I think for me, growing up in the aridity of Central Australia and living at times in remote areas where water had to be purchased and delivered regularly, I have never taken water for granted. I’ve always found it hard to understand why someone might leave the tap running when they brush their teeth, have a long shower, water in the middle of the day or splash water around freely as though it will never run out. I grew up in a house where people people didn’t even flush the toilet unless it was absolutely necessary! But I know many people didn’t have the benefit of such an amazing childhood, and they might not give the issue of water much thought at all.
Almost one-fifth of the world’s population live in areas of water scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Water scarcity already affects every continent. Another 1.6 billion people are facing economic water shortage i.e. they live in places lacking the infrastructure needed to take water from rivers and aquifers. There is currently enough freshwater on Earth for 7 billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.
In the next 35 years, 2.5 billion people will be added to the current population of 6 billion. As countries and societies modernise, the demand for water to produce food, energy and goods is increasing rapidly. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. It’s thought (OECD estimate) that by 2050 the world’s demand for water will grow by 55% with competition between water users and nations demanding water resources.
Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board, Nestle, Switzerland, says: “We will be running out of water long before we run out of oil. One out of every five children is dying every 20 seconds because we haven’t been able to solve the problem of clean water today”. Water and sanitation problems are the second biggest killer of children under five years old worldwide.
Some amazing organisations you can get involved with, in a fun way, to help improve circumstances for people living in areas where clean plentiful water is scarce, include WATERAID, and the WATERPROJECT
But a more longstanding, immediate way you can help to improve the ecological health of our water systems is to go vegan, or to transition gradually towards veganism, by reducing your meat, dairy and egg intake. If you would like to learn more about how eating animal products affects the environment, watch this incredible documentary ‘Cowspiracy’. Please don’t be put off by the title.
Here are some water facts and figures gathered by the researchers who made Cowspiracy:
*Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) water use ranges from 265-530 billion litres annually.
*Animal agriculture use ranges from 128-287 trillion litres of water annually.
*Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.
*Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.
*One hamburger requires 2498 litres of water to produce – the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers.
*9752 litres of water are needed to produce half a kilo of beef.
*1805 litres of water are required to produce half a kilo of eggs; 3406 litres of water are needed for cheese.
*3785 litres of water are required to produce 3.78 litres of milk.