Water - management and supply
Water is the most essential of all substances, upon which life is dependant.
If a large bucket of water were to represent the total water on the planet, an egg cupful would represent the amount of water locked in ice caps and glaciers, and a teaspoonful would be all that was available as drinking water.
Most of the earth's water is undrinkable because it is too salty. Only 2.5 percent of the planet's water is fresh water, and two-thirds of this percentage is locked up in icecaps and glaciers.
The majority of fresh water that falls as rain is not collected because it falls far from human habitation, forms floods or simply runs back into the sea. About half of the useable water is captured.
Of the total fresh water on the planet, about 97% is stored as groundwater or aquifers, and only 1% is available as surface water. Around 1.5 billion people – mainly rural populations – rely on the aquifers for their drinking water. As the human population has increased, there has been a greater demand for water, and the proportion of the population relying on aquifer stores has also increased.
Water is our most fundamental and vital resource, and it is depleting rapidly. Water use by human beings has increased about 40 percent in twenty years. Population increase, pollution, over-use by inefficient industrial and agricultural practices, and ineffective government policies have been the main causes of the decrease in water available worldwide.
Water has been taken for granted for years. It has been poorly managed, both at national and international level. Water has been a most undervalued resource but as demand outstrips supply, its value is about to be realised.
As a consequence of poor water management, approximately one-third of the world's population live in countries with moderate to high water stress, and more than 5 million people die annually as a result of poor water quality. In China, 22% of the entire world’s population are relying on only 8% of its fresh water supply. Other water shortage areas include the Middle East and Africa.
Human use of natural water, especially freshwater resources such as rivers and lakes, has steadily increased over the centuries. With population growth and increasing use of water for agriculture, industry and recreation, water is becoming a valuable resource. It is not only the shortage of water that is becoming an issue, but also quality.
Mineral fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides have seeped into surface and subsurface waters, contaminating them beyond human consumption and disrupting delicate ecosystems. Dumping of sewage, industrial wastes and toxins pollute rivers and lakes, and threaten the world's most important resource. Both human beings and animals depend on water. If there is to be enough water to accommodate the needs of future generations and share with other species, then we must act now to improve water management.
In the twenty-first Century we are surrounded by marvels of modern communication; we have charted the human genome and explored our solar system, yet we have not mustered the skills, resources and will to provide all members the global population with something as basic as safe water supply and adequate sanitation.
The hydrological cycle is the continuous movement of water between the earth and the atmosphere. Water evaporates from water and land surfaces, and transpires from living cells. This vapour circulates through the atmosphere, condensing to form clouds and precipitating as rain or snow. When water hits the earth's surface, it either runs into streams and ends up in oceans or lakes, or seeps into the soil. Water that seeps into the soil is either absorbed by the roots of vegetation, or it sinks into the groundwater reservoir.
What you can do
We must be efficient in our use of water. Water conservation must occur on many levels; not just at home, but in the garden, workplace, schools, and the general community.
The launch of numerous water efficient products in the last few years has ensured that there are viable alternatives to the older model appliances, which often consumed large amounts of water. Consider buying an automatic dishwasher. Although they use energy, they are generally more water efficient than hand washing in a sink. A water efficiency rating has also been applied to many modern appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines.
Wash your car at a water efficient commercial car wash. If you wash your car at home, use a bucket or mop and wash it over a green area such as a lawn. Wash windows using a bucket and mop instead of a hose. Do not use a hose on paved areas unless there is a hazard or emergency. Use a broom instead.
Install a water efficient showerhead. Fix leaking taps quickly. Consider installing a rainwater tank on your roof.
Use drought resistant plants in your garden. Use mulch around plants in summer to reduces evaporation and prevent run off. Use drip irrigation rather than sprinklers. This is more effective because it applies water directly near the root zone of the plant. Reduce the lawn area in your garden. Consider using waste water from the bath or laundry in the garden.