Global Water Crisis

Water is the most precious resource on the planet as humanity enters the 21st century. Many areas of the world are already experiencing severe water shortages. In the next 2 decades it is estimated that freshwater use by humans will increase by 40 percent worldwide. In addition, the water demands for industry, energy and agriculture will grow rapidly to keep up with growing population demand.

Freshwater is a very scarce resource indeed. Only 2.5 percent of the world's water is fresh (not-salty), and two-thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and icecaps. Of the remaining amount, some 20 percent is in areas too remote for human access, and of the remaining 80 percent about three-quarters comes at the wrong time and place- with monsoons and floods- and is not captured for use by people. The remainder is less than .08 (eight-tenths) of 1 percent of the total amount of water on the planet. About 70 percent of this water is used in agriculture to grow food and fiber on which society depends. The remaining 30 percent is used for municipal water use, for households and industry.

Over the past 20 years, more than 2.4 billion people (the current total world population is more than 6 billion and growing rapidly) have gained access to the global water supply and 600 million to sanitation. Yet more than 1 billion do not have adequate access at all to freshwater and 3 billion do not have adequate sanitation.

Throughout the world, aquifers are being mined at an unprecedented rate. Water tables are dropping fast in fossil aquifers across the Western United States, and water tables are falling as much as a meter a year in many parts of Mexico, India, Yemen and China.

On almost all accounts, from service coverage to scarcity and water quality, poor countries of the Global South have experienced worsening conditions since they have rapid growth and immediate need and demand for water for people, food (agriculture) and industry. And since 3 billion people in developing countries still live on less than US$2.00/day, water shortages and environmental degredation have become the norm, making clean water availability a scarcer and scarcer resource to aquire. Meanwhile, global population demands increase their "tap" on the finite (and dwindling) global water supply, reducing availability and cleanliness to all in need.

In the Middle East, water resources shared by Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Syria are not sufficient to meet growing demands for freshwater needs. Annual human use of the region's water resources currently surpasses the safe or sustainable annual freshwater yield. Future deficits are predicted to be quite severe. The scarcity of freshwater in this region compounded by the historical, political and religious tensions, makes the Middle East one of the most intractable water disputes to be found anywhere on the planet. Desalinization, water imports (specifically from water rich Turkey), conservation, improved water technology and reclaimation of wastewater will help bring water use equilibrium to the area, if implemented and distributed equally amongst all the peoples and nations in the region.

In sum, the need for a more integrated aaproach to global water management is increasingly evident. This arises from the widespread scarcity, gradual reduction and aggravated pollution of freshwater resources in many regions of the world. It is safe to say that water is the gold of the 21st century. The potential for international conflict over water rights is very high, given that half of the world's land surface lies in international water basins. As the vast majority of water is used in agricultural production, there are conflicting objectives between the desire to conserve and enhance diminishing water resources and the need to increase water availability and food production for a growing world population.

Steve Jones
P.O. Box 1141
Boulder, Colorado 80306



1) Worldwatch Institute
1776 Massachusetts Ave- NW
Washington, DC 20036

2) Global Water Policy Project
Attn: Sandra Postel
107 Larkspur Dr.
Amherst, Massachussets 01002
Website: Global Water Policy Project

3) People and the Planet (Planet 21)
Spitfire Studios, 63-71 Collier St -Suite 112
London, UK N1 9BE

4) 3rd World Water Forum
2-1-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN
Website: 3rd World Water Forum

5) Environmental News Network
P.O. Box 6782, San Rafael, California 94903 USA
Website: Environmental News Network

6) World Water Council
Les Docks de la Joliette, Atrium 10.3, 10 Place de la Joliette
13002 Marseille, FRANCE, European Union
Website: World Water Council

7) International Year of Freshwater
c/o UNESCO- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris CEDEX 15 FRANCE, European Union
Website: International Year of Freshwater

8) International Forum on Globalization
1009 General Kennedy Ave- #2, San Francisco, California 94129 USA
Website: International Forum on Globalization

9) Green Cross International
160a Rte de Florissant, 1231 Conches, Geneva, SWITZERLAND
Website: Green Cross International

10) Third World Traveler/Water Page
Website: Third World Traveler Water Page

11) Blue Gold
c/o Polaris Institute, 312 Cooper St, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K2P OG7
Website: Polaris Institute

12) The World's Water
c/o Pacific Institute, 654 13th St, Preservation Park, Oakland, California 94612 USA
Website: The World's Water

13) Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship
96 Packard Ave
Tufts University
Medford, Massachussetts 02155 USA

14) Middle East Water Crisis