The delivery of fresh water to those who need it is becoming increasingly important to an ever growing global population. In an ironic demonstration of karmic balance the benefits of plenty seem to be traded for the adverse environmental impacts that result from the exploitation of natural resources to provide those benefits. As our demand for potable water increases so does our proclivity for making its sources more impure.
More people than ever before are in desperate need of a ready source of potable water, especially in countries where crude methods for extrapolating minerals and poorly managed agricultural fertilization programs only aggravate an already critical situation wherein the ground water becomes contaminated.
People have generally regarded water as a given in areas that have plenty of it, and areas that do have generalized access to potable water also happen to have the highest gross domestic product per capita. Taking water for granted is the norm in first world countries. Unfortunately, this transcends to an undervaluation of the importance that water has on the global scale.
Statistics might cause one to rethink this perspective. Almost 69 percent of the Earth’s fresh water exists in glaciers and ice caps, mostly in Greenland and Antarctica. Almost all of the rest is under our feet, with only 0.3 percent existing in rivers and lakes. If we include all of the rest of the planet’s water – oceans, seas, and atmosphere – we find that over 99 percent of all of Earth’s water is unusable.
Access to water does not guarantee access to safe water. A child dies every 8 seconds from drinking contaminated water. Twenty-six countries are classified as water-stressed, meaning that they cannot sustain agriculture and economic development using their existing water supplies. According to EarthCARE, by 2025 the number of people living in those water-stressed countries will increase six and a half times. We seem to be on the approach of a rising bell curve which sees the situation getting worse before it improves.
In fact, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) reports that supplies of fresh water for consumption and for agricultural and industrial use has not kept pace with population growth in Africa and The Middle East. It would therefore seem to be somewhat premature to make a prediction of when everybody worldwide will have enough clean, safe water to drink. In fact, it is apparent that clean, safe drinking water is becoming scarcer all the time, and that this scarcity will most certainly be reflected in a lucrative water market economy.
That being said, it follows that potable water may be in greater demand in the future but in all likelihood the prospects for the potential for universal access to it will increase proportionally. That is because investments are now being made the world over in the area of water purification in decontamination and desalination and in water delivery. But seeing to it that everybody the world over has access to clean potable water will be a very long and painstaking process.
Proper attention should be given to areas that have the greatest need. By way of example, Pakistan’s huge population of 135 million people for the most part does not have access to safe drinking water. Alarmingly, as much as 60 percent of that country’s fresh water is allowed to flow back into the sea. This is the result of poor water management and an obvious misplacement of priorities at the highest levels.
The growing global consensus on well-known environmental issues like global warming and deforestation will eventually see a placement of the water scarcity issue of the future on the front lines of debate. Then, hopefully, international organizations and corporations will step in to assure that water management infrastructure will improve a depressingly poor situation for many people worldwide. What is needed at this time is a UN sponsored international Year of Clean Water to bring public awareness to this particular issue. The first world cannot afford to be complacent about this crisis simply because it is a non-issue for them. Who wouldn’t like to see that everybody the world over has access to enough clean, safe water for their uses?