Freshwater is essential for human survival, for agriculture and for the survival of our planet’s plants and animals. But pollution, climate change, water-related disease, and the destruction of our natural world all threaten the purity and availability of our most precious resource. Despite the pressing nature of these threats, water institutions and policymakers have, so far, been largely unable to develop the tools and approaches needed to address these problems.
Facts on the World’s Water
The Earth has 1,386,000,000 km3 of water total but only 2.5 percent of that is fresh water (35,029,000 km3 or 9,254,661,800 billion gallons of fresh water).
- Less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water (or 0.01 percent of all water) is usable in a renewable fashion.
- The average person needs a minimum of 1.3 gallons (5 liters) of water per day to survive in a moderate climate at an average activity level. The minimum amount of water needed for drinking, cooking, bathing, and sanitation is 13 gallons (50 liters).
- The average person in the United States uses between 65 to 78 gallons of water (250 to 300 liters) per day for drinking, cooking, bathing, and watering their yard. The average person in the Netherlands uses only 27 gallons (104 liters) per day for the same tasks.
- An estimated 1.2 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. Lack of clean drinking water leads to nearly 250 million cases of water-related disease each year and between 5 and 10 million deaths.
- Global warming will likely have major impacts on the world’s freshwater resources. Some areas will suffer more frequent and severe droughts; other places will face more frequent and severe floods.
- More water is drawn each day in the United States to cool power plants than for any other purpose.
Restricted Access to Water
- 1.4 billion people live without clean drinking water
- Two-fifths of the world’s population lack access to proper sanitation
- More than one-third of Africa‚ population lacks access to safe drinking water
- More than 130 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean lack access to safe drinking water
- Between 15 and 20 percent of the water used worldwide is not for domestic consumption, but rather for export
Water and Disease
- Every eight seconds a child dies from drinking dirty water
- Half of the world‚ hospital beds are occupied by people with an easily preventable waterborne disease
- 80 percent of all sickness and disease worldwide is related to contaminated water, according to the World Health Organization
- Diarrhea killed more children in the last decade, nearly 2 million a year in developing countries , than all armed conflicts since the Second World War.
- Dirty water kills more children than war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined
- 75 percent of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean suffer from chronic dehydration because of poor water quality
- 90 percent of wastewater produced in underdeveloped countries is discharged untreated into local waters
- 80 of China‚ major rivers are so degraded that they no longer support aquatic life
- 90 percent of all groundwater systems under major cities in China are contaminated
- 75 percent of India‚ rivers and lakes are so polluted that they should not be used for drinking or bathing
- 60 percent of rural Russians drink water from contaminated wells
- 20 percent of all surface water in Europe is seriously threatened
- One-third of the world‚ population lives in water stressed countries now
- Unless we change our ways, two-thirds of the world‚ population will face water scarcity by 2025
- Compared today, five times as much land is likely to be under ‚extreme” drought by 2025
- The percentage of the Earth‚ land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled between the 1970s and 2005
- Rapid melting will reduce the Tibetan glaciers by 50 percent every decade, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences
- More than two-thirds of Chinese cities face water shortages
- 90 percent of the Europe‚ alpine glaciers are in retreat
- Water managers in 36 states expect water shortages by 2013, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office
- One-third of all U.S. water withdrawals are for export
- California has a 20-year supply of freshwater left
- New Mexico has only a ten-year supply of freshwater left
- Florida‚ rapid use of groundwater has created thousands of sinkholes that devour anything , houses, cars and shopping malls , unfortunate enough to be built on top of them
- The U.S. interior west is probably the driest it has been in 500 years, according to the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey
- In 2007, Lake Superior, the world‚ largest freshwater lake, dropped to its lowest levels in 80 years and the water has receded more than 15 meters from the shoreline
- Lake Mead, the vast reservoir of the Colorado River, has a 50 percent chance of running dry by 2021
- 40 percent of U.S. rivers and streams are too dangerous for fishing, swimming or drinking
- 46 percent of U.S. lakes are too dangerous for fishing, swimming or drinking because of massive toxic runoff from industrial farms, intensive livestock operations and the more than 1 billion pounds of industrial weed killer used through the country each year
- Two-thirds of U.S. estuaries and bays are moderately or severely degraded
- One quarter of U.S. beaches are under advisories or closed due to water pollution
- 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution are carried by the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico every year
Facts about emerging threats to the world’s water:
- 40,000 lbs. of toxic chemicals are added to every 1 million gallons of water used to create fracking fluid translating to 120,000 – 360,000 lbs. of toxic chemicals per well.
- 60-80% of the toxic fluids injected underground, remain underground where they can contaminate the aquifers that provide us with safe drinking water.
- 20-40% of fluid that is recovered from the ground, not only contains the toxic chemicals drilling companies added, but also can contain levels of radiation over 1,000 times the EPA’s standard for drinking water.
- Recovered fluids that are stored in above or underground tanks are at risk of leeching into the environment.
- Recovered fracking fluids are sent to sewage treatment plants that are not designed to process their chemical and radioactive load. This fluid is then discharged into local waterways and drinking supplies.
- Highly salted water, known as “production brine,” seeps to the surface from gas wells and is 5x saltier than seawater. Solutions with salt concentrations this high damage water treatment facilities and can completely destroy freshwater ecosystems.
- Water pollution is a very serious threat to the world’s water and gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing is a major contributor to water pollution and contamination.
- Gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing requires 3-9 million gallons of water for each well.
Growing Threats to World’s Water Demand New Approach
Freshwater is essential for human survival, for agriculture and for the survival of our planet’s plants and animals. But pollution, climate change, water-related disease, and the destruction of our natural world all threaten the purity and availability of our most precious resource. Despite the pressing nature of these threats, water institutions and policymakers have, so far, been largely unable to develop the tools and approaches needed to address these problems.”The best way to solve emerging threats to the world’s fresh water is by rethinking how we use and manage our scarce resources,” said Dr. Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute. “We must look at ways to increase our efficiency of use, instead of just building more dams and reservoirs. Improving the efficiency of our water systems, taking real steps to tackle global warming, and opening the policy debate over water to new voices can help turn the tide.”
Facts about emerging threats to the world’s water:
· An estimated 1.2 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. Lack of clean drinking water leads to nearly 250 million cases of water-related disease each year and between 5 and 10 million deaths.
· In the past century over half of all wetlands on the planet have been lost to development and conversion. Wetlands are important to the health of natural systems and people because they act as filters and flood buffers.
· Water pollution is a serious threat to the world’s water. Microbes, salts, and pollution from agriculture and industry all contribute to the problem.
· Global warming will likely have major impacts on the world’s freshwater resources. Some areas will suffer more frequent and severe droughts; other places will face more frequent and severe floods. More about Threats to the World’s Freshwater Resources…
Dangers of Water Privatization Demand Greater Scrutiny
Water privatization – turning the operation, control, or ownership of public water supplies over to corporations – is increasing both overseas and in the United States. In the U.S., cities like Stockton, California, Jersey City, New Jersey, New Orleans, and Atlanta have all experimented with water privatization. Though certain types of privatization can help water utilities become more efficient or provide water – especially to those in the developing world who currently lack basic services – there are a host of dangers. “There is little doubt that the headlong rush to private markets has failed to address some of the most critical issues and concerns about water,” Dr. Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute. “Our assessment shows that rigorous, independent review of water privatization efforts are necessary to protect the public. Water is far too important to human health and the health of our natural world to be placed entirely in the private sector.”
Facts about water privatization:
· Communities around the nation are experimenting with water privatization including: Lee County, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans; Jersey City, New Jersey; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Peoria, Illinois.
· 14.8 billion gallons of bottled water (57 billion liters) were sold worldwide in 1996 and sales of over 37 billion gallons (143 billion liters) are expected by 2006.
· People in the United States consumed over 4.4 billion gallons (17 billion liters) of bottled water in 1999 at a cost of nearly $5 billion. More about the New Economy of Water…
Solution: Using Water More Efficiently Key to Meeting Future Demands
As the trends show, there are many serious threats to the world’s supply of fresh water. But the good news is that we have a solution that can help us solve, or at least make headway, on all of these problems: improving efficiency. Work at the Pacific Institute indicates that California residents are using almost 35 percent more water than they need to be. And, previous work has shown that there are a host of innovative techniques that can be applied to the residential, commercial, and agricultural sectors to improve our efficiency and conserve water.
Facts about water efficiency:
· Many technologies that are already available can help us save enough water to hedge against climate change and reduce stress on threatened natural resources while still allowing us to meet our needs for agricultural, industrial, and residential use.
· By 2020, enough water can be saved from indoor residential uses alone to meet the needs of over 5 million people.
· Proper irrigation can save another 450 thousand-acre-feet (KAF) of water per year. This is enough to satisfy the needs of another 3.6 million people (1 acre-foot supplies two households of four people for a year).