The latest edition of Scientific American features a fact-packed summary of the up-to-date situation. This is what I have learnt from 'Facing the Freshwater Crisis' by Peter Rogers.
As per usual, we have the technology and the knowledge to deal with the situation but what is lacking is the political will to give it the correct priority and commit the necessary financial resources
Rogers says: 'The world's demand for freshwater is currently overtaking its ready supply in many places and this stuation shows no sign of abating.'
*According to UN data, by 2025 the freshwater resources of more than half the countries across the globe will either undergo stress or outright shortages. By mid-century, three quarters of the earth's population could face shortages.
* The problem is increasing due to rising population, increasing wealth (which expands demand) and global warming. which is exacerbating aridity and pollution of all kinds.
*The Stockholm International Water Institute estimate that, on average, each person on earth needs of a minimum of 1,000 cu m of water per year - two fifths of the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
* A cubic kilometre of water is the equivalent of 400,000 Olympic swimming pools.
* 110,000 cu km of rain falls from the sky every year but 61% of it is absorbed by soil and plants (green water) and 38.8% collects in rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater (blue water). A small proportion of both is used as follows: crops, livestock and natural farm irrigation (5.1% of green water); water tapped for farm irrigation (1.4%), evaporation from open water (1.3%) and o.1% used by cities and industries - all blue water. Only 1.5 % of blue water is directly used by people.
* Major rivers under stress due to water demand are the Ganges, the Nile, the Jordan and the Yangtze. They regularly dry up for long periods every year.
* The Jordan river borders on Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan itself. The whole area is extremely parched. Says Rogers: 'Only continuing negotations and compromises have kept this tense situation under control.'
* Underground aquifers beneath cities like New Delhi and Beijing and many other urban areas are failing due to excessive demand.
* One solution is to raise water prices. This will encourage consumers to save water, the building of reccyling and reclamation systems and will improve the maintenance of water-delivery systems.
*The US and Canada will have to spend an estimated £3.6 trillion on their water systems over the next 25 years.
* Farm irrigation uses up huge quantities of water. A 10% drop in irrigation water would save more than is used by all other consumers.
* 97% of the world's water is salty but developments in desalination technology means many coastal towns and cities can now secure supplies of potable water.
* Estimates are that to provide the world's water needs through to 2030 will cost $1 trillion a year, the equivalent of 1.5% of the annual global GDP.
*Investment in water facilities as a percetage of GNP has dropped by half in most countries since 1990.
You can check out your water footprint
Its World Water Week in Stockholm [August 17th-23rd 2008]
'Water crisis to be biggest world risk' by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard [The Telegraph 6 June 08]
'Water crisis in Iraq brings failed crops, sandstorms and scorched earth' by Deborah Haynes [The Times 29 July 08]
Listen to Maude Barlow talking about the looming water crisis from 2006 on You Tube
She says that 75% of India's surface water and 80% of China's surface water are polluted beyond use. Maude Barlow is the co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, working internationally for the right to water.
YEMEN: 14 August 2008: Water availability in Yemen has been worsening by the year and the government has no clear strategy on how to deal with the problem, experts have said.They say water shortages, which affect about 80 percent of the country’s 21 million people, are exacerbated by the high fertility rate, rapid urbanisation, the cultivation of `qat’ (a mild narcotic), a lack of public awareness, and the arbitrary digging of wells.
WaterAid works in 17 countries providing water, sanitation and hygiene education to some of
the world's poorest people.
The Most Important Infrastructure Trend in the World Today
By Chris Mayer/August 14, 2008
'The cover story grabbed me. "Running out of Water," cries out the latest issue of Scientific American. "Facing the Freshwater Crisis" reads the article inside the cover. The basic gist of the story is the increasing shortage of clean fresh water for many people across the globe. As an investor, the word "shortage" has the same effect as the word "cookie" has for a dog. It always perks up the old ears. Where there is scarcity, there is likely a way for an investor to make something of it. Over the last two-plus years, my readers have made good money in water stocks. We've got a long way to swim yet. As an investment trend, water is as big as anything.'
See also: The Water Crisis Looming Over Beijing
By Tom Dyson/August 11, 2008