- Today, one of the largest
concerns around the world iis the lack of freshwater for drinking
and cooking. It is estimated that over one billion people, or about
one-sixth of the world's population, does not have access to fresh
water; of these one billion, the vast majority are living in developing
nations. Although water is one of the most common resources on the
planet, only 2.5% of it can actually be consumed, and the rest is
salt water. Of that 2.5%, two-thirds is confined to glaciers and
permanent snow cover. Only a fraction of the world's water is liquid
freshwater, and it is increasingly the subject of conflict and strife
as it becomes less available.
The world's population
is growing at a rate of 80 million people each year. This means
that each year we need to find a way to add about 64 billion cubic
meters of water to the global water supply. The two fastest-growing
areas are Africa and the Middle East. The Sub-Saharan African population
is growing at a rate of 2.6% people a year, and in the Middle East
it is growing at a rate of 2.2%. Africa is already one of the driest
continents in the world, and with this constant change its are facing
water stress and water scarcity.
A country is said to
experience "water stress" when annual water supplies drop
below 1,700 cubic meters per person. At levels between 1,700 and
1,000 cubic meters per person, periodic or limited water shortages
can be expected. When annual water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic
meters per person, the country faces water scarcity.
As of 1999,
31 countries, with a total of 500 million people, faced either water
stress or water scarcity. Estimations in the recent five years have
added six more countries and almost 100 million more people. (Irrigation
Business and Technology)
The global demand for
fresh water has become much more of an issue than in past decades.
The largest user of water in every country is agriculture. Trying
to farm in hot, arid countries is difficult, if not impossible at
times. Agriculture uses 70% of the world's supply, with industry
coming in second with 22% of global use, and only 8% used for domestic
Agricultural users are
getting better at limiting the amount of water they withdraw. New
techniques such as drip irrigation, low pressure sprinklers, and
even drip walls, can capture the water from rainfall before it drains
Pollution is becoming
a huge and worsening factor in destroying the fresh water supply.
Every day almost two million tons of waste are dumped into lakes,
rivers, and streams. At present there are about 12,000 square kilometers
of polluted fresh water in the world, and if trends are not slowed
or reversed, the total will reach 18,000 sq km by 2050, nearly nine
times the total amount currently used for irrigation. The
- The 250
million U.S. residents living today have access to about the same
amount of water as U.S. residents did 200 years ago, when the population
was four million. (National
Drinking Water Alliance)
- If present
consumption patterns continue, two out of every three persons on
Earth will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025. (United
Nations Environment Program)
- At least 1 billion
people must walk three hours or more to obtain drinking water. Nearly
2% of U.S. homes have no running water. In Mexico, 15% of the population
must haul or carry water. (National
- In a one-hundred-year
period, an average water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean,
20 months as ice, only about two weeks in lakes and rivers, and
less than a week in the atmosphere.
- By 2050, per capita
water supply is predicted to fall, leaving anywhere from 2 billion
to 7 billion people with water scarcity (CBC
to Help Protect Freshwater Through Household Conservation
time you spend watering the lawn, showering, running the garbage disposal,
and running faucets.
faucets. One drip a second can waste 2,000 gallons a year.
plumbing fixtures. If all plumbing fixtures in the United States were
replaced with water-conserving fixtures, we could save 3.4 to 8.4
billion gallons of water a day.
amounts of low phosphate cleaners and detergents. Eliminate the use
of drain cleaners. Use recycled products.
car on the lawn instead of the driveway. Water that lands on an impermeable
surface, such as pavement, flows through the watershed to the nearest
body of water and deposits its contaminants. Your lawn, on the other
hand, can trap and break down most foreign agents.
use of lawn fertilizers, and be sure to use only phosphorus-free lawn
fertilizers. Most lawns already have sufficient phosphorus, and when
more is added it runs through the watershed and causes algae growth
in surrounding lakes.
that many human activities affect water quality. Wetlands, groundwater,
and waterways are destroyed by construction, polluted runoff, and
spills. Population growth only intensifies these impacts.
an educated consumer. Buy recycled, environmentally friendly products.
recognize and become knowledgeable about aquatic nuisance species.
Exotic invaders (such as Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels, and
thousands more) cause habitat destruction, decrease biological diversity,
and cause millions of dollars of damage in the United States each
your daily habits and help reduce water pollution and water use. Bike,
walk, or carpool to help reduce the production of toxic air pollutants
that cause acid rain.
the water heater temperature and the home thermostat to reduce your
energy usage and help curb pollutants that cause acid rain.
share your knowledge with others. Try to remember that our actions
have a widespread impact on the lasting quality of freshwater resources.
We can and must make a difference.
Water Web site
for a Water Short World
Dreams News center
of Environmental Management & Assessment
Scarcity and Poverty