...but not a drop to drink. What on Earth is happening to the water?
So wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798 in his The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
70% of the Earth's surface is water. There is 1.4 billion billion tonnes of the stuff, or 190 million tonnes per person, floating around, and passing through a cleansing hydrological cycle powered by solar energy. Sounds promising... so why is there is there so much difficulty supplying the world with enough water for its needs?
In 2007, the International Water Management Institute (located in Sri Lanka) carried out a survey of water availability for agricultural use, which accounts for 70% of all human water demand. 20% of the world's population experience regular or continuous water scarcity. Another 20% live in regions lacking sufficient funding to guarantee water demand: known as economic water scarcity.
Poor water quality is the greatest cause of world mortality and morbidity. Where wastewater can contaminate drinking water, and pathogens from sewerage can reach crops, bacteria, viruses, and parasitic worms can reach consumers. As a result, the developing world experiences high infant mortality through illnesses such as diarrhoea, and cholera outbreaks are common.
The loss of a free-flowing water supply in many areas has led to a 'solution' in the bottled water industry. However, replacing a once free good by an economic monetary good only extends the poverty generating dimension of poor water management.
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