increase, urban centers grow in size and density, and demand for higher living standards does not relent, our limited fresh water sources will be increasingly stressed. We are headed to a world where all fresh water sources will be monitored and managed continuously, with rapid-response teams ready to tamp down unknown crises quickly. All this is going to require careful data creation, management, analysis and decision-making processes.