Fresh water – part of chapter 1 of research study

Water is a key ingredient for the survival of life, yet according to the Living Planet Report (2012:9), “2.7 billion people around the world already live in catchments that experience severe water shortages for at least one month a year”. At the time of typing, 2.7 billion people is 37 per cent of the world’s population of humans1 – more than a third of all human beings, a considerable part of the whole, therefore experience this water-related threat to their survival. Of these 2.7 billion people who live in water-scarce areas for parts of the year, 1.1 billion have severe difficulty finding clean water at all – this is one fifth of all human beings; furthermore, lack of sanitation for 2.4 billion people means that they are exposed to the threat of water-borne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid diseases2.

As stated on the UN’s website dedicated to the issue of water scarcity3, “water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon”. The human actions associated with loss of topsoil (section 1.4), deforestation (section 1.3), and greenhouse gas emission (section 1.2), are obvious contributors to water-related issues of the ecological crisis. Kovel (2006: 1) draws attention to more information highlighting human beings as key players in the precarious global water situation when he points out that half “of the [world’s] wetlands had been filled or drained [by 2002]” – the WWF, commenting several years later than Kovel, states that more than half of wetlands have “disappeared”4. The Living Planet Report Summary (2012:16) adds, of “the approximately 177 rivers greater than 1,000km in length, only around a third remain free flowing and without dams on their main channel”.

Interestingly, according to the UN5, water “use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century”. The World Water Council6 reiterates the alarming rate of water use, and adds some important, if somewhat understated, information regarding the continuing trend: “While the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. Within the next fifty years [i.e. from approx. 2010 to 2060], the world population will increase by another 40 to 50 %. This population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water and will have serious consequences on the environment.”

According to a 2013 article in the “The Guardian” newspaper7 entitled ‘Global majority faces water shortages ‘within two generations”, “UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, added his voice to concerns about water security: “We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met”.” Despite the fact that Ki-moon’s statement is misleading in that it may falsely suggest that water demands in the present are being met, which this part of section 1 has shown not to be the case, his warning contains a dire implication of potential widespread death for various members of the human population – if demands for water are not met, and if water is essential for survival, then people will die without the water essential for survival. This is already happening: according to water.org8, lack “of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours”.

1According to the website listed hereafter (accessed 24.06.2014), the world population of humans is currently 7.2 billion; as a statistic, 2.7 billion is 37.5 & of 7.2 billion –