Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Water water everywhere....?

Water is the only substance on earth that occurs at ordinary temperatures in all three states of matter – gas, liquid and solid. As a gas it is in the air around us, as vapor, steam, fog, mist and clouds. As ice it forms snow, hail, glaciers and freezes lakes and rivers. As liquid it covers the world in lakes, seas and swamps, or is found deep in underground reservoirs. Depending on variables such as age, health and geography, any human constitutes about 60% water. Humans can survive weeks without food, but without a reliable water source our bodies start to shut down after a few days.

Water covers approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface, of which only 2.5% is freshwater, and of this small percentage, only 0.3% freshwater is available in lakes and rivers.

Growing up in England and living in Europe there has never been a time when I've feared for my own water security. If I was thirsty I’d merely turn on a tap or go to the shops. Such access to water is a first world luxury and must not be taken lightly.  Water scarcity is a serious problem for millions of people worldwide.

Carrying water across the dry-bed of Neyyar resevoir, the main source of water for Trivandrum city, India. 

In 1999 the World Bank Institute Water Policy Reform Program outlined how water is essential for all aspects of life. It highlighted that globally water availability is reaching a ‘crisis level’ with more than 40% of the world’s inhabitants facing water shortages, with over 1 billion people without access to safe drinking water and 3 billion without clean sanitation infrastructure.

In the past decade this situation has not improved and availability of freshwater continues to be a global concern. In March 2012, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova of the World Water Forum in Marseilles explained that fresh water continues to be a core issue for sustainable development and that "if we fail today to make water an instrument of peace, it might become tomorrow a major source of conflict." 

The future of the world’s water supply is uncertain due to rising population, increasing urbanization and the pressures of climate change. Consequently, the World Water Development report explains that no country is guaranteed ‘uninterrupted access to water supplies’ and the report warns that it will affect key developmental sectors including agriculture, energy and health.

While global efforts have been made to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people that do not have access to safe drinking water by 2015 there is still much ground to cover. By 2050 the world’s population is forecast to reach 9 billion. Rising population levels coupled with the pressures of climate change compounds the importance of ensuring greater water sustainability. 

With encroaching climate change, water in some countries will increase in the form of flash floods or rising seas levels, while other countries will have unprecedented low levels of rainfall, droughts and dry rivers. Further, lakes, wetlands and rivers are under increasing pressure from multiple use, pollution and habitat degradation. Climate change and fluctuations in the levels of water will undoubtedly have a great effect on the global production of agriculture and our ability to create food and safe water for earth's rising population.

As it stands, there is great uncertainty surrounding the amount of water necessary to sustain our planet. Owing to climate change there is great uncertainty about what the future will hold. To ensure worldwide water sustainability a global effort must be made by the international community. Emerging global initiatives that have been implemented need to be bolstered and carried out to ensure that there is significant investment in technologies and urban water planning for the future. Water transends both local and national concerns as everyone shares a vested interest in a dependence on water. Water it is central to every aspect of life on Earth and it must lie at the heart of our vision for sustainable development for the coming century.

Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen; this simple chemistry is holding our world together and we need to protect it.

1 comment:

  1. I have been doing some research on Climate change and its effect on the atmosphere and space exploration. I found your post and argument to be quite interesting. I completely agree with the fact that water will be one of our biggest problems as Climate change progresses, but I wonder if you think that location is the only factor that contributes to the devestating effect of droughts or floods? I understand that the location of a country would determine the effect that would take place, but I am also wondering is money plays into the countries ability to prepare for whatever Climate change occurs.

    While I was doing my research I came across quite a bit of information about the world's drive to get to Mars. Do you think there is a direct correlation between the fear or running out of water and the attempt to get to Mars, especially now due to the development of finding water on Mars?