The freshwater crisis has begun. And not recently. According to WWF (World Wide Fund), since 1900, more than 50% types of wetlands have disappeared. Some direct while some indirect excessive water usage is contributing to this decline of freshwater sources. The predicted future has some dark side. The major organizations like WWF, the United Nations, NASA and many others are keeping a continuous watch over the alarming decrease in the percentage of freshwater.
“Water, Water Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poet
This sound more poetic but it is also a factual line. Out of 71% water covering earth’s surface, only 2.5% is freshwater sources, that too in the form of ice and groundwater, leaving only 1% readily available freshwater for human consumption.
And 7.6 Billion world population is depending upon this mere percentage of water to drink, cook with, irrigate crops and feed livestock. Now the issue is, the water is being used over speedily than the rate of its replenishment. Also, the wastage of water is adding more to the problem. The lack of awareness about the conservation and reuse of water are the big causes of this rapid depletion of clean water.
This water stress can be quantified in three manners:
(1) A per‐capita water availability ratio
(2) A comparison between use and availability either as the difference between the two or as the ratio
(3) The evaluation of the socio‐economic and physical factors that impact stress.
The studies and findings from renowned organizations are making the situation clearer, for the general masses.
Some relatable facts and figures
The major organizations of the world viz WHO, NASA, United Nations, WWF and many local organizations have been working with their sources to bring together some facts regarding freshwater.
Here are a few of them, which can cause concerns:
- Currently, 844 million people or nearly 11 percent of the total global population lack access to clean and affordable water.
- Every year nearly 300,000 children under the age of five die of diarrhoea. This is due to dirty water and poor sanitation.
- It was found that around 2 billion people worldwide use a drinking-water source which is contaminated with faeces.
- In developing countries, approximately 90% of sewage and 70% of industrial wastes are discharged into water courses. This is the major cause of pollution in freshwater sources, which render them unusable.
- 21 out of 37 world’s major aquifers are receding, from India and China to the United States and France.
- The Ganges Basin in India is depleting by an estimated 6.31 centimetres every year. This is due to increasing population and irrigational demands.
- Similarly, in California, from 2011-2016, the state’s major aquifers receded at a combined rate of 16 million acre-feet per year, and roughly 1,900 wells ran dry. The state suffered its worst drought in 1,200 years.
- Since 1900, more than 50% of types of wetlands have disappeared.
How Are We Wasting the Freshwater?
The depletion stats prove that we are doing something extraordinarily wrong with our precious freshwater sources and supply. If we look closely, we will see that all our industrial era activities are concentrated on using a lot, a lot of water; many are direct while some other are indirect activities. For instance, to produce one kilogram of paper, approximately 300 litres of water are required. So, if we waste paper, we are wasting the water that was spent in its manufacturing.
- About 95 percent of the water entering our homes goes down the drain.
- Agriculture is one of the biggest consumers of freshwater with around 70 percent of all freshwater on the planet being used into irrigation of fields and feeding of livestock. The flood irrigation practice wastes tons of water and can pollute the waterways with fertilizers.
- The extravagant running of the tap while brushing or washing face waste a huge amount of water.
- The water leakages in pipes and canals and illegal tapping amounts to 30 to 40% loss of freshwater.
< Source wwf.panda.org: http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/water/importance_value/>
- The depletion of aquifers in terms of quantity and quality, due to rising population and pollution, respectively, is making the scarcity of freshwater supplies.
- You will be surprised to know that one dripping tap can leak 300 litres of water a year.
- There is a lot of water wastage while working in the kitchen. For example, washing fruits and vegetables under running water let huge amount to go waste, and that too without proper cleaning.
- Kids water fun playing can cost this planet in terms of depleting freshwater.
- Use of dishwashers, with a half-full load of dishes is a sheer waste of water.
- A shower bath for more than 5 minutes can waste 5 to 10 gallons of water.
Consequences of Running Out of Freshwater
It is said that the human body can survive without food for more than 3 weeks but cannot survive for 1 week without water. It is because 60% of the adult body is made up of water and every living cell needs water for its functioning.
The consequences of running out of freshwater have started to show up in different parts of our planet. In California’s Imperial Valley, the rapid groundwater depletion has caused the ground to cave in by 100 feet in the past 100 years. This sinking of terrain and over-extraction of groundwater has increased the risk of earthquakes since the Earth’s crust is becoming lighter.
Observations have been made that the groundwater pumping is causing the Sierra Nevada Mountains to gain an extra few millimetres of height, every year.
It was predicted that World War III will be fought over water. The prediction seems to come true as 35 states in the USA are fighting over water supplies.
Apart from these, the world will have to face epidemics in the absence of proper sanitation and clean drinking water.
Water By 2025
The advocacy for the conservation of water through methods such as rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, etc. is prevailing to fight the foreseeable future. With the current rate of depletion of the freshwater sources, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas, by 2025. As per the reports of the United Nations, since the last century, the water use has grown at more than twice the rate of increase in our population. (Pakistan could run dry 2025).
NASA’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites sent study of over a 14-year period, depicting 19 hotspots all over the world, which has rapidly depleting water resources. The depletion is going towards disastrous results. These hotspots include the areas of California, north-western China, northern and eastern India, and the Middle East.
The events of drought are shuddering the world every year, with people facing hunger and illness after years of recurring droughts.
UN, under the sustainable development goal, states that there should be an availability of safe water and sanitation to all by the year 2030 but some countries will miss the deadline by centuries if they continue with their current water wastage and contamination rate.
With increasing population, the water requirement and withdrawal for energy is expected to increase by over 20%
Thinking Blue, At Chaitanya
Traditional methods such as restoring traditional small dams called johads in Rajasthan, enabled the periodic rains to be held before they dissipated across the land. Being inspired by this, we, at Chaitanya, take the responsibility of providing world-class rainwater harvesting products, to help in saving our blue planet.