Since the beginning of civilisation, people have settled - and built communities around bodies of water, in order to utilise freshwater resources in their daily activities and have done so quite successfully. So one may ask why this issue has arisen if for centuries humankind, and all other life forms managed to use this fairly constant resource effectively. It is important to note that while the amount of water on Earth has remained constant, population numbers have grown exponentially thus dramatically increasing demands on water supplies.
The twentieth century alone saw the world’s population triple in number, while the demand on water resources has grown six-fold. This is due to the fact that human beings do not rely on water solely for personal consumption. In fact, if we look at a break down of global water usage, we see that only 10% of freshwater resources is used by domestic households, while 20% is used in industries and a massive 66% in agriculture. As per capita increases due to lifestyle changes and increased population, so too does the proportion of water used by each individual. It is therefore easy to understand how an increasing population coupled with industrialisation and urbanisation has resulted in the depletion of our freshwater resources, illustrating the severity of this issue should global trends should continue at the rate predicted.
According to the World Bank, worldwide demand for water is doubling every twenty-one years, even faster in highly developed areas and it is unrealistic to think that the world’s water supply can keep up with this pace. (World Water Forum)
Some scientists believe that we are already living beyond our means in this regard. If we agree that access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation is a universal human right (Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and that without it people’s health and well-being is jeopardised, it statistically demonstrates that perhaps we have already stretched this resource too far. Today, 1,1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, while a further two out of six people do not have access to sanitation. ( The World Health Organisation/UNICEF JMP, 2009) Thousands of impoverished people, the majority youth, die each day from water borne diseases as a result of contaminated water.