Water (called as its chemical name H2O), is a solvent and the most abundant liquid on the Earth. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface.
How does it look like?
It’s a transparent and nearly colorless chemical substance that is the main constituent of Earth’s streams, lakes, and oceans and the fluids of most living organisms.
In nature, we can find it in 3 different states:
Solid: as snow, glaciers, ice packs and icebergs,
Liquid: as oceans, lakes, rivers, aquifers, dew
Gas: as vapors, water clouds, fogs, and atmospheric humidity.
And water can change its form through heat absorption or release linked to temperature change:
Clean water is defined as water that is safe for human, animal, and plant use. It is divided into different kinds of water:
Freshwater: natural water that is suitable for plant consumption; some animal and human uses (usually not for drinking use)
Drinkable water: water reserved for human & animal consumption, suitable for drinking.
Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. It is vital for all known forms of life but accessible freshwater represents a very small fractionof it and its repartition is very unequal :
Human activities use large amounts of available freshwater, and approximately 2/3 of humans freshwater consumption is used for agriculture.
Here is a graph presenting the general use of freshwater by humanity in 2010:
As already explored, water is a precious, fundamental, and limited resource but also it plays an important role in the world economy:
Approximately 70% of the freshwater used by humans goes to agriculture.
Fishing in salt and fresh water bodies is a major source of food for many parts of the world.
For our health and to prevent dehydration, it is recommended to drink a minimum of 1,5L of water (up to 16L depending on the region of the world we are living in)
We intended to sum up the main challenges we are facing as humanity in this century, by gathering a few strong facts.
I – DIRTY WATER AND DISEASES
Fact 1: In 2015, 1.8 billion people still use an unsafe drinking water source which may be contaminated by feces. (Source)
Fact 2: Millions of people are infected with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water and/or hygiene-related, such as Guinea Worm Disease, Buruli Ulcer, Trachoma, and Schistosomiasis.
These diseases are most often found in places with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices. (Source)
Fact 3: The WHO estimates that in 2015, the deaths of 361,000 children under 5-years-old could have been avoided by addressing water and sanitation risk factors. (Source)
II – WATER RENEWABLE CYCLE DIMINUTION AND DEPENDENCE
Fact 4: The renewable internal freshwater resources of most countries in the world are decreasing since 1962.
So passed Brazil, the largest renewable water reserve in the world, from 74 000 m3 to 28 000m3 renewable water per year, resulting in being divided by 2,6 in 52 years. (Source)
Fact 5: The WRI estimated in 2013 that 36 countries faced “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress: these countries are mainly located in Northern Africa, Southern & Central Asia & Middle-East. (Source)
Fact 6: In 2012, the global consumption of bottled water amounted to 288 billion liters and was forecasted to reach 391 billion liters by 2017. (Source)
III – WATER POLLUTION & REDUCTION OF OCEAN SPECIES
Fact 7: A huge percentage of the available freshwater is polluted with trash and waste from the cities as well as with toxins due to industrial processes, agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, and wastewater.
Polluted water is considered to be responsible for 14 000 human deaths daily worldwide. (Source)
Fact 8: In 2015, it was estimated that there were 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. 269 000 tons of that mass are floating on the surface, while the deep sea is littered with approx. 4 billion plastic microfibers/km².
Also on average each human absorb the equivalent of a credit card (5g) of micro-plastic every week, the consequences on health are still unknown. (Source)
Reminder : if takes from 20 fo 550 years to plastic objects to biodegrade in the sea.
Fact 9: From 1950 to 2000 the phytoplankton population has been reduced by 40 %. The higher temperature of the sea surface, overfishing and acidification is in charge of this reduction. (Source)
Phytoplankton is not only a highly important part of the seafood chain by being at its base but also responsible for 50 % of the oxygen that we breathe (more than the forests)
At least one very good news: The access to improved drinking water has been mainly increasing in most of the countries in the world as you can see on this very good interactive graph made by Our World in Data.
KNOW YOUR PERSONAL WATER FOOTPRINT
You are wondering how much water is hidden behind your daily habits?
Freshwater is essential to our life. First of all, we can’t live without it, but we can improve our use of it by changing our lifestyle and relation to it.
We have to rethink our individual and collective relationships to this vital resource.
For example, stop flushing drinkable water in the toilet and instead flush greywater, or even stop using water altogether. Alternatively, make the black water useful for creating new energy (like biodigester) and get it biologically filtered locally.
At the same time, we need to improve our access to it, use resilient, low energy consumption methods to permit everyone access to the precious liquid.
We need ambitious policies to protect this necessity for humans and the environment from greed and pollution, as well as to ensure fair and safe access to it.
Finally, we need to adapt our practices to reduce its waste in agriculture or industry, through improving the irrigation, the water retainment efficiency, and strongly reduce our consumption of products and materials requiring a lot of water (like meat, cotton, plastic, …)
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