Live Q&A: What are the steps to ending water pollution in Latin America?

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Photograph: Martin Mejia/AP

Latin Americans are not necessarily affected by water scarcity, but clean water scarcity. While the region’s water resources could provide each person with around 34,000 cubic metres of water every year, the average person only has access to just over 300 cubic metres.

Across the continent, garbage, mining effluent, and industrial and agricultural waste are routinely dumped into water basins and aquatic habitats. Increasing urban populations are compounding the problem, forcing officials to seek out increasingly distant sources.

Latin America is home to almost a third of the world’s freshwater sources, yet 70% of wastewater returns to rivers untreated. The result? Contaminated lakes, rivers and dams which expose people to toxins and disease, and reduce the availability of freshwater.

So how can Latin America’s waterways be returned to their clean and flowing natural state? How can governments be encouraged to take action, and residents be persuaded to dispose of waste more responsibly? What enforcements can be put in place to make the biggest polluters clean up their act? And how can we better support the conservationists fighting for pollution-free water in the region?

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