In fact, the global water crisis is one of the largest public health issues of our time. Nearly 1.1 billion people (roughly 20% of the world’s population) lack access to safe drinking water. The lack of clean, safe drinking water is estimated to kill almost 4,500 children per day. In fact, out of the 2.2 million unsafe drinking water deaths in 2004, 90% were children under the age of five. (source)
And in 1999 over 200 scientists in 50 countries identified 'water shortage' as one of the two most dangerous problems for the new millennium (the other being global warming).
So today marks the 16th annual World Water Day. The UN began this initiative in 1993 as a means of celebrating freshwater resources around the world, and of raising awareness about the need to keep these resources clean and available to people everywhere who need them. This year's activities are focused on 'transboundary waters'.
Although predictions about the growing danger of water-related conflict are a heightening concern in the face of global population growth, unsustainable development, rampant pollution and climate change, the UN website offers hope:
Yet, humans have available less than 0.08% of all the Earth's water - as most of it is unusable due to high concentrations of salt. Researchers suggest our use is estimated to increase by about 40% in the next two decades. i'm no mathematician, but i know that more demand with less supply tends to breed conflict.
The total number of water-related interactions between nations are weighted towards cooperation. There have been 507 conflict-related events as opposed to 1,228 cooperative ones. This implies that violence over water is not a strategically rational, effective or economically viable option for countries. In the 20th century, only seven minor skirmishes took place between nations over shared water resources, while over 300 treaties were signed during the same period of time.
So is there likely to be violent conflict over water in the future? With growing demand, corporate manipulations, the decline in freshwater availability (through privatization, groundwater mining and pollution), and the adverse health effects from poor water quality, scarcity may result in massive violence and full scale water wars. Hopefully humans will be able to work together to ensure this does not happen.
Below is the trailer to Irena Salina's award-winning documentary film FLOW. Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.
Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question "CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?"
Beyond identifying the problem, FLOW also gives viewers a look at the people and institutions providing practical solutions to the water crisis and those developing new technologies, which are fast becoming blueprints for a successful global and economic turnaround:
Some More Water Facts:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently does not regulate 51 known water contaminants. (www.foodandwaterwatch.org)
- While the average North American uses 150 gallons of water per day, those in developing countries cannot find five. (www.charitywater.org)
- The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. (www.water.org)
- According to the National Resources Defense Council, in a scientific study in which more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of water were tested, about one-third of the bottles contained synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic.
- Water is a $400 billion dollar global industry; the third largest behind electricity and oil.