Whether a trigger, weapon, or a casualty, water has played a major role in conflicts around the world. With climate change altering rainfall patterns and causing extended droughts all over the globe, disputes over water appear to remain a challenge for some regions. On the other hand, history has also witnessed water being the source of cooperation between nations.
Today’s society is characterized by being dynamic and fast-paced and the more we move towards the future, the more goods and resources we consume. Since water is present in the lifecycle of any products we consume, our footprint is growing bigger every year.
Moving to a more sustainable long-term model for managing water supplies is essential if we are to avert a future water crisis. However, many countries still lack access to even basic clean water. The World Bank estimates that the poorest countries need to spend around $150 billion a year just to deliver safe and clean water for all.
In this climate, is it realistic to expect countries to achieve water sustainability? Where do we stand regarding water sustainability at the moment and what can be done to improve the situation in the future?
Water is essential to life on this planet. Yet there are signs that freshwater supplies are becoming more and more scarce. According to the UN, around 2 billion people – over 25% of the global population – already live in countries experiencing high water stress and it’s predicted that around 700 million people could be displaced by extreme water scarcity by 2030. One of the key challenges is climate change, which is disrupting the global water cycle and affecting water supplies in a number of ways.
As we move away from fossil fuels to renewables, new technologies point to a cleaner energy scheme by decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. In a planet with only 1% of fresh water, it is imperative that the new energy system pursues to decrease the water footprint (WF). Because a low-carbon footprint doesn’t necessarily mean a low water use. The water footprint (WF) is defined as the total annual volume of freshwater used to produce goods and services related to consumption.
Economic growth has been identified as one of the key factors contributing towards accelerating global water scarcity, as population expansion and growing urbanisation add to the pressures on finite freshwater resources. The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) published a report in 2016 looking into the potential for decoupling water consumption from economic growth – essentially, moving to more sustainable forms of water use without reducing growth – stating that half the world could face severe water stress by 2030 unless this is achieved. But how can this be done in practice and how likely will this be?
Thinking of the future, one of the things that come to mind is the expected population growth in the coming years. Availability of water resources in particular, is one of the most serious crises with remarkable implications for many other related world challenges: Poverty, hunger, ecosystem degradation, desertification, climate change, and even world peace and security.
About 71% of our world is covered with water, most of which is saline (97%) or frozen in ice sheets & glaciers (2%), only the remaining 1% being fresh water.
How is it possible that in a water-rich planet, humanity is struggling with water crisis? Water accessibility and availability are major drivers of the water crisis.