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Parched earth
8.30.02
Science and Health:
The Earth Debate
More on This Story:
Water

There are certain facts about U.S. and international freshwater that everyone should know. According to the World Health Organization, by 2025 the world's population will have increased by 30% and access to safe drinking water will be greatly reduced. As water experts remind us, freshwater is a finite resource there's the same amount of water available now as there was when the earth was formed. See who wins at wasting water.

     

Over the next two decades it is estimated that the world will need 17% more water to grow food for increasing populations. By 2025, two-thirds of the world's population is likely to live in countries with moderate or severe water shortages...




  • While 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water, 97.5% of the world's water is saltwater and 2.5% freshwater. Most of this freshwater is trapped in polar icecaps, with much of the rest found as soil moisture or kept in underground aquifers.

  • According to the World Health Organization, less than 1% of the world's freshwater, or 0.007% of all the water on Earth, is readily available for human world consumption.

  • 70% of water withdrawn from freshwater systems goes toward irrigation.

  • Out of 191 nations in the world, 10 nations share 65% of the world's annual water resources.

  • 1.2 billion people — or almost 1 out of 5 people in the world — are without access to safe drinking water and half of the world's population lacks adequate water purification systems.

  • 2.4 billion people, or 40% of the world's population, do not have access to adequate sanitation.

  • Agriculture is the largest user of water in developing countries. Agriculture represents about 70 percent of total global freshwater withdrawals. In Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, close to 90 percent of all water withdrawals are for agriculture. In OECD countries, industry accounts for the greatest share of water withdrawals.

  • An estimated 250 million people have been directly affected by desertification — the degradation of drylands — nearly 1 billion are at risk.

  • In developing countries, between 90 and 95 percent of sewage and 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply.

    Water Facts

    % freshwater resources worldwide available for drinking:  1
    # of people who die each year from diseases associated with unsafe drinking water:  2.2 million
    % freshwater resources in polar regions:  97
    U.S. per capita annual withdrawal of cubic meters of freshwater:  1,844
    World per capita annual withdrawal of cubic meters of freshwater:  664
    # of tons of pollutants entering U.S. lakes and rivers daily:  500,000
    Average number of gallons of water consumed by humans in a lifetime:  16,000
    Average # of kilometers per day a woman in a developing country must walk to fetch fresh water:  6
    Sources: World Resources Institute; Colorado Water Resources Research Institute; World Health Organization: Water for Health Day, National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, U.S. Waternews.

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