This paper is about providing safe drinking water to the world’s 6. 9 billion and growing population is one of the greatest challenges of the century. Consideration of the global water cycle, however, shows that the available renewable freshwater resources exceed the current human demand by roughly a factor of 10. Scarcity results from the uneven spatial and temporal distribution of water. Over withdrawal of surface water and groundwater has led to depletion of water resources and environmental damage in some regions.
Indeed, resource monitoring, development of novel waste – water treatment technologies, and determination of the quantities of water that can be withdrawn without causing adverse effects on environment will be essential for the efficient management of global water resources in the future. We take water for granted. And why not? We turn a tap and it comes out. But that’s going to have to change. The basic problem is this: the quantity of water in the world is finite, but demand is everywhere on the rise.
As oil was in the 20th century – the key resource, a focus of tension, even conflict – so water will be of the 21st, as states, countries, and industries compete over the ever – more – precious resource. So we need to figure it how to use it more sustainably. But that’s not all. IBM’s Water Report illustrates our relationship with water. Water is the lifeblood of this planet. Every time a good is bought or sold there is a virtual exchange of water. Every time we interact with water, we change it, redirect it, or otherwise alter its state. The report highlights that we can’t survive without water.
Although water is a renewable resource that can replenish under hydrological cycles, our intervention has interrupted its natural cycle causing its supply to decrease. In the United States fresh water is under threat from new kinds of barely understood pollutants, from pesticides to pharmaceuticals, and from a last – century infrastructure of pipes, dams, levees, and sewage plants that urgently needs upgrading. Water is considered an “access resource”, meaning it’s the resource that underlies all others. So whether you’re building a computer chip, growing crops, or generating power, all of these things require lots of water.
But there’s only a finite amount of water, and now resources are butting up against each other. In most places in the world it’s very difficult to get water on a regular basis. Russia is considering becoming the world’s top supplier of fresh water as growing demand turns it into a strategic resource. That is if it can upgrade its own consumption to modern standards. If you pay attention to the perils that future may bring, you should know that the oil will run dry, the sea level will rise and drown coastal regions, and that fresh water will be such a valuable asset that even the oil price will seem low in comparison.
By 2030 half of the world’s population will face a fresh water deficit, according to the UN’s World Water Assessment Program forecast. Thirsty nations will take up arms against other nations, people will become ill and die from drinking polluted water, and Ecologies will die out when the rivers feeding them are depleted for the sake of human farms and factories. Global demand for fresh water is growing steadily. Not only is humanity itself becoming more numerous, we also consume more water per day than we use to.
That’s because countries are becoming hungrier for things that require more water, such as paper, appliances, cars, and food. Agriculture is the single biggest consumer of water, accounting for some 70 percent of the total usage we expend. Conflicts over water are evident, especially in regions where the resource is scarce. Water is much cheaper than oil or gas, which means the goal of the future is to deliver water from places of abundance to those in need and to learn to use fresh water more wisely. Fresh water is one of the most essential elements of life on
Earth, yet 1. 2 billion people – slightly less than the entire population of China – live in regions of water stress and scarcity, where supplies are badly polluted and inequitably distributed. By 2025, an additional 4 million people will further stress valuable water resources in these areas, largely because of population growth. Water is surpassing oil as the world’s scarcest critical resource. As supplies disappear, the population booms and climate change continues to impact ecosystems, water is increasingly becoming a source of conflict.
Water wars are inevitable when countries are forced to share the same limited water source. The World Bank has identified 45 countries – 35 in Africa – where water shortages are more acute. Ethiopia, Haiti, and Niger top the list with the least amount of water available. All the countries on the World’s Bank list are both water stressed and economically poor. The fertility rate in those countries are higher than any other countries in the world, with their population being doubled by the year 2050. A contributing factor to the growing population is lack of access family planning and education.
Water is a public resource and a human right that should be available to all, but unfortunately it is not. All these companies are doing is recycling dirty water, selling it back to utilities and us at a huge price. But they haven’t been as successful as they want to be. People are concerned about their drinking water and they’ve met resistance. Global warming isn’t going to change the amount of water, but some places that’s use to getting it won’t, and others that don’t, will get more. Water scarcity may be one of the most underappreciated global political and environmental challenges of our time.
The water crisis is an expression of the environmental catastrophe of human over – exploitation. The natural system has been so fundamentally altered by human activity. This all began when people settled down and began to chop wood and farm. The start of sedentary communities is the start of the need to manage fresh water supplies. This is a starting point for our whole modern dilemma. It’s gone from the concerns of individual settlements, to cities, to nations, and now a global issue. Water shortages have caused the government to either postpone or reject permits for housing and power plant projects.
Diverting water or desalination has a potential to disrupt and alter natural habitats. Scientist have observed dropping fish populations in areas that have water crisis. Moreover, several aquifers are drained because of excessive water pumping. All observations have confirmed that we do face a water shortage problem. The problem is serious. We are in a crisis with water, as well as with oil. Society must also play a role in water conservation. Lack of public awareness is a crucial setback in sustainable projects.
Currently, we are not paying for the actual cost of water but costs of water distribution and sewer systems. That’s why the cost of water is so cheap. The value of water is constantly being compared to diamonds. We don’t realize its value merely because we don’t pay for the cost. In order for us to come out of the water crisis we will have to recycle wastewater to conserve the limited water supply. A wide range of options for treatment are available. Systems range from inexpensive sand filters to sophisticated water treatment facilities running reverse osmosis and ion exchange processes.
Improved agricultural irrigation techniques such as irrigating when evaporation is minimal, or using effective methods to apply water such as drip systems, could reduce water use significantly. Other options are to grow crops that require less water or are salt – tolerant. Desalinization, or the removal of salts from seawaters, has been gaining popularity as a solution to the nations water problem. New laser technologies and decreasing costs have established desalinization as the technique for the future.
Saudi Arabia and Israel have already invested in building plants: however, the technology still remains quite expensive. Improved irrigation techniques, recycling and desalination, or rational use of water are interim solutions for the short term. Unfortunately the only possible sustainable solution for the world water crisis is brought up rarely by responsible decision – makers. In conclusion, the world faces an unprecedented crisis in water resources management, with profound implications for global food security, protection of human health, and maintenance f all ecosystems on Earth. Large uncertainties still plague quantitative assessments of climate change impacts and water resource management, but what is known for certain is that the climate is changing and that it will have an effect on water resources. Therefore increased efforts will be needed to plan and manage water supplies in future, through increased monitoring and understanding of the interrelationships between population size, climate change, water availability, and to bring about water security.
Without water security, social, economic, and national stability are imperiled. Individuals need to realize that the choices that they make, the lifestyles that they live, the food that they eat and nearly every other component of their lives has a direct effect on the environment. We need to accept that as a species we are living our lives based on a linear system in a planet that only has access to finite resources. It is therefore so important that we cannot continue pumping water from the ground without thought to how it may be restored in years to come.
The human race faces a challenge that could see the end of life on Earth. We need to adopt the approach of environmental justice discourse by prioritizing the rights of nature as being of equal importance to human rights.
1. Water and Economic Growth, Edward Barbier (2002) 2. Two proposals for unlimited Fresh Water, M. Nhisson (2008) 3. Clean Water Should Be Recognized as a Human Right, PLoS Medicine (2009)