Population Growth: A world Issue

With the world's population more than doubling over the last half century, basics like water are under more strain than ever, and providing for an additional 2-3 billion people in the next 50 years is a serious worry.

Water usage rising faster than global population

Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn. Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization but, with the global population projected to cross the 7-billion mark on Oct 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Ms Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think-tank. Water use is predicted to increase by 50 per cent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 per cent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, said Ms Jenkinson. Factor in the expected impact of climate change this century - more severe floods, droughts and shifts from past precipitation patterns - that are likely to hit the poorest people first and worst "and we have a significant challenge on our hands", Ms Jenkinson said. Will there be enough water for everyone, especially if population continues to rise, as predicted, to 9 billion by mid-century? "There's a lot of water on Earth, so we probably won't run out," said Mr. Rob Renner, executive director of the Colorado-based Water Research Foundation. "The problem is that 97.5 per cent of it is salty and ... of the 2.5 per cent that's fresh, two-thirds of that is frozen. So there's not a lot of fresh water to deal with in the world." Reuters

Distribution of Earth’s Water
Usage of Freshwater

It is estimated that 8% of worldwide water use is for domestic purposes. These include drinking water, bathing, cooking, sanitation, and gardening. Basic household water requirements have been estimated at around 50 liters per person per day, excluding water for gardens. Recreational water use is usually a very small but growing percentage of total water use. Recreational water use is mostly tied to reservoirs. It is estimated that 22% of worldwide water use is industrial. Major industrial users include hydroelectric dams, thermoelectric power plants, which use water for cooling, ore and oil refineries, which use water in chemical processes, and manufacturing plants, which use water as a solvent. Water withdrawal can be very high for certain industries, but consumption is generally much lower than that of agriculture. It is estimated that 69% of worldwide water use is for irrigation, with 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals being unsustainable. It takes around 3,000 liters of water, converted from liquid to vapor, to produce enough food to satisfy one person's daily dietary need.

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