Chapter 4

"We know that 5 million people, most of them children, die every year from illnesses caused by poor drinking water.
If we do not change our ways, by the year 2025, as much as two-thirds of the world will be living in either water scarcity
or total water deprivation."

-Maude Barlow, Author of 'Blue Covenant'

The Global Water Crisis

Water is the most precious resource on the planet as humanity enters the 21st century. Many areas of the world are already experiencing severe water shortages. In the next 2 decades it is estimated that freshwater use by humans will increase by 40 percent worldwide. In addition, the water demands for industry, energy and agriculture will grow rapidly to keep up with growing population demand.

Freshwater is a very scarce resource indeed. Only 2.5 percent of the world's water is fresh (not-salty), and two-thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and icecaps. Of the remaining amount, some 20 percent is in areas too remote for human access, and of the remaining 80 percent about three-quarters comes at the wrong time and place- with monsoons and floods- and is not captured for use by people. The remainder is less than .08 (eight-tenths) of 1 percent of the total amount of water on the planet. About 70 percent of this water is used in agriculture to grow food and fiber on which society depends. The remaining 30 percent is used for municipal water use, for households and industry.

Over the past 20 years, more than 2.4 billion people (the current total world population as of 2010 is 7 billion and growing rapidly) have gained access to the global water supply and 600 million to sanitation. Yet more than 1-2 billion do not have adequate access at all to freshwater and 3 billion do not have adequate sanitation.

Throughout the world, aquifers are being mined at an unprecedented rate. Water tables are dropping fast in fossil aquifers across the Western United States, and water tables are falling as much as a meter a year in many parts of Mexico, India, Yemen and China.

On almost all accounts, from service coverage to scarcity and water quality, poor countries of the Global South have experienced worsening conditions since they have rapid growth and immediate need and demand for water for people, food (agriculture) and industry. And since 3 billion people in developing countries still live on less than US$2.00/day, water shortages and environmental degredation have become the norm, making clean water availability a scarcer and scarcer resource to aquire. Meanwhile, global population demands increase their "tap" on the finite (and dwindling) global water supply, reducing availability and cleanliness to all in need.

In the Middle East, water resources shared by Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Syria are not sufficient to meet growing demands for freshwater needs. Annual human use of the region's water resources currently surpasses the safe or sustainable annual freshwater yield. Future deficits are predicted to be quite severe. The scarcity of freshwater in this region compounded by the historical, political and religious tensions, makes the Middle East one of the most intractable water disputes to be found anywhere on the planet. Desalinization, water imports (specifically from water rich Turkey), conservation, improved water technology and reclaimation of wastewater will help bring water use equilibrium to the area, if implemented and distributed equally amongst all the peoples and nations in the region.

The need for a more integrated approach to global water management is increasingly evident. This arises from the widespread scarcity, gradual reduction and aggravated pollution of freshwater resources in many regions of the world. It is safe to say that water is the gold of the 21st century. The potential for international conflict over water rights is very high, given that half of the world's land surface lies in international water basins. As the vast majority of water is used in agricultural production, there are conflicting objectives between the desire to conserve and enhance diminishing water resources and the need to increase water availability and food production for a growing world population.

Population growth and groundwater depletion represent the 2 most significant threats to global water stability for the peoples and nations of the world. The current rate of groundwater depletion and consumption today is not sustainable. Natural recharge rates are not keeping up with increasing demand and many water tables across the globe are receding at an alarming rate. Groundwater aquifers contain roughly 95% of the water consumed by human civilization today, while rain, rivers and lakes make up the remaining 5%.

As well, global water resources are not distributed evenly across the planet, nor is water available at all times of the year in many regions. Water usage in the developed nations in the North differs highly between those in the developing nations of the South. The Third World uses 90% of their water for agriculture, whereas in the developed North, only 50-70% is used for growing food.

In the last century alone, water usage by all peoples on Earth has nearly doubled, while at the same time, population levels have nearly tripled. In the last 50 years, the world's urban population has exploded. Currently, there are an estimated 23 megacities worldwide. A megacity is defined as a city with an estimated population of more than 10 million people. By 2015, the number of megacities is expected to grow to 36. 50% of all the people on the planet are now considered to be urban dwellers who live in cities. This has resulted in the utilization of luxuries such as flush toilets, showers and washing machines that have, in turn, drastically increased demand on finite residential supplies of water.

According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 1.2 billion people are affected by dirty polluted water contributing to up to 20 million child deaths every year. Corporate monocultural agriculture practices which use large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, as well as industrial livestock production, both contribute greatly to the contamination of fresh water supplies. In China, 80% of the rivers are so polluted from upstream industrial effluent that fish cannot survive in them.

If current water consumption trends continue, it has been estimated that water shortages could cause the loss of up to 350 million metric tonnes of crop losses in a world with growing food demands. Water contamination, industrial and residential diversion, the depletion of aquifers and the effects of global climate change (particularily in the US state of California- commonly referred to as the 'bread-basket of the world'), will be responsible for this overall loss in global agricultural productivity.

The Himalayan and Andes glaciers, whose rivers and runoff support the lives of billions of people downstream, are shrinking in size every year thanks primarily to the effects of global warming. In addition to the loss of forestland upstream, seasonal flooding and decreased river flow in the dry seasons have resulted in leaving many with a water deficit in times of greatest need during the year.

The Nile river, which runs through Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, exemplifies the potential for future water conflicts. The banks of the Nile support one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. As population and land use pressures increase over time, conflict is inevitable. This dynamic is especially true in China, one of the most heavily populated and water poor countries on Earth. The potential for future water wars between peoples and nations will very likely tear domestic and international relations at the seams, however, the global water crisis also has the unique opportunity to foster international cooperation and management of this most precious of resources.

In the coming years and decades, the global water crisis will become much more acute worldwide. As global population rates add over a billion people to the Earth every 15 years now, the Earth's finite capacity to provide clean, safe drinking water to all members of the human family will be seriously diminished. Population growth notwithstanding, pollution, groundwater depletion, global climate change and increasing demand will severely impede the growth, health and well-being of billions living now, and in future generations, if steps are not now immediately taken by the international community to develop strategies of cooperation, trust and urgent global management of this single most critical of resources.

In lieu of the forementioned developments regarding access to water, global water cartels are bound to arise. Indeed, many have already and are today working to exploit the world's freshwater resources for corporate profit. As water does, in fact, become the new "gold" of the 21st century, due to its inherent and projected scarcity, it is no suprise that transnational corporations are jumping at the prospect of privatizing the world's water supply for profit. Thus said, I believe all efforts must be made to keep water resources free and available to all without regard to economic status, as well as designate water access and use as a common right to all sentient life on Earth.

According to Maude Barlow in her book, 'Blue Covenant', there are 3 facets of the global water crisis we are now experiencing: Dwindling freshwater supplies, inequitable access to water and the corporate control (privatization) of global water supplies. All 3 facets play into the current global eugenics agenda operated by the global elite to deny large segments of the world's population access to to the most basic amenities of simple survival, in this case, water. Along with global climate change, the global water crisis is being used to purposely destroy the lives of billions of lives across the planet. However, it doesn't have to be this way. Another world is possible.

The global water crisis is exacerbated by global climate change to the degree that large areas of the world's oceans and land surfaces are experiencing a general warming of their respective environments. In the world's oceans, this is resulting in the expansion of sea water volume brought about from thermal temperature expansion and inputs of huge amounts of fresh water from polar melting at both of the ice caps (including Greenland). On land, the spread of drought and desertification has increased significantly. In Australia, the American Mid-west and in the US state of California, drought conditions will continue to cause severe water shortages in these regions on into the foreseeable future.

As a key component of the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional global crisis that humanity is now beginning to experience here on Earth, the global water crisis, as severe as it is now and is projected to become, is also a grand opportunity to forge a world water security agency or council, that on behalf of all humanity, works to not only secure equitable and sustainable access and distribution of the world's water requirements, but also lays the foundation for providing future generations with their water security needs as well.

The world needs to come together and recognize that we are one species on this planet. We need to rise-up and collectively say 'no' to the billions that go into building and maintaining a Trident nuclear submarine, for example, and re-direct those desperately needed funds into providing clean, accessible, fresh water to every single member of the human family. Its time for the human race to abandon a eugenics program that not only purposely denies water access to the poor, but deliberately dumps toxic chemicals such as fluoride and other carcinogenic substances into the water supplies of cities and municipalities with the objective to kill and control a population. Rather, its time to get onto a track that honors, cares and embraces the miracle that is life on Earth.

One view from space says it all: We are a water planet. 70% of the Earth's surface is, in fact, water. 90% of our bodies are water. Water is the source and sustainer of life as we know it. Without it we perish. Water is so basic and so fundamental to everything we are and do, how can we possibly ignore it? Along with access to food, the air we breathe, the warmth we feel from the sun and the human community that sustains us all, we can't even function, think or exist without adequate supplies of clean, fresh water to nourish our bodies or to bath in. Truely, the time has come for the human species to evolve to a level of consciousness, intelligence and being that not only honors, respects and revers water as the giver and sustainer of life, but works to equitably share and sustain this most precious of Earth's endowments for future generations.


1. Maude Barlow/Blue Planet Project

2. Vandana Shiva/Water Wars

3. Sandra Postel/Global Water Policy Project