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Water scarcity, the next pandemic. As we move deeper into the 21st century, due to extreme population growth and climate change, we're experiencing an era of resource exploitation, especially concerning our most precious resource, water. In the next 40 years, one third of the world's people are expected to lack access to a fresh water source.
One Colorado business man, Terry Trapp, is looking to export water in converted oil tankers from Alaska's Blue Lake reservoir to countries in need of external water supplies. One potential recipient is India, the second most populous nation on Earth, which is already experiencing extreme water scarcity. The facts: Only 2.5% of the world's water is fresh waster.
However, humans only have access to 1% of this already scarce resource. Fresh water includes all the naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface that has low salt concentrations. Bodies of fresh water include rivers, lakes, streams, and ground water situated in aquifers.
The fresh water that is accessible to humans is distributed very unevenly across the globe in terms of regions and population. It is estimated that people in developed countries currently consume on average over 10 times more water a day than those in developing countries. Uses: The three main uses of fresh water are agriculture, industry, and domestic use.
In 2000 it was estimated that 86% of the world's total fresh water withdrawal was for agricultural purposes. Industry is the next largest user of water. With thermonuclear power plants, mining, aquacultures, and the raising of livestock as the major industry uses of water. Domestic uses such as drinking water and cooking and cleaning needs make up the third main use of water.
Climate change: Climate change affects the availability of fresh water due to increasing water vapor in the atmosphere, changes in precipitation, and air and ocean temperature. The cryosphere which is snow, ice, and frozen ground, stores about 75% of the world's fresh water. More than 1/6th of the world's population relies on glacier or snow melt.
However, experts believe that water supplies stored in these glaciers and snow cover will decline within the next century due to increasing temperatures. Increasing temperatures also results in droughts affecting flood plains and other ecosystems. The consequences:
Almost one billion people lack access to clean drinking water worldwide, with a documented 800 people dying every day because of water-born diseases. By 2050, 7 billion people are expected to be suffering from water stress. Farmers now have to transport large amounts of water to dry regions for irrigation purposes. Fresh water scarcity also leads to conflict over water rights.
Lack of access and poor distribution of fresh water provokes violence in many communities. Solutions: There are ways however to adapt to the growing scarcity of water. Desalinization, removing salt from water, is possible through processes such as electrodialysis and reverse osmosis. These processes, are becoming more cost effective by advances in energy efficient technology.
More efficient agricultural practices such as drip irrigation and micro-sprinkles are used less than 2% of the time. In addition to large scale technologies, every individual has the power to help reserve this precious resource. So what can you do to cut down on your water waste? Secure the plumbing in your home. Leaky faucets can add up to 20 gallons of wasted water a day.
A running toilet can waste 10 times that mount. Take shorter showers. Showers add up to approximately 30% of home water use in the US. Choose landscaping appropriate for your area, utilizing plants native to your continent. Eat less meat, especially beef. A single hamburger requires 630 gallons of water to make, these are all simple steps you can take.
As our world continues to modernize, and our population continues to grow, it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain water equitably and sustainably. But there is hope, as we have just addressed there are many technologies available and behavioral changes we can make to help alleviate water scarcity. But the first step towards reducing this problem is a pledge of support from every nation and person across the world before it's too late.