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Water Protection

The importance of water cannot be understated. It sustains life, powers industries, irrigates fields and is an essential component to many environmental processes. Although 70 percent of the planet is covered with water, only one percent of that water is fresh and suitable for drinking. Since 1900, water use has increased at more than two times the rate of the population. If this trend continues, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in water-scarce regions by 2025, and more than half of the world’s people will live in water-stressed areas. Water protection, therefore, is one of the world’s most urgent issues.

Water protection is important to the world’s future food security. Although one person needs to consume only two to four liters of water each day to survive, 2,000 to 5,000 liters are need to produce the food needed by one person for one day. One kilo of rice, for instance, requires 1,000 to 3,000 liters of water to be produced. More than 70 percent of freshwater usage is dedicated to agriculture. The world’s water sources already have to support agriculture to sustain over seven billion people, and by 2050 will need to support an additional 2.7 billion people.

In addition to population growth, global warming has had a significant effect on the world’s water. As global temperatures rise, glaciers melt, seas rise and rainfall becomes more erratic. As a result, many regions will experience shortages of water in the future.

The reduction in available water will have a significant impact on almost all aspects of life, including health, food production, security, sanitation, industry, energy and environmental sustainability.

Pollution has made many of the world’s rivers, lakes and oceans unsafe for drinking. Almost half of the lakes in the United States are too polluted to sustain aquatic life, and nearly half the freshwater in China is undrinkable due to pollution. Contamination occurs due to runoff and spills of pesticides, fertilizers, oil, additives and gasoline, mining, chemical and industrial processes, sewage, air pollution and improper disposal of plastics and other products.

Today, one third of the world’s people lack adequate access to safe drinking water, but only four percent of official development aid is devoted to water protection. More than 170 million people die each year from drinking polluted water, and 90 percent of those people are children. At any given time, nearly half the people in developing countries suffer from health issues caused by sanitation and water deficits, and unclean water is the second greatest cause of childhood deaths in the world. For these reasons, water protection is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today.