Yesterday, March 22, marked World Water Day.
Did you know that 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water?
And that by 2050, the number of people who live in severely water-scarce areas is could be 3 billion?
To make matters worse, 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water which has no protection against human faeces, and 8-% of the wastewater generated in the world flows back into the environment with no treatment or reuse.
By 2050, nearly 20% of the world’s population will be at risk from floods
And today, 1.8 billion people in the world are affected by land degradation and desertification.
So why is water in such demand?
The start, the human population is growing exponentially. By 2050, we will have increased by another 2 billion people, putting an even further strain on already limited water resources.
Much of the water consumed today is used for agriculture (70%) – in fact, a whopping 15,000 litres is used to provide just one steak for two people alone! The next biggest consumer of water is industry, including energy and manufacturing – which uses up 20% of the water stocks. Only the last 10% is actually used for domestic use, and within this, only 1% is actually used for drinking water.
But the bad news doesn’t stop there. Our own careless activities have caused much of the water shortages on earth.
In fact, 64-71% of natural wetlands have been removed since 1900 by human activity, removing a natural source of freshwater.
Soil erosion from agriculture carries away vast amounts of topsoil, which reduces the efficiency of crop yields, and the runoff from this containing pesticides and fertilizers will cause pollution of water supplies.
What can be done?
This year, the focus of World Water Day is to find Nature Based Solutions.
By restoring forests, grasslands and natural vegetation, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, we can better manage the water which is available to us, and ensure that the quality is of a better standard.
Nature Based Solutions can be a more affordable solution than simply building additional infrastructure such as a dam. In addition to this, the quality of the water will be significantly improved, by preventing soil erosion during agricultural practices by replanting vegetation as a ‘buffer’ zone alongside water courses.
By reinstating flood plains to their original state, we can help to minimize flooding events in the future, which will greatly reduce water contamination and disease outbreaks.
Reinstating natural habitats such as wetlands to their original state can provide naturally filtered freshwater as it bubbles up from a spring, or collects during rainfall events. By replanting vegetation to a barren land, the water will be better able to filter down into groundwater stores, instead of being washed away. This reduces the cost of building and maintaining man-made infrastructure, and can increase biodiversity at the same time. Water can additionally be diverted from these systems, to restore groundwater stores and prevent further flooding downstream.
What can I do?
- Eating meat is a huge drain of water – by switching to vegetarian options, or even just cutting down on your meat consumption we can greatly reduce your water consumption.
- Store rainwater – rainwater can be used as greywater to water your plants, flush your toilet, and more! It is simple to collect – just place a bucket outside and wait!
- Wash your hands – Not washing your hands can contaminate water and spread disease quickly!
- Install water saving devices on your showers and sinks
- Regularly check around your house for leaks.
To learn more about this topic, and how you can get involved, visit: http://worldwaterday.org/