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"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.

Water Facts

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 fold.

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 Resources

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 1000 m3.

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%

Water Conflicts

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.

Water Storage

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 the world.

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 etc(30%).

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.

Source- 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

The numbers provided above are taken from various sources as mentioned above. However, the figures can vary as each organization applies its own criteria.

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