Global Water Crisis: Facts, Faqs, And How To Help

     

Water covers 70% of our planet, và it is easy lớn think that it will always be plentiful. However, freshwater—the stuff we drink, bathe in, irrigate our farm fields with—is incredibly rare. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, & two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use.

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As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to lớn water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people—they are exposed khổng lồ diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone.

Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes và aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to lớn use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source và wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages & droughts in some areas & floods in others.

At the current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Và ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.


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The human population has successfully harnessed many of the world’s natural waterways—building dams, water wells, vast irrigation systems and other structures that have allowed civilizations khổng lồ grow and thrive. But water systems are increasingly stressed, và some rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up.


As humans continue lớn pump more carbon dioxide và other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, patterns of weather & water will change around the world. Droughts will become more common in some places, floods in others. Glaciers & snow packs will disappear in some areas, affecting the freshwater supplies to lớn those downstream communities. These changes will combine lớn make less water available for agriculture, energy generation, cities và ecosystems around the world.


Water pollution comes from many sources including pesticides và fertilizers that wash away from farms, untreated human wastewater, & industrial waste. Even groundwater is not safe from pollution, as many pollutants can leach into underground aquifers. Some effects are immediate, as when harmful bacteria from human waste contaminate water & make it unfit to lớn drink or swim in. In other instances—such as toxic substances from industrial processes—it may take years khổng lồ build up in the environment và food chain before their effects are fully recognized.


Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s accessible freshwater, but some 60% of this is wasted due khổng lồ leaky irrigation systems, inefficient application methods as well as the cultivation of crops that are too thirsty for the environment in which they are grown. This wasteful use of water is drying out rivers, lakes & underground aquifers. Many countries that produce large amounts of food—including India, China, Australia, Spain và the United States—have reached or are close to lớn reaching their water resource limits. Added khổng lồ these thirsty crops are the fact that agriculture also generates considerable freshwater pollution – both through fertilizers as well as pesticides – all of which affect both humans & other species.


In the last 50 years, the human population has more than doubled. This rapid growth— with its accompanying economic development and industrialization—has transformed water ecosystems around the world and resulted in a massive loss of biodiversity. Today, 41% of the world’s population lives in river basins that are under water stress. Concern about water availability grows as freshwater use continues at unsustainable levels. Furthermore, these new faces also need food, shelter, and clothing, thus resulting in additional pressure on freshwater through the production of commodities & energy.

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Clean freshwater is an essential ingredient for a healthy human life, but 1.1 billion people lack access lớn water và 2.7 billion experience water scarcity at least one month a year. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may be facing water shortages. When waters run dry, people can’t get enough lớn drink, wash, or feed crops, and economic decline may occur. In addition, inadequate sanitation—a problem for 2.4 billion people—can lead lớn deadly diarrheal diseases, including cholera and typhoid fever, và other water-borne illnesses.


About half of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed since 1900. Some of the most productive habitats on the planet, wetlands support high concentrations of animals—including mammals, birds, fish và invertebrates—and serve as nurseries for many of these species. Wetlands also tư vấn the cultivation of rice, a staple in the diet of half the world’s population. And they provide a range of ecosystem services that benefit humanity, including water filtration, storm protection, flood control & recreation.


When water becomes scarce, natural landscapes often đại bại out. The Aral Sea in central Asia was once the world’s fourth largest freshwater lake. But in only three decades, the sea has lost an area the form size of Lake Michigan. It is now as salty as an ocean due khổng lồ the excessive pollution và the diversion of water for irrigation & power generation. As the sea has retracted, it has left polluted land. This ecological catastrophe has created food shortages and resulted in a rise in infant mortality & a decrease in life expectancy for the nearby population.


Impacted Species & Places


What WWF Is Doing


Managing Water Scarcity


When water supplies are limited and poorly managed, both ecosystems & people suffer. Efficient và effective water management is necessary. WWF works with partners to lớn advance the science of water conservation. We also work with governments, businesses and local communities khổng lồ ensure that there are sufficient in-stream flows for people và other freshwater species, and promote methods for sustainable water use.


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Tonga Lake in Algeria is designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.


To benefit both people & nature, WWF advocates for và supports organizations lớn become responsible water stewards. At the global level, we work on projects khổng lồ establish an international water stewardship standard through the Alliance for Water Stewardship. We also support the use of water footprinting tools with the Water Footprint Network and promote other international initiatives with the United Nations’ CEO Water Mandate và the World Economic Forum. At the local level, WWF conducts projects that measure water use và river basin impacts và demonstrate solutions for reducing these impacts. WWF partners with businesses and industries to identify water risks and take advantage of opportunities lớn enhance water stewardship.


The international treaty known as the Ramsar Convention was established lớn protect wetlands around the world. Forty years later, there are more than 2,000 wetlands designated as Wetlands of International Importance. This means that the country where the wetland is located has committed itself to lớn protecting the site from development, pollution, & drainage. About 75% of the sites added khổng lồ the menu since 1999 were included as a result of work by WWF.


WWF works khổng lồ address institutional challenges to lớn managing water resources and protecting habitats before the worst impacts of climate change occur. This work includes promoting climate change adaptation in international conventions và supporting the preservation & restoration of wetlands. We help conduct assessments of river basins’ vulnerabilities to climate change & integrate climate change considerations into river basin management.

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Projects


Publications


How You Can Help


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