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Are We Running Out of Water? World Water Crisis 101 (Part 1)

Are We Running Out of Water? World Water Crisis 101 (Part 1)

Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics

This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, well have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. Its a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment - or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.

All the Water on Earth

Ours is often referred to as the blue planet because 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Yet, scientists and public officials predict a global water crisis within the next few decades. Worldwide 2.7 billion people are currently affected by water shortages and, by 2025, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.

There are two primary components of water availability: quantity and quality.

Quantity: The Earths Drinkable Freshwater Supply is Limited

Only 2.5 percent of the water on earth is theoretically drinkable and the vast majority of that freshwater is inaccessible, either deep below the earth’s surface or in glaciers and snowfields at the poles. As climate change shifts rainfall and drought patterns around the world, more and more people are living in water stressed conditions.

According to the WorldWatch Institute, “some 20 percent of the increase in water scarcity in the coming decades will be caused by climate change … In poor countries, the consequences of climate change could be dire – erratic weather patterns have already been the primary cause of famine for millions around the world.”

Water Scarcity Around the World

China – Chronic drought in north China is pushing the Gobi Desert into farmland that feeds China’s megacities Beijing and Tianjin and the Yellow River, “the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water.”

EuropeFrance – a major supplier of wheat barley and sugar beets to the European Union – is experiencing the worst drought in the past 50 years.

AfricaIn sub-Saharan Africa, only 61 percent of inhabitants have access to safe drinking water sources. This compares with 90 percent or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, northern Africa, and large parts of Asia. In poorer countries, lack of water access is often due to lack of infrastructure. While much wealthier than most sub-Saharan countries, Egypt still suffers from water scarcity. The country imports more than half of its food because it does not have enough water to grow it domestically.

Island Nations – Drinking water is one of the many climate change concerns of island nations. On the Pacific Island of Tuvlala, water was rationed to just two buckets a day during a prolonged drought in 2011. During the worst of the drought, New Zealand and Australia provided “rehydration packets” to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

Australia – But Australia has its own water woes. Climate change may be intensifying the continent’s natural drought cycle. At the same time, extreme weather events such as last fall’s record flooding that inundated Melbourne may become more frequent.

United States – The water level in the Ogaliala Aquafer, groundwater that feeds wells in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, has been dropping every level, more than 150 feet in some places. Agricultural communities that depend on the aquifer to irrigate crops are under immense strain, with some nearly collapsing already. In other regions, record droughts in Florida and Texas threatens agriculture that supplies the whole nation with food.

Quality: Abuse of a Common Resource

Centuries of assuming that dilution is the solution to pollution has taken a toll on world waters.

U.S. Water Pollution Facts

Water Pollution Around the World

The story is similar worldwide with 2 million tons of human waste dumped directly into waterways every single day. In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial waste is dumped into rivers and streams that communities depend up on for drinking, washing, watering farms and supplying livestock.

Asian rivers may be the most polluted in the world. “They have three times as many bacteria from human waste as the global average, and 20 times more lead than rivers in industrialized countries.

Drinking water pollution directly affects more than half the world’s population and each year there are about 250 million cases of water-related diseases, with roughly 5 to 10 million deaths

The Future of Water

While there has been some good news on water, experts predict that access to water in the future will drive not just economic growth but conflicts between nations.

In part two of World Water Crisis 101, we’ll explore two possible solutions – desalination and dams.

Related stories:

Water for All through Desalination and Dams? World Water Crisis 101 (Part 2)

How Your Washing Machine is Polluting The Oceans

Las Vegas to Survive on East Nevadas Groundwater

Polluters Dump 226 Million Pounds of Toxins into U.S. Rivers

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570 comments

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10:57AM PDT on Sep 19, 2014

We need to stop putting pollution in any waters.. includes the oceans.

11:37AM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

8:21AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Many challenges that we face now and in the future when it comes to water.
Every now and then there are hare brained schemes thought up to divert water from Canada to solve water problems in the U.S. These schemes involve major flooding of many areas, destruction of the environment but advocates always bring up the idea of water for profit. Desalination would be a far better alternative-a lot of ocean out there.

11:18AM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

Unprecedented: Class Action Lawsuit Against Church, State, Big Pharma Given Green Light. To All Who Inhabit This Earth – End Denial - liberate us, Earth, and all kingdoms. http://wp.me/pWDrY-1cq

7:32AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Every woman & teen of child bearing age needs to be on the PILL....Our numbers of 800 million humans is going to do us & the planet in all in one whack.
Man simply has no common sense or decency towards this planet or each other. How much clearer can it all be than what we read each & everyday.
Tcountrys of India, Africa, China & Russia need to start preping their young to learn what overpopulation is doing to the only home we have.
There is no PLAN B here to save us........If there is shout it out to the world, get it going.......Move it on.

Wherever you are there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

6:00AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

God help us... or better : God change our way of thinking!!!!!!

7:59AM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

thank you

8:19PM PDT on May 9, 2012

Time to speak up TOGETHER! WORLD CITIZENS PETITION OBAMA: SOLVE FUKUSHIMA - PLEASE SIGN - GO VIRAL!

President of the United States: Urgent Request for UN Intervention to Stabilize Fukushima Reactor Unit 4. http://change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-urgent-request-on-un-intervention-to-stabilize-the-fukushima-reactor-unit-4

9:23AM PDT on May 7, 2012

You want water........Plant many large trees.

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

9:09AM PDT on May 7, 2012

I don't know bout you but this makes me thirsty .

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