Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A thirsty planet

Two-thirds of the world is covered in water, containing over a billion trillion liters of water. So how could we have water shortages? The vast majority of water on earth is saltwater and therefore not fit for human consumption. Only 2.5 percent of all water is freshwater. But more than two-thirds of that is locked away in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves a tiny fraction of water to drink, cook with, irrigate crops and feed livestock.  But water is a renewable resource that moves in a cycle. The amount of H2O on our planet will always remain the same, and won't run out as such. The question is whether we will have enough clean water available for all citizens at all times.  Vincent Casey, a water expert at WaterAid, explained "A big challenge is that water isn't always where you need it and when you need it most. So investment has to go into water storage and distribution, to ensure people always have access to safe water,"

According to a 2016 study by the University of Twente in the Netherlands, 4 billion people could face severe water shortages for at least a month every year. In some regions, people are already severely affected by droughts and water scarcity. Millions of people in the Horn of Africa face hunger and illness after years of recurring drought. And Pakistan could run dry by 2025, a UN report suggests. Groundwater is over-extracted; rivers and lakes are drying up or becoming too polluted to use.

 Around 70 percent of all freshwater on the planet goes into irrigation of fields and feeding of livestock. In Spain's tomato-growing region, farmers using the latest technology have managed to decrease their water consumption over the years. But in the industry as a whole - which produces a quarter of Europe's tomatoes - still needs more water than local water resources can supply. As a result, the region faces water scarcity.

According to the World Health Organization, human beings need at least 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of freshwater per day to prepare meals and for basic personal hygiene. Laundry and bathing are not included. Water consumption is much higher in industrialized countries, though - for example, the average person in Germany uses 140 liters per day. Flushing the toilet alone uses 30 liters.
But on the industrial scale, 840 liters of water are required to produce one pot of coffee. And more than 8,000 liters go into the manufacture of a single pair of jeans.

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