We are constantly being told to save water. There have been many warnings from both science and the media suggesting that one day in the near future, we may indeed run out of H2O. It's expected that two-thirds of the population of the world will face water shortages by 2025.
The thought that people across the globe will eventually go thirsty is frightening, especially since this is a real possibility. After all, the population on Earth is continuously increasing, therefore requiring more fresh drinking water every day; not to mention global heating reducing the amount that is available to us.
Let's delve deeper into this topic and see if having enough water to survive is a real threat to humanity.
The Short Answer
No, the Earth itself will not run out of water as it contains enormous quantities of H2O within its oceans, lakes, rivers, atmosphere, and even in the rocks of the inner Earth!
Three-quarters of the globe is made up of our oceans. We also have mountain glaciers, polar ice caps, rocks that hold H2O in Earths' inner layers, lakes, and rivers.
So, there is an abundance of H2O and the Earth will not, in a literal sense, run out of water.
If This is True, Why are there Water Shortages?
It's true that the Earth has various bodies of water; however, you can't just fill up a bottle from the ocean and drink it. For this reason, millions of people lack clean freshwater.
Many areas of the world are facing shortages because accessible drinking water is difficult to transport, not to mention it's unevenly distributed across the globe.
- Why? Because some areas don't have the infrastructure to have constant freshwater supplies. Since hydration is crucial for our health, shortages here may affect survival.
It's also a worry that the world's human population is around 7.5 billion, and continues to grow. Water isn't only used for consumption but also for the following:
- Industrial purposes
- And more.
These issues, along with droughts, mean that shortages are becoming more common across the Earth.
How the Cycle Works — Freshwater to Drinking Water
The Earth's water goes through a cyclical process over millions of years, where it is recycled between different parts of the planet.
This water is from inner Earth, the oceans and rivers, and the globe's atmosphere. Meaning, the amount of H2O on Earth is always being regulated by the planet itself.
The thing is, the water that humans need to survive is different from natural freshwater — we need ‘sustainably managed' water. This refers to it being purified for human use and consumption.
Freshwater Has to Undergo Multiple Physical Processes…
… in order to meet government standards for human use. The processes include:
- Filtration — Helps separate solid from fluid, ensuring only liquid goes through the filter. This filtration process is incredibly important as it helps reduce the concentration of viruses, parasites, algae, bacteria and fungi in our H2O.
- Distillation — Separates components of liquids through a boiling and cooling process.
- Sedimentation — Allows sediment to settle through A clarifier is often used to assist with the process.
There are also chemical processes involved such as chlorination and flocculation. Electromagnetic radiation is also used, such as UV light, as part of the purification process.
You can understand how costly, complex and lengthy process of purifying H2O is; which is why some parts of the world don't have this system.
What is Water Being Used For?
Alongside overpopulation, one of the problems with water shortages is that it is not just for drinking and food production anymore. The increasing manufacture of material goods in first and second world countries is not helping the issue.
Here's an indication of how much H2O is used in the manufacture of common items:
- 14,502 liters = one smartphone
- 10,000 liters = a single pair of jeans
- 2,500 liters = a cotton t-shirt
- Around 100 liters = 1lb plastic
Another industry that really drains our H2O is the automotive industry. Think of how many cars you see every day. You'll be shocked to know that the average domestic car uses 147,631 liters of water to manufacture.
Some of our much-loved food items can be some of the most water-intensive of all. Bear in mind that around 70% of our freshwater on the planet is used for agriculture.
- Chocolate uses around 17,000 liters to produce just 1 kilogram
- 1lb of beef requires just over 8,100 liters
- 1lb of cheese uses 2,727 liters
The beverage industry also uses a vast amounts, as you would imagine. Since we discovered the luxury of novelty drinks, their presence continues to increase in our supermarkets. It takes 75 liters to make a pint of beer, and 140 liters of water to produce one cup of coffee.
What Are the Solutions?
It can be a bit scary taking in all this information. However, there are, like most problems, solutions. These solutions must be taken seriously by large organizations, corporations, and governments if they are to succeed, as well as individual people.
Some counties manage water poorly, but some simple techniques to rectify this can be very effective.
Take plugging pipes. Aging and poorly maintained pipe infrastructure can lead to leaks, which can waste 300 liters of water each year.
Limited water supplies can also be better managed if workers such as farmers are given clearer targets for waste reduction.
Also, better information and more funding for water-efficient technologies are other ways to help businesses with water-saving practices.
A focus on water conservation technologies here is key. Industries need to pay more attention and look after the water cycle. If they prevent polluting the water, it can then be returned to the cycle. Contraptions such as cisterns can help capture rain, which can then be utilized.
Water needs to be saved for necessities and prioritized accordingly. Using it for luxuries such as watering golf courses, and bottled water, needs to be reviewed.
Reduce Industry Water Consumption
Industry uses around 22% of the world's water. This is higher in countries with higher GDP compared to those with a lower GDP. This includes direct and indirect usage and implementing sustainable practices. It's also important to hold corporations accountable.
Develop Better Regulations
To assist with all the above, and more, governments need to improve effective regulations. This could involve:
- Stopping people inappropriately disposing of waste
- Allowing for better infrastructure
- Pricing water in a way that will be beneficial to all
This is a crucial solution. It's the same with the climate crisis; the population must be educated on how to change their lifestyles to help reduce the impact of these threats. We must be fully aware of what lies ahead. Consuming less is a seemingly simple, yet hugely effective approach.
It's not just individuals either, but corporations and supply chains need to be equipped with the right information to ensure they act sustainably.
Many of us grew up with being told to ‘save water’, and still do now. However, that phrase seems quite vague. We get told we shouldn't waste it, but not the reasons for this need, including the risk of severe water shortages all over the world.
After reading this article, you should hopefully be more clued-up on why it's necessary to save water. The world will never ‘run out’ of H2O. However, unless we take action, we may struggle to ensure there is enough drinkable water for everyone to live long and healthy lives.