(Sixteen-minute read)

We all know that the current changes in our planet’s climate are redrawing the world and magnifying the risks for instability in all forms.

Theoretical view of the Sun as a red giant from a barren Earth

Water is one of the most valuable resources on Earth.

Probably every manufactured product uses water during some part of the production process.

It is the source of life on Earth and quite possibly beyond.

It covers over two-thirds of the planet’s surface, makes up around 70% of the human body and is essential for life.

Water is indispensable to human life.

In theory, the amount of water on earth will always remain the same.

How likely are the water wars to arise?

Water has ranked in the top five risks for seven consecutive years in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report.

There is already plenty of evidence to suggests that climate change drives conflict and social unrest, directly linking both in a cause-and-effect relationship.

Water-related challenges such as shortages and sanitation are already increasing smaller-scale conflict and instability within and across national borders.

Its scarcity is playing a role in fuelling the political and security crisis in Yemen.

Afghanistan’s efforts to harness the waters of the Helmand River and the Harirud to support post-conflict reconstruction and development have alarmed Iran.

The long-standing conflict over water from the Cauvery River between the Indian states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has recently resurfaced.

However, it is rarely the lack of water as such that fuels conflict, but rather its governance and management.

And if you look at the headline threats to humanity and the planet over the next decade, as pinpointed by 1,000 experts, all but one are linked to water. These include extreme weather, natural and man-made disasters, climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.

This is a grim fact of modern life and despite having contributed the least to anthropogenic climate change of anyone, low-income, resource-poor nations will be affected the most.

You can’t escape climate change if your feet are on the ground.

It is widely agreed that a business-as-usual approach cannot address global water challenges in the future, nor will our current strategies sustain the world’s thirst much longer, particularly when the population hits eight, nine or ten billion in the coming decades.

Yet cold, hard data on how our water systems function is still lacking.

The World Health Organization estimates 844 million people lack basic drinking water; some two billion use a source contaminated with faeces.

With a warming of 2 to 4C, most regions in Africa will experience a 60 to 80 per cent reduction of surface run-off by 2100.

Last year, Cape Town came within a few drops of Day Zero when the taps are turned off. A serious drought was only just averted.

There is no need here to draw a picture of what would happen if  New York or any other city with a few million inhabitants suffered fresh water shortages.

With 55% of us already living in urban areas which are forecasted to hit 68% by 2050 many cities and towns that are in low-lying coastal locations are under threat to flooding.

Let’s face it, water is chronically undervalued and, in some cases, not valued at all.

Only by embedding its true financial, social and environmental value into policymaking, governance, and financial and risk reporting can we instil a better mentality.

The resilience of our society, both in terms of economic growth and human security, must be addressed through a water lens.

As the Paris climate change conference showed making pledges, is one thing, delivering on them often another.

The emerging fourth industrial revolution technologies – machine-learning, artificial intelligence, advanced sensors, satellite imagery, robotics and others – have the potential to unlock a wealth of previously unobtainable data about water systems at the global, regional, watershed and local level.

Unfortunately, all this data will achieve little or nothing unless its value is realized and appreciated today.

In 2021, the Surface Water Ocean Topography mission, a joint satellite mission between Nasa and France, will use radar technology to provide the first global survey of Earth’s water, measuring how bodies of water change over time. The satellite will survey at least 90 per cent of the planet, studying lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans roughly twice every 21 days.


Consumers may already be aware of the environmental impact of producing goods in terms of energy or pollution, but they might be surprised to learn how much water is needed to create some daily goods.

Growing coffee beans is a thirsty business, as is growing cotton – 10,000 litres of water in a pair of jeans – and 2,500 litres in the average T-shirt. Avocados, almonds – even bottles of water themselves, are all highly water-intensive enterprises.

Common sense says it’s TIME TO STOP EATING – HAMBURGERS.

A hamburger takes 2,400 litres, or 630 gallons, of water to produce.

Thousands of litres are needed to make shoes and microchips.

Somewhere around 30 litres of water is required for tea itself, 10 litres for a small dash of milk and a further 6 litres for each teaspoon of sugar. This means that a simple cup of tea with milk and two sugars could actually require 52 litres of water – enough to fill my kettle more than 30 times.

Agriculture uses about 70% of freshwater across the globe.

When countries and regions with water shortages pour their water into exports, on the surface it can look as if they are making a profit, but in the long term their reliance on diminishing water resources will be damaging.


There is the same amount of freshwater on earth as there always has been.

Water scarcity is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social forces.

In essence, only 0.007 per cent of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion people.

Desalinated seawater is now a mainstay of the Israeli water supply.

A hundred million gallons of ocean water is to be pumped through the Carlsbad Desalination Project each day. … The fat pipe, also known as the brine pit, is where the salt that’s been removed from the drinking water is returned to the ocean wreaking havoc with the ocean’s delicate ecosystems.

Worldwide, some 700 million people don’t have access to enough clean water. In 10 years the number is expected to explode to 1.8 billion.

The UN predicts that by 2025 14 per cent of the world will rely on desalination to meet water needs.

Desalination is being used as a last resort in California.

Water obtained from desalination costs twice the amount of water from freshwater sources. The only way desalination can be a good option for solving the water crisis is if renewable energy is used and the salt extracted is not returned to the sea.

These kinds of industrial desalination plant are generally constructed near the coastline and the discharge-pumped back into the sea causing indirect but well-documented environmental pollution;

Combining renewable energy with improved technology could make desalination a more viable option however desalination is not a silver bullet.

At the moment 844 million people do not even have access to a basic water source.

There is no global governance system for water.

60% of all surface water on earth comes from river basin shared by separate nations and almost 600 aquifers cross national boundaries.

It would cost just over £21bn a year to 2030, or 0.1% of global GDP, to provide water and hygiene to all those who need it, but the World Bank estimates that the economic benefits would be $60bn a year.

Bottled water privatization creates a monopoly on a resource that should otherwise be available to the people who live in the region where the water is located.

If you asked me I would say that we will have to learn once again to show humility, even reverence, for this vital liquid.

In other words, coping with drought and water shortage by reducing water consumption, rather than (fueling consumption by) increasing water supply.

For example, the EU is generating an enormous amount of pollution in other countries by consuming imported products without having to deal with the consequences.

The challenge we now face as we head into the future is how to effectively conserve, manage, and distribute the water we have.

Nobody knows how much water is left.Image result for dry dessert

We’ve buried our head in the sand for far too long. Rough estimates say in little over a decade half of the world will be living in areas where there simply isn’t enough to go round.

The one thing we do know is that even though the earth is changing on its own, we’re ultimately responsible for the dangers we’re facing today.

It’s time to start making big changes before it’s too late.

How about recharge our groundwater from melting glaciers.

Hopefully, we’ll come up with ways to produce more water before we hit the point where half the world will be desperate for it.

Perhaps here in the European Union, we could make it compulsory for all farmers to use field sensors, ( that are available for as little as 10 euros a year,) that can monitor the moisture content in soil, letting farmers know whether irrigation is needed and allowing them to calibrate the irrigation more finely than has previously been possible.

But science and technology can only go so far.

As with most water issues, the biggest problem is still governance and equity.

Even if when you factor in the fact that with global warming well underway 2/3 of the freshwater in the world is locked up in frozen glaciers.

One of the potentially most destabilising global water-related threats will be rising food prices and increased hunger.

Climate change is, self-evidently, becoming a global phenomenon.

95% of this drama will unfold in the next 50 to 100 years.

The crux of the matter is that climate change isn’t just a ubiquitous problem, it’s also deeply complex.

With or without climate change water will be the key environmental issue of the century.

how much water on earth is drinkable


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