Please see below recent water-related change, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal goal six (SDG 6) of ensuring clean water and sanitation by 2030.
- Semiconductor manufacturing is extremely water intensive. The industry consumes as much as 264 billion gallons of water per year, and by some estimates, a large chip plant can use up to 10 million gallons of water a day, equivalent to the water consumption of roughly 300,000 households.
- Erica Gies, author of Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge believes that "Slow Water" mimics or collaborates with natural systems, restoring space for water to slow on land in wetlands, floodplains, mountain meadows, forests, tidal marshes, and mangroves. Slow Water is distributed, not centralised, and she believes it is also socially just: Slow Water doesn’t take water from some people to give to others, or protect some communities while pushing floods on to another. Slow Water gives communities agency to restore resilience to their local landscapes and revive local cultures.
- "Sponge cities" are being built around China, led by one visionary landscape architect’s model of strategic water retention for climate adaptation and resilience.
- Climate change is contributing to more droughts and water shortages on continents around the world. A UN report said drought frequency and duration had increased by nearly a third since 2000. One major solution could be increased focus on land restoration such as agroforestry and more efficient irrigation systems.
- Key commercial waterways in Europe started drying up. Rivers like the Rhine and Danube were evaporating in the heat, threatening US80 billion in trade (e.g. that same heat could make olive oil 20-25% more expensive).
- China blasted iodine rods into the air to make it rain. Authorities are trying to seed clouds as drinking water in rural areas dries up.
- The FAO warned that behind the current scramble for land in Africa is a global struggle for a commodity increasingly seen as more precious than gold or oil - water. Food cannot be grown without water. In Africa, one in three people suffer from water scarcity and climate change will make things worse. Building on Africa’s highly sophisticated indigenous water management systems could help resolve the growing crisis, but these very systems are being destroyed by large-scale land grabs amidst claims that Africa’s water is abundant, under-utilised and ready to be harnessed for export-oriented agriculture.
- Water covers more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface, but 97% of it is saltwater. The salt concentration in that water is far too high for our bodies to process — if you drank too much of it, you’d actually become dehydrated and die. What we need is freshwater, meaning a salt concentration of less than 1%, and since this water isn’t abundant, we have come up with lots of ways to remove enough salt from saltwater to make it drinkable. Researchers from MIT and China therefore developed a solar desalination device that could provide a family of four with all the drinking water it needs - and it can reportedly be made from just US$4 worth of materials.
- In many low- and middle-income countries, the availability of safe, drinkable water remains scarce. Though access has improved significantly in many places over the past two decades - by 152% in Afghanistan, for instance - the very low baseline means that still only 28% of that population has access to high-quality drinking water. Meanwhile, countries like the Central African Republic, Zambia, Nepal, and Pakistan saw their access reduced over the past two decades, reported GZERO.
- Private corporations control 454 billion cubic meters of water around the world, about 5% of the global supply. This is a major problem in Africa, where China, India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are investing heavily in water-intensive agriculture projects.
- According to the World Bank, developing countries lose about 45 million cubic meters of water daily. This water, pumped but lost or unaccounted for, can cost as much as US$3 billion per year. Being able to save even half these losses can lead to sufficient water supply for at least 90 million people.
- The risk of future water wars, is real, especially in areas such as the India-Pakistan border, where water will only become a more precious resource in coming years. Global warming could shrink the Himalayan glaciers that feed the river by more than a third in coming decades and make rainfall patterns more erratic, even as Indian and Pakistan water demand increases with population growth.
- Smartphones take an average of 3,190 gallons of water in their manufacturing process. The production of chips and semiconductors is one of the world’s most water-intensive industries.
- Since 1980, the number of hydrological-related natural catastrophes more than tripled from 97 per annum during the 1980s to an annual average of 309 between 2010 and 2019. With global temperatures expected to rise further, the World Bank estimated that water scarcity could impact GDP by up to 14% in 2050 in the most affected regions, such as the Middle East. Agriculture uses 70 per cent of global water withdrawals, but access to water is also critical for some key decarbonisation solutions.
- Three decades since the UN declared March 22 World Water Day to raise awareness about conservation efforts and the need for access to clean water, 2.2 billion people - almost a third of the global population - still lacked access to safe drinking water.
- Up to five billion people could lack access to clean water by mid-century, according to a report by the UN weather agency. Global water supplies have declined by 1 cm since 2000, in part due to climate change-induced droughts.
- A severe drought linked to high temperatures threatened up to 12 million people across Iraq and Syria, according to a report by a group of 13 aid organisations. As dams ran out of water, electricity supplies dwindled, putting the countries' already-weak healthcare systems in jeopardy as well.
- Water scarcity affects 40% of the world’s population, and BBC Future predicted the scale of conflicts will grow as demand does.
- The Economist took an in-depth look at the great US Western "dry-out" and ways to redress the situation. Thisreporting also revealed some innovative solutions which, for instance, have allowed Las Vegas Valley to cut its water use by 23% since 2002 while adding about 800,000 residents.
- Ceres’ Valuing Water Finance Taskforce and the World Bank’s 2030 Water Resource Group, among others, are acting together to address water as a systemic risk to business, people, and biodiversity. In September of 2020, 26 financial institutions signed the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge, calling on world leaders to address issues like freshwater habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem services as one interlinked issue, reported Forum for the Future.
- Beijing and New Delhi have long been at loggerheads over a disputed border area in the Himalayan mountains, which led to massive skirmishes earlier this year. Now, the two Asian powers are battling it out over water. China said that it is building a hydroelectric project in one of the largest rivers in the world that it calls Yarlung Zangbo, but that the Indians call the Brahmaputra river. After Beijing announced the project, which could be Beijing's biggest hydropower project in history if it comes to pass, New Delhi said that Beijing's aggressive plans could have major implications for India's food and water security, and that it would give China too much power to use the crucial waterway as a "weapon", noted GZERO Media.
- In the western US, water rights have always been a contentious commodity, endlessly bought, sold, reparceled, subcontracted, and grandfathered as an assortment of city officials, utility companies, ranchers and farmers, and other interested parties tussle over how to divvy up water from the Colorado River to big cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas. Now there’s a new contender: Wall Street investors. The New York Times reported on what one hedge fund manager called “the biggest emerging market on Earth.”
- From Yemen to India, and parts of Central America to the African Sahel, about a quarter of the world's people face extreme water shortages that are fuelling conflict, social unrest and migration. With the world's population rising and climate change bringing more erratic rainfall, including severe droughts, competition for scarcer water is growing, they said, with serious consequences. "If there is no water, people will start to move. If there is no water, politicians are going to try and get their hands on it and they might start to fight over it," warned the head of international cooperation at the Netherlands' foreign ministry. "It's threats like these that keep me up at night," the diplomat told a webinar hosted by the World Resources Institute.
- Water is as important to the world’s economy as oil or data. claimed McKinsey. Though most of the planet is covered in water, more than 97 percent of it is salt water. Fresh water accounts for the rest, although most of it is frozen in glaciers, leaving less than 1 percent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. Every year, we withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of fresh water from the planet’s water basins. We use it in agriculture (which accounts for 70 percent of the withdrawals), industry (19 percent), and households (11 percent).
- Data showed that water bills in the US have risen by an average of 80 percent over the past decade. Millions of families now risk having their water and sewage service cut off – or losing their homes – if they can't pay their bills, according to new findings by the Guardian.
- Though most of the planet is covered in water, more than 97 percent of it is salt water. Fresh water accounts for the rest, although most of it is frozen in glaciers, leaving less than 1 percent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. Every year, we withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of fresh water from the planet’s water basins. We use it in agriculture (which accounts for 70 percent of the withdrawals), industry (19 percent), and households (11 percent).
- According to research published in Nature Geoscience, Earth may have once been engulfed by a global ocean. With few to no landmasses present, this period in our planet's history may have serious implications for how life emerged. Researchers theorized that Oxygen-18's larger presence in the archeological record may have resulted from a simple lack of continents. While Earth may have sported a few landmasses, they would have been small, few, and far between. As larger landmasses emerged, weather and other water-rock interactions would have drawn down Oxygen-18 levels to present conditions.
- One-quarter of humanity faces a looming water crisis, including the prospect of running out of water: odd perhaps when 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. Yet up to 80% of available surface and groundwater is being used every year and water demand globally is projected to increase by 55% by 2050. Reasons for water stress around the world include the growing human population at the same time as the water supply has remained the same (given there are almost one billion more inhabitants on Earth every 15-20 years, this has led to a progressive deficit in the global water supply). Another reason is the uneven concentration of the global population. There is not a clear link between the presence of the population in some regions and the presence of water, in other words, water is not where we want it to be every time.
- The world is running out of freshwater. Just 3% of the Earth’s water is fresh, and almost nowhere is its value truly reflected in its price. However investors are paying more attention to corporate water issues and businesses are beginning to respond with innovative water saving measures.
- A report from the World Resources Institute found that countries containing one quarter of the world's population are at risk of running out of water. It also found that 33 of the world's largest cities, with a combined population of more than 250 million, face extremely high water stress, with dangerous implications for public health. Cities at greatest risk include Beijing, New Delhi, Dhaka, Riyadh, Cairo, Mexico City, and Chicago.
- According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, more than 90% of a typical bottle of cleaning product is simply water. Drying out these cleaning and personal care products does several environmentally friendly things: it reduces their volume, thus reducing the number of boats and trucks needed to transport them; it reduces their weight, thus further reducing fuel and carbon emissions associated with shipping them and it reduces the plastic packaging by requiring a smaller container to hold the refillable concentrate, or by precluding the need for any disposable plastic at all. An estimated 20% or more of global disposable plastic packaging by weight could be replaced by reusable packaging if we only shipped active ingredients.
- Another example is bottles of cleaning product which are typically over 90% water. That water adds weight, which means more trucks and boats are needed to ship them, and more pollution is generated while doing so. Vox pointed to an eco-friendlier way: just-add-water products. (A tablet also requires less packaging.)
- Of the world's 7.7 billion people, 2.1 billion still lack consistent access to safe drinking water at home, according to the latest World Water Development Report, published each year by the United Nations.
- Further reading:
- More than 700 million people already lack access to clean water. Quartz’s breakdown of Earth's looming shortage showed how our most critical resource is drying up, and where the scarcity could cause wars.
- For many others, water scarcity is a problem about to happen. By 2025, one in every two people on the planet will live with water stress. For one in nine, the problem is already here. The World Health Organisation estimated that 844 million people lack basic drinking water; some two billion use a source contaminated with faeces.
- Used water routinely gets flushed down the toilet or sink, but water shortages are now forcing people to ask not whether but how to treat and drink used water, and around the world there is a growing range of approaches to turning wastewater into drinking water.
- Further reading:
- Two-thirds of the world’s population could experience water shortages by 2025, according to World Wildlife Fund. As a result, ensuring that water is clean, efficiently used, safely stored, and transported is becoming a major priority across growing ecosystems.
- Finding a safely managed source of water is a daily challenge for more than two billion people worldwide, and water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid are still to blame for the deaths of one million people a year.
- Water has ranked in the top five risks for seven consecutive years in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report. And, points out Raconteur, if you look at the headline threats to humanity and the planet over the next decade, as pinpointed by 1,000 experts, all but one are linked to water. These include extreme weather, natural and man-made disasters, climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
- Raconteur warned too that, while other global risks have peaked and subsided, water has stubbornly remained. It is the ultimate public goods challenge, complex and inter-connected across many aspects of society. Tackling the issue requires collaborative, cross-sector solutions and a shift by all stakeholders to place a higher value on water.
- One of the largest hurdles of water resource management is the absence of comprehensive data on consumer use, noted the World Economic Forum. Smart meters are a recent trend in cities throughout the world to provide valuable information for water resource management. In London, Thames Water plans to install over 3 million water meters to provide consumer with detailed usage information encourage sustainable behaviour.
- Networked monitoring systems can also help anticipate system failures and other potential hazards. Singapore’s water grid system, WaterWiSe, monitors pressure and water quality to detect bursts and leaks and collect aggregate data to predict the impact of operational events such as pipe closures and isolation. Similarly, Melbourne and Perth have introduced a new IoT system that can optimize corrosion inspections and increase the life of infrastructure.
- Over 15,000 litres of water is used to make one pair of jeans, according to a BBC investigation.
- Water covers 71% of Earth’s surface yet only 2% of it is accessible as a source of fresh water. Pressure on this limited resource is rising, a trend likely to continue, warned Chatham House. It is important to recognise that it is not just city dwellers who consume water. Agriculture, industry and tourism often require more water than the municipal water supply. Globally, 70% of fresh water is abstracted for agriculture, but locally in heavily irrigated areas this can rise to 90 %. A healthy environment also requires fresh water; the quality is as important as its volume.
- According to a recent study, microplastics have been found in 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands.
- Water covers 71% of Earth’s surface yet only 2% of it is accessible as a source of fresh water. Pressure on this limited resource is rising, a trend likely to continue. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas but will they face a future in which water is rationed, asked Chatham House.
- Safe water enterprises (SWEs) are already changing the lives of millions by bringing safe drinking water within reach of some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities. A new EY/Unilever report aimed to illustrate their potential to change hundreds of millions more, accelerating progress toward the Global Goal of equitable access to safe, affordable drinking water for all by 2030.
- Current water infrastructure is like “a dinosaur in today’s climactic age”, warned Quartz. From rainwater catchments to direct potable reuse, its latest installment of “Shallow Waters” explored the unlikely methods engineers are trying on the hunt for sustainable solutions to water scarcity.
- Meanwhile, a recent report on water resources along national borders by Quartz found that two-thirds of the world’s frontier rivers aren’t governed by cross-border agreements, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk in the event that governments clash over those resources. There are currently open or potential water disputes between dozens of countries including the US and Mexico; India and Pakistan; Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan; and between Egypt and almost all of its southern neighbours along the Nile.
- Linkages Update brought together the IISD's recent coverage of issues related to SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation). As IISD reported on the SDG 6 discussions recently, “the world is not on track” to meet the SDG 6 targets by 2030.
- Further reading:
- A plan to tow an iceberg from Antarctica to fix Cape Town’s water crisis could reportedly supply up to 30% of the South African city’s annual needs.
An Indian government thinktank has warned that 600 million people in that country are at risk of extreme water scarcity and that 21 cities are likely to run out of groundwater in the next two years. This is not just about thirst. About 80% of India’s water is used for agriculture. Less water means lower crop yields, less food, higher food prices, and, perhaps, future political upheaval, warned GZEROMedia.
People shouldn’t treat water as private property, argued Quartz. Communities could be convinced to share access to groundwater if they’re presented with the facts.
There are two types of water, found Quartz, and they vary slightly in the electrical fields they generate.
Wars have been fought over it. People can’t live without it. And a growing global population is thirsty for more, claimed GZEROMedia. So, what happens if a major city runs out of water? Nearly 4 million people who live in Cape Town, South Africa, recently came close to finding out. Earlier this year, it looked like local authorities might have to ration water at gunpoint as the reservoirs that supply the city and its surrounding farmland started to run dry after three years of drought.
Cape Town isn’t the first big metropolis to face a water crisis in recent years. Sao Paulo, population 20 million, had a similar scare in 2015. There will be others, warned GZEROMedia, as booming urban populations meet an increase in severe weather due to climate change
- Further reading:
- SDG 06. 12 world leaders issue call for accelerated water action - EnviroNews Nigeria
- SDG 06. Anxiety drugs are getting into the water we drink. This is how we could stop them | World Economic Forum
- SDG 06. Journals Focus on Water for Sustainable Development | News | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD
- SDG 06. Making #EveryDropCount:
- SDG 6 on the 2018 Agenda | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD
- Further reading:
- While some countries have an abundant supply of fresh water, others do not have as much. UN estimates, analysed by the World Bank suggest that many areas of the world are already experiencing stress on water availability. Due to the accelerated pace of population growth and an increase in the amount of water a single person uses, it is expected that this situation will continue to get worse.
- The ability of developing countries to make more water available for domestic, agricultural, industrial and environmental uses will depend on better management of water resources and more cross-sectorial planning and integration. There is now ample evidence that increased hydrologic variability and change in climate has and will continue to have a profound impact on the water sector through the hydrologic cycle, water availability, water demand, and water allocation at the global, regional, basin, and local levels.
- Properly managed water resources are a critical component of growth, poverty reduction and equity. The livelihoods of the poorest are critically associated with access to water services. A shortage of water in the future would be detrimental to the human population as it would affect everything from sanitation, to overall health and the production of grain.
- Freshwater use by continents is partly based on several socio-economic development factors, including population, physiography, and climatic characteristics. It is estimated that in the coming decades the most intensive growth of water withdrawal is expected to occur in Africa and South America (increasing by 1.5-1.6 times), while the smallest growth will take place in Europe and North America (1.2 times),
- A common perception is that most of the available freshwater resources are visible (on the surfaces of lakes, reservoirs and rivers). However, this visible water represents only a tiny fraction of global freshwater resources, as most of it is stored in aquifers, with the largest stocks stored in solid form in the Antarctic and in Greenland's ice cap.
- The oceans are in turmoil, but unfortunately most of it is out of sight and therefore out of mind. In Commodifying the Oceans, Environmental sociologist Stefano Longo explored the multiple threats to the oceans, from overfishing to coral reef collapse to ocean acidification.
- Ocean acidification represents a serious threat to marine biodiversity. Progressive ocean acidification will also increasingly slow the growth of corals and shell-forming reef organism.
- The average global ocean temperature is expected to rise by between one and four degrees Celsius by 2100. An increase in seawater temperature will affect the reproduction period of fish and shrimp and may result in large-scale migration of fish.
- As global population increases and people become wealthier, agricultural production will need to likewise increase, but food systems may become more stressed because of competition for water.
- Water is also used in everyday products at astounding rates - e.g. a single cup of coffee costs 130 litres of water, while about 18,900 litres are needed to produce 1 kg of roasted coffee.
- According to The Ripple Effect, The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century (Alex Prud’homme, © 2011, Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.):
- By 2025 as many as 3.4 billion people will face water scarcity.”
- For much of history, people have fought over surface water...but today, the biggest water wars are over groundwater
- Ageing infrastructure is a growing problem
- Thousands of industrial spills, many left over from a less regulated time, continue to poison groundwater, leak toxins into rivers and lakes, and impact human and environmental health
- Agricultural runoff is now the biggest single source of water pollution in some countries
- In short, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring our impact on water supplies. We must increase our knowledge the new hydrologic reality and adapt.
- Growing coffee and other commodities in places low in fresh water supplies is still common in parts of Africa. The result is the mass-transportation of water from the driest parts of the world to the wettest.
- Elixir argued that we need to treat the world’s finite water supplies with deep respect and that in the long term, for all our vaunted technologies, many of the solutions and pathways to sustainability lie in making water conservation an integral part of everyone’s lives.
- In spite of "evapotranspiration", which returns about 60% of annual precipitation back to the atmosphere, the soils in large areas of the Southern Hemisphere have been drying up in the past decade.
- Newsweek reported that Alaska was looking at selling 3 billion of gallons of water for bottling in Mumbai, shipped via tanker. This would mark one of the first major water transfers of this sort, making water a globally traded commodity.