From Pathogens to Poisons: The Groundwater Crisis in Asia


  • Scott Fendorf

Abstract: We are presently witnessing the largest poisoning in history within South and Southeast Asia. As a result of the high population density and regular flooding, surface water (rivers, lakes, and ponds) across the low-lying areas of Asia are laden with high levels of microbial pathogens. In a quest to obtain pathogen-free water, a large-scale initiative to use groundwater for drinking was initiated in the early 1970s. However, arsenic levels often more than 50-times the World Health Organizations recommend maximum concentration were unknowingly present in groundwater. Presently, more than 100 million people are at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of geogenic arsenic in drinking water across Asia. Further challenging human health is arsenic entry into the major crop of the region, rice. With compromised surface and groundwater quality, a suite of water source and treatment options are needed, particularly for the rural poor. 

Speaker Bio: Scott Fendorf is the Huffington Professor of Earth Science, Chair of the Earth System Science Department, and a Senior Fellow in the Woods Institute at Stanford University. His research is broadly focused on processes controlling water quality and nutrient/element cycling in soils. He is one of the leading figures deciphering the distribution and processes responsible for the  arsenic-induced groundwater crisis of Asia. He was a founding organizer of the Arsenic in Groundwater of Southern Asia Conference series, and an original member and organizer of the Telluride Iron Biogeochemistry meetings.

Scott Fendorf Presentation May 12_2014_Water_Asia