It's World Water Day: Five Shocking Facts about Water Scarcity
March 24, 2015 Derek Markham / TreeHugger & Melissa Breyer / TreeHugger & Maude Barlow / The Huffington Post
In many parts of the world, getting enough water to drink may mean walking miles to fetch it. Women and children are primarily responsible for water collection in developing countries. It not only takes a huge amount of time (estimated 200 million hours each day, globally) but also takes a physical toll, as the water is often transported on peoples' backs. To help raise awareness of these very real water issues on World Water Day 2014 (March 22nd), here are five shocking facts about water scarcity.
It's World Water Day: Five Shocking Facts about Water Scarcity that Will Make You Cry a River Derek Markham / TreeHugger
(March 21, 2014) -- For most of us, water scarcity and water poverty probably aren't high on our list of things that we regularly think about or take action on (but if they are, good on ya), what with all of our attention being pulled every which way by the news story or Facebook meme or funny video of the day, but those water issues directly affect hundreds of millions of people every day of their life.
Most of us probably have no problem when we want or need water, anytime of day or night, as safe clean water flows right out of our taps with virtually no effort on our part, and we can use it for for drinking, for washing, for watering the garden, at a very low cost to us.
But in many parts of the world, getting enough water to drink everyday may mean walking miles to fetch it, which directly impacts the lives of those people (especially women and children, who are primarily responsible for water collection in developing countries), because it not only takes a huge amount of time (estimated 200 million hours each day, globally), but also takes a physical toll, as the water is often transported on their backs.
To help raise awareness of these very real water issues on World Water Day 2014 (March 22nd), here are five shocking facts about water scarcity.
1. Almost 800 million people lack access to clean safe water every day. That's more than two and a half times the population of the United States, where most of us probably waste more water before noon than those people use in a month.
2. Almost 3 ½ million people die every year because of water and sanitation and hygiene-related causes, and almost all of them (99%) are in the developing world. That's like the population of a city the size of Los Angeles being wiped out each year.
3. Every 21 seconds, another child dies from a water-related illness. Diarrhea, something we don't really consider to be dangerous in the developed world, is actually incredibly deadly, and is the second leading global cause of death for kids under five.
4. More than 1 billion people still practice open defecation every day. In fact, more people have a mobile phone than a toilet. Open defecation is just what it sounds like, which is squatting wherever you can and pooping right on the ground, which can not only pollute the immediate area, but can also contaminate community water supplies. Sanitation and clean water go hand in hand.
5. The average American, taking a 5 minute shower, uses more water than an average person in the slums of a developing country does in a whole day. And to be honest, it seems like a 5 minute shower is probably on the short side for many people, so that's as if we used our entire day's water ration, just to wash our body.
Water poverty and its related issues affect the health, wealth, education, and wellbeing of all of those who live with it every day, so supporting clean water initiatives can make a big difference for many of our fellow Earthlings. But that doesn't always have to be in the form of a monetary donation to a water charity or nonprofit (although those are certainly welcome).
The theme of this year's World Water Day is Water and Energy, because those two issues are not only closely interlinked, but also interdependent, and addressing them both is the only way forward. To learn more about the relationship between those seemingly disparate issues, watch and share this Water & Energy video playlist
(March 19, 2015) -- In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as the first World Water Day. And with good reason -- without water, we'd be nothing. Just dust. Water is one of the most common substances on earth, and one of the most vital; it's a tremendously valuable resource, yet one we squander and pollute prodigiously.
Water is deceptive. For while it pours freely from the heavens and seems to flow endlessly in rivers, it's a finite resource; we only have what we have. And although there is about 332,500,000 cubic miles of it on earth -- only one-hundredth of one percent of the world's water is readily available for human use. We really need to learn how to show it some respect. Which is where World Water Day comes in.
Even though water deserves celebration every day, we'll take this occasion to give a shout-out to this incredible compound that gives us life and sustains the planet around us. So with that in mind, consider the following facts -- some wondrous, some disconcerting, all eye-opening:
1. The average human body is made of 50 to 65 percent water.
2. Newborn babies have even more, ringing in at 78 percent water.
3. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.
4. A cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds.
5. An inch of water covering one acre (27,154 gallons) weighs 113 tons.
6. Water covers 70.9 percent of the planet's surface.
7. Ninety-seven percent of the water on Earth is salt water; the water found in the Earth's lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, swamps, etcetera accounts for only 0.3 percent of the world's fresh water. The rest is trapped in glaciers or is in the ground.
8. There is more water in the atmosphere than in all of our rivers combined.
9. If all of the water vapor in our planet's atmosphere fell as water at once and spread out evenly, it would only cover the globe with about an inch of water.
10. More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply -- the same place that tap water comes from.
11. Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day; nearly half of that is used for thermoelectric power generation.
12. In a year, the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons.
13. Since the average faucet releases 2 gallons of water per minute, you can save up to four gallons of water every morning by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth.
14. A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.
15. At one drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons in a year.
16. A bath uses up to 70 gallons of water; a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons.
17. The first water pipes in the US were made from hollowed logs.
18. Leaks in the New York City water supply system account for 36 million gallons of wasted water per day.
19. There are around one million miles of water pipeline and aqueducts in the US and Canada, enough to circle the globe 40 times.
20. 748 million people in the world do not have access to an improved source of drinking water
21. And 2.5 billion people do not have use of an improved sanitation facility.
22. Some 1.8 billion people worldwide drink water that is contaminated with feces.
23. The World Health Organization recommends 2 gallons per person daily to meet the requirements of most people under most conditions; and around 5 gallons per person daily to cover basic hygiene and food hygiene needs.
24. On average, an American resident uses about 100 gallons of water per day.
25. On average, a European resident uses about 50 gallons of water per day.
26. On average, a resident of sub-Saharan Africa uses 2 to 5 gallons of water per day.
27. It takes .26 gallons of water to irrigate one calorie of food.
28. (Yet it takes 26 gallons for one calorie of food when water is used inefficiently.)
29. It takes 2.6 gallons of water to make a sheet of paper.
30. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to make 17 ounces of plastic.
31. It takes 924 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of rice.
32. It takes 2,641 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans.
33. It takes 3,962 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of beef.
34. It takes 39,090 gallons more water to manufacture a new car.
35. In developing nations women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water; on average, 25 percent of their day is spent on this task.
36. Collectively, South African women and children walk a daily distance equivalent to 16 trips to the moon and back to fetch water.
Sources: UN World Water Day; EPA Water Sense; EPA Water. THIS WORLD WATER DAY, A RECOVERY PLAN
IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER Maude Barlow / The Huffington Post
(March 22, 2015) -- Twenty-two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 to be World Water Day. In a world is facing a severe and growing water crisis without a roadmap, this day is more important than ever.
Our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter "a new geologic age" -- a "planetary transformation" akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. This is according to 500 renowned scientists brought together in Bonn at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 2013. A majority of the world's population lives within 30 miles of water sources that are badly impaired or running out, the scientists said.
The water crisis is also our greatest security threat. This is according to 900 global experts asked to assess the world's biggest global risks in advance of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. Another global study warns that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. Lack of access to clean water is already by far the greatest killer of children.
So how are world leaders and global institutions dealing with this threat? Very badly and with no plan. This is because the water crisis has been misdiagnosed.
While recognized as real, the water crisis is usually seen as a symptom of climate change, itself caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Droughts are almost always reported as the result of climate change. While no doubt greenhouse gas emission-driven climate change does have an important and negative impact on watersheds, warming temperatures and speeding up evaporation, there is another story that needs to be told.
Massive water diversion for flood irrigation and the over-exploitation of groundwater has left large areas of the world without water. The destruction of the Aral Sea and Lake Chad -- once t he fourth and sixth largest lakes in the world respectively -- was not caused by climate change. It was a result of relentless extraction for commodity exports.
The drought crisis in California is not climate change per se, but the massi ve engineering of the state's water supplies to provide for a handful of powerful farmers. A huge amount of the state's water is exported as "virtual water" embedded in export commodities. The Ogallala Aquifer is not being depleted by climate change, but from unremitting extraction, mostly for corn ethanol .
Removing water from water-retentive landscapes leaves behind parched lands and desertification, another cause of the water crisis. Removing vegetation from water-retentive landscapes changes the water patterns forever. The current crisis in Brazil -- once a water rich country -- is largely due to the destruction of the rainforest. Take down the forests and the hydrologic cycle is negatively affected.
Because the water crisis is misdiagnosed, we do not have the right solutions to solve the crisis. World leaders, e lected officials and international institutions wrap the water crisis in with their research and deliberations on climate change.
If water is mentioned at all, it is as one more victim of climate change, almost always solely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The fact that destroying water-retentive landscapes is in and of itself a major cause of climate change is not part of the analysis or discussion in climate change circles.
As a consequence, flawed as it is, there is a very serious process to deal with climate change, including an annual climate summit every December and multiple preparatory meetings in between. But there is no corresponding process to deal with the global water crisis.
The UN General Assembly has not specifically included water in its agenda. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit targeted water, climate change, biodiversity and desertification for action; all but water have since been addressed with a convention and a plan.
There is no coordinated response to the world's growing water crisis, even as it threatens life on earth, either inside the United Nations or among nations. Any attempt at answers is local, sporadic and underfunded.
Water must be addressed as an issue in and of itself. There is an urgent need to create a global water recovery plan for water.
Key components would include:
* watershed protection
* conservation and restoration
* national and community programs to replenish water-retentive landscapes
* watershed sharing and governance
* m odels of food and energy production that do not harm water
* the prevention of eutrophication
* consideration of the impact on water of trade agreements
* strong local, national and international commitment to put water protection at the heart of all laws and policies.
The notion that water can become a negotiating tool for cooperation and peace rather than the cause of conflict and war must be explored and the path to water justice must be a central tenet of this plan.
Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution. It recognized water and sanitation as fundamental human rights. It is urgent that the United Nations and world leaders now take the next step toward a water-secure future. They need to commit to creating a global water recovery plan for water that has its own convention, plan of action and the resources needed to meet the greatest threat of our time.
Maude Barlow is a Canadian who has been a leader in the fight for the human right to water. She served as Senior Advisor on Water to the UN General Assembly. Her latest book is Blue Future, Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever. Follow Maude Barlow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MaudeBarlow
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