The next time you brush your teeth and leave the water running, think about some of these facts that point to a worldwide water shortage.
Just 0.3% of the world’s water can be used for drinking or farming.
While the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold.
More than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation.
Water withdrawals for irrigation represent 66% of the total withdrawals; the other 34% is used by domestic households (10%), industry (20%), or evaporated from reservoirs (4%).
An alarming number of the world’s rivers in the main grain-growing areas no longer reach the sea, including the Indus, Rio Grande, Colorado, Murray-Darling, and Yellow rivers.
Freshwater fish populations are in precipitous decline. Fish stocks in lakes and rivers have fallen roughly 30% since 1970.
Half the world’s wetlands, on one estimate, were drained, damaged, or destroyed in the 20th century.
Different foods require radically different amounts of water. To grow a kilogram of wheat requires around 1,000 liters; to produce a kilo of beef requires 15,000 liters of water.
Global climate change is exacerbating water scarcity problems around the world, yet few businesses and investors are paying attention to this growing financial threat, according to a report by Ceres and the Pacific Institute.
Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, says, “The business community needs to wake up to the reality that water is becoming scarcer and will likely become even more so in many parts of the world due to climate change. It is critical that companies and investors boost their attention on this issue.”
The report suggests ways companies can evaluate and address water risks:
1) Measure the company’s water footprint (i.e., water use and wastewater discharge) throughout its entire value chain.
2) Assess physical, regulatory and reputational risks associated with its water footprint, and seek to align the evaluation with the company’s energy and climate risk assessments.
3) Integrate water issues into strategic business planning and governance structures.
4) Engage key stakeholders as a part of water risk assessment, long-term planning and implementation activities.
5) Disclose and communicate water performance and associated risks.
By Marcia Davis
The World Water Council