According to scientists, the world is heading for a major water crisis by the middle of this century.
A very short history of water
For fifty years since 1940, global water use approximately kept pace with population growth. Over the past decade, use increased 4 to 8 percent a year in developing countries.
Growing demand threatens big
Much of the world’s economic activity is based on available water supplies. According to Population Reports, published by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, to “avoid crisis, many countries must conserve water, pollute less, manage supply and demand, and slow population growth.”
The role of pollution
All of India’s major rivers are badly polluted, and three quarters of China’s major rivers cannot sustain fish, according to the Hopkins study. Agriculture, with its fertilizers and pesticides, is the greatest polluter - surpassing industries and municipalities.
A looming crisis
Conflicts over access to water are already brewing in Africa, Central Asia and South America. This could worsen with increasing shortages, leading to very destructive wars and refugee crises.
Water shortages impact the quality of human life, economic activity, and the environment
The role of governments
In the face of growing concerns about dwindling water supplies; the UN moved decisively to address the increasing conflicts between countries with common borders along major river basins. This includes nations along the Nile, the Danube Basin, and in Central Asia.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is starting a Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) with the support of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which is a UN organization that helps developing countries fund projects and programs that protect the environment. Working closely with existing organizations, the project will elaborate the first assessment of its kind ever attempted on a global scale.
In its 2005 review of environmental sustainability, the United Nations set as a target to halve by 2015the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
In its 2008 report, the UN identified that 1.6 billion have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990. In spite of these gains, the process of conserving a non-renewable resource is not easy - especially one which is not easily and objectively valued, is not well-developed, and is not well-integrated into economic development planning. Innovative treatments will have to be used; treatments that use advanced membrane separation technologies as well as treatment of non-traditional water sources such as wastewater, brackish groundwater, seawater and extracted mine water.
Sub-Saharan Africa and South Eastern Asia are behind
in meeting their targets, and some stimulus is probably required if these
targets are to be met.
by Daniel Guerra, Hearts & Minds volunteer