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From using to abusing: drinking water is becoming scarcer

The United Nations estimates that demand for drinking water will rise by 55 per cent by the year 2050. Even today, one in ten people have no access to clean water. Five facts and challenges on the issue of drinking water wastage.

Cultivation of crops

Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of global water consumption. Over half of this water is used for just four crops: rice, cotton, sugar cane and wheat. In many dry regions of the world, crops are grown which require a great deal of water, such as early strawberries in Spain and arable crops on the Arabian Peninsula. This is not very efficient.

Professor Brahma Chellaney from the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi has now called upon all countries with a water shortage to cease production of water-intensive crops.

Livestock farming

Livestock production accounts for one third of all water used in agriculture. Most of this goes into feed production – according to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), one kilogram of beef requires no less than 15,500 litres. That’s enough water to fill a small swimming pool. Moreover, industrial mass production of livestock pollutes groundwater, since dangerous nitrates and antibiotics leach into the soil from manure.

Environmental and food organisations are calling upon people – particularly those in the northern hemisphere – to eat less meat. In Germany, the average person consumes an average of 88.3 kilograms of meat a year – that is over twice the recommended amount: environmentally friendly and health-promoting consumption is less than 31 kilograms per year.

How much do you know about water?

Industry

20 per cent of the world’s available freshwater is used by industry in processes such as crude oil production, power station cooling and paper manufacturing. No less than 10 litres of water are required to produce a single sheet of A4 paper.

Every company and each individual should use recycled paper as opposed to fresh fibre paper and so save up to 70 per cent of water. The United Nations also advocates the construction of fewer coal-fired, nuclear and gas-fired power stations and to invest instead in renewable energies such as solar and wind, in order to reduce water consumption.

Households

Domestic homes also consume a lot of water – as much as 190 litres per person per day in Germany. Although Germany has no shortage of water, it is still worth limiting personal consumption. So you can not only save water but also energy: When less water is heated, less energy is consumed. Water pollution should also be limited, because the cleaner the water stays, the less expensive and energy-intensive its recycling in wastewater treatment plants. With regard to water conumption, a quick shower is better than filling a whole bathtub with hot water.

Video on World Water Day 2017: Why waste water?

Wastewater

Currently 80 per cent of global wastewater goes untreated. For this reason environmental organisations are calling for significant improvements to water management. The United Nations goes further still: on World Water Day 2017 it called for people to see wastewater in a new light – as a source of energy.

With the help of bacteria-like microorganisms, wastewater and solid waste can already be used to generate biogas for heating – as is the case with a housing development of 200 homes in Noorderhoek in the Netherlands. Dutch scientist Mark van Loosdrecht has also developed a technology that uses microorganisms to treat wastewater so it can be reused as drinking water.

Author: Wiebke Schönherr

Water-saving tips

Private households and municipalities account for 10 per cent of water consumption. Have you ideas about how water can be saved there or what you can do yourself to prevent water wastage? Send us your tips for the “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”, written by Germany-Alumni.

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November 2017

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Comments

Mubarak Inuwa
5 December 2017

After air, the next important item for living organism,especially man, is water.When we talk about water, it means we refer to the body ingredient for body's mechanism and functions.Nutritionist, reveal that it is possible for man to stay alive for a month without food,but man can only survive without water for only one week.This indicates, how important H20, is essential for human being body functions.So also plants, they demand required quantity of water for its successful growth.United nations, emphasis on sustainance of clean water for consumption.But the third world nations, are lacking this requirement.

Hamid Ahmad
4 December 2017

Water is life and we cannot compronise its availability and accessibility everywhere and to each one of us. The facts and figures explained in the brief are eye opening from different angles. To me the livestock sector said to be using about 25 % of the agriculture share of water is the culprit needs priority attention. To eat a killo of beef with about 16oo0 litres of water is startling case. However, it is also hard to believe that and it may have been heavily over rated. So, we should scale down beef and meat consumption and balance our diets honestly and not under commercial advacacies for more animal based proteins food. There are plenty of examples of communities in different parts of the world that people have long healthy lives eating more natural foods than the commercially pushed intensively produced concentrated junk protein push. On the other hand ever since it is taught to us as children that only 29 % of our globe is earth while rest is sea full of sea water. It needs to made aware of about the possibilties of using this big resource of water for human and other life on earth. There must be lot of rsearch being done to economically use sea water but not not enough is said about it. Can it be a good alternative to ground water in the long term ? But I do hope that mankind will overcome this water alarm like many others faced and resolved earlier by moving steadfastly towards nature.

Pascal
19 November 2017

First,i do appreciate the representation picture.It speaks a lot!
i do agree with the predictions of the United Nations on water demand increase in the middle of the century.
Pr. Brahma should think and consider Food Security as a priority and call upon those countries separately in regard with the rate of water shortage.
i embrace the idea of recycling the waste water despite the cost and management of treatment plant in most countries of Africa.
Saying that the renewable energy as solar and wind could not add much to reduce water consumption should be pessimistic.
The vision of the United Nations"Waste water in new light as a source of energy" is to be saluted ,supported .we lack not only technology skill in our rural and municipal communities but also scientific know -how to choose the appropriate microorganisms(bacteria) .

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