"Water is likely to become one of the
limiting resources of the next century, as well as one with multiple,
often conflicting uses."- UN Commission for Sustainable Development,
Second Session, New York, 1994
No matter who we are, where we are, and what we do, we are all
dependent on water. We need it every day, in so many ways. We need
it to stay healthy, we need it for growing food, for transportation,
irrigation and industry. We need it for animals and plants, for
changing colours and seasons. However, despite the importance of
water resources in our lives and well-being, we are increasingly
disrespectful of them. We abuse them. We waste them. We pollute
them, forgetting how essential they are to our very survival.
Statistics are staggering!
Over the next 20 years, the world's population will increase from
six billion to an estimated 7.2 billion, while the average supply
of water per person is expected to drop by one-third. An estimated
one billion people around the world still lack safe drinking water.
Daily water use per inhabitant totals 600 liters in residential
areas of North America and Japan, and between 250 and 350 liters
in Europe, while daily water use per inhabitant in sub-Saharan Africa
averages just 10 and 20 liters. In the past 100 years, the world
population has tripled, but water use by humans has multiplied six
Water and Sanitation
2.3 billion inhabitants around the world lack adequate sanitation.
Within the next eight seconds, a child will die from a water-related
disease. 7 million people die each year of water-borne diseases,
including 2.2 million children under the age of 5.
Distribution of global population lacking
adequate sanitation, by region:
- Europe: 2%
- Africa: 13%
- Asia: 80%
- Latin America and the Caribbean: 5%
- Total: 2.4 billion people
Median percentage of wastewater treated
by effective treatment plants, by region:
- Africa: 0%
- Asia: 25%
- Latin America & the Caribbean: 14%
- North America: 90%
- Europe: 66%
Water covers 70% of the planet, but more than 97.5% of this surface
water is ocean, which is not usable in industry, agriculture or
as drinking water. Consequently, the freshwater on which we depend
represents just 2.5% of all available water. However, three-quarters
of this fresh water is trapped in the form of snow and ice, notably
in the polar icecaps and in Greenland.
Annually, 110,000 billion cubic metres of rainwater falls on earth,
of which 70,000 billion cubic metres evaporated before they can
be used. This means that just 40,000 billion cubic metres remain,
however, a great deal of what remains is inaccessible or not evenly
spread, which gives just 12,500 billion cubic metres. This global
volume is nevertheless, sufficient for all human needs.
The annual water quantity available, per
inhabitant, for the ten "driest" countries of the world
are (in litres):
- Kuwait: 0
- UAE: 71.000
- Saudi Arabia: 119.000
- Jordan: 148.000
- Libya: 148.000
- Israel: 180.000
- Yemen: 241.000
- Oman: 426.000
- Tunisia: 434.000
- Algeria: 477.000
Water scarcity today afflicts 250 million people in 26 countries,
with each person having access to an annual volume of less than
Geographic breakdown of water withdrawals:
- Asia: 55%
- North America: 19%
- Europe: 9.2%
- Africa: 4.7%
- South America: 3.3%
- Rest of the world: 8.8%
Worldwide Water Withdrawal by Sector:
- Agriculture: 70% - but still 800 million people remain hungry
- Industry: 22%
- Domestic needs: 8%
The world numbers 215 trans-boundary rivers whose basins cover
50% of all land areas. Thirty two percent of national borders are
formed by water. Consequently, no fewer than 300 potential water-conflict
zones have been identified by the UN.
There are 25,400 large dams throughout the world, that are divided
into two main categories:
- 18,000 are single-purpose dams, of which approximately 48% are
for irrigation and therefore contribute greatly to food production.
- 7,400 are multipurpose dams, of which approximately 15% are used
for domestic and industrial water supply and approximately 20% generate
electricity (in Europe alone, around 40% are hydro power dams).
Other purposes include, in decreasing order of importance, flood
control (8%), recreational uses (4%) and, to a lesser degree, inland
navigation and fish farming.
The breakdown of dams per geographical
zone is as follows:
- Africa: 5 %
- North America: 30.61%
- South America: 2.66%
- Asia: 33.38%
- Europe: 24.38%
Water and Climate
Based on data for the period 1950 to 1998, the number of major
flood disasters has grown considerably world-wide from decade to
decade -- six cases in the 1950s, seven in the 1960s, eight in the
1970s, 18 in the 1980s, and 26 in the 1990s. The number of significant
flood disasters in the decade of the 1990s was higher than in the
three decades combined from 1950 to 1979.
Floods in the period from 1971 to 1995 affected more than 1.5 billion
people worldwide. This total includes 318,000 killed and more than
81 million made homeless.
The average global sea level rise from 1990 to the year 2100 is
expected to be 0.48 meters (19 inches), between twice and four times
the rate of rise over the 20th century.
International Year of Freshwater 2003
|2003 was celebrated as the International Year of Freshwater
to focus our attention on protecting and respecting our water
resources, as individuals, communities, countries, and as a
global family of concerned citizens. By protecting our freshwater,
we help to ensure our future and our planet's long-term prospects.
Send us your information, ideas, news, documents, images and
testimonies, anything that could be shared with others around
Although about three-fourth of earth is water, the estimated volume
of freshwater in rivers, groundwater, snow and ice, is about 2.5%
only, the rest being the sea / salt water.
Most of the freshwater is either in the form of ice and permanent
snow cover in Antarctic/Artic regions (about 69%) or is stored underground
in the form of deep underground basins/aquifers, soil moistures
Total usable freshwater supply to ecosystem and humans from river
system, lakes, wetlands, soil moisture and shallow groundwater is
less than 1% of all freshwater and only 0.01% of all the WATER ON
EARTH. As per WHO estimates only 0.007% of all water on earth is
readily available for human world consumption. This indicates that
Freshwater on earth is finite and also unevenly distributed.
United Nations; World Bank; ADB; Ministry of Water Resources- Govt
of India; World Water Assessment Programme, 2003; World Water Council;
WHO/UNICEF; UNESCO; International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD);
The International Red Cross
numbers provided above are taken from various sources as mentioned
above. However, the figures can vary as each organization applies
its own criteria.