Humans Change the World! Where do we stand with fresh water? Will there be enough for a more crowded world?

Sandra Postel, founder of the Global Water Policy Project, is recognized as one of the world’s most respected authorities on fresh water issues and is hailed for her “inspiring, innovative, and practical approach” to promoting the preservation and sustainable use of Earth’s freshwater.

For more than 25 years, Postel has lectured, taught, and written prolifically on the geography of water stress and the implications for food and agriculture, rivers and wetlands, and regional peace and security. She views the world through a water lens and is often asked to provide the “big picture” in her talks—from the likely impacts of climate change on water supplies and of dams on freshwater biodiversity to groundwater depletion, water wars, food security, and the critical importance of conservation and better management to solving the world’s water problems.

The amount of moisture on Earth has not changed. The water the dinosaurs drank millions of years ago is the same water that falls as rain today. But will there be enough for a more crowded world? From agriculture, to factories and hydropower, we put water to work in a million different ways every day. And yet water acts outside all known physical laws of nature. At a time of global climate change, understanding the mysteries of water is critical. Every living thing needs it to survive … Our ignorance of its function and capacities has lead us to abuse its quality and forget its potential. Witness WATER’s capacity and challenge historical assumptions. Unveil enlightened information and new scientific discoveries that create new possibilities for water’s use in every field of endeavor.

Water makes 70% of the human body weight and 70% of Earth’s surface is covered with water. This makes water absolutely critical to life on Earth as we know it! Irena Salina’s award-winning documentary “Flow : For Love Of Water” is an investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century – The Global Water Crisis on the big business of privatization of water infrastructure which prioritizes profits over the availability of clean water for people and the environment. 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?” Says Irena Salina.

“Almost 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water – only 2.5 percent of that is fresh, and most of that is locked up in glaciers or deep underground. A mere 0.3 percent of fresh water supports the life dependent upon it – some 126,000 species and more than seven billion people.”While this amount is incredibly small, Dr. Tracy Farrell is working to advance a strategy to protect and enhance freshwater security, from headwater to estuary.

As Senior Director of CI’s Freshwater Initiative, Tracy has spent the past two years working with a team to prepare a comprehensive freshwater strategy that will enhance global to local freshwater security. According to Tracy, the full strategy, which incorporates management alternatives and government outreach, can more simply be broken down to protecting watersheds from the source, to the flows and finally delivery to people. When her team embarked on this mission, they initially discovered that some of the key areas where CI has historically worked – biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas – hold 60-65 percent of all fresh water coming from natural ecosystems. As a result, eight flagship locations were designated as target areas for this work.

  • Nearly every major river in the world has been dammed, altering natural freshwater flows, cutting off migration routes and depleting fisheries downstream.
  • Nearly 40 percent of the rivers in the U.S. are too polluted for fishing and swimming.
  • Nutrient runoff from agriculture has created algal blooms that deplete oxygen from the water and result in dead zones.
  • Seventy-five percent of local people are afflicted with schistosomiasis, a chronic parasitic illness that affects millions worldwide and is most prevalent in poor communities without access to clean drinking water.
  • Agricultural and urban chemical pesticides and fertilizers seeps into groundwater sources, as does gas from leaking underground tanks.

Fresh water plays a complicated role in many of the world’s poorest regions. It is the lifeblood of daily activities like drinking, washing and cooking – yet, when mismanaged, it can present unparalleled danger. According to the World Health Association, about 2.6 billion people currently lack access to adequate sanitation – a situation that enables the spread of deadly diseases.

Yet, merely 3 percent of the water on Earth is fresh — and most of that is locked up in glaciers or deep underground. Imagine all of the world’s water — oceans, rivers, lakes, glaciers — was represented by something the size of a standard globe; its fresh water would be just a marble-sized drop. Fresh water also harbors the greatest concentration of life on Earth — greater than either terrestrial or marine biomes. Though it covers less than a fraction of 1 percent of the Earth’s surface, fresh water provides habitat for more than 10 percent of known animals and about one-third of all known vertebrate species. And, more than 40 percent of all fish species are found in fresh water — even though it is, relatively speaking, a drop in the bucket. The health and abundance of these species is a crucial indicator of the health of freshwater ecosystems. These ecosystems, in turn, play an important role in moderating the location, distribution, and timing of freshwater flows, ensuring that we receive a multitude of benefits and services. An ever-worsening water crisis demands that we respond with combined water efficiency and ecosystem management solutions to maintain freshwater species and services. Failure is simply not an option — at the current rate, we will degrade the remaining 11 percent of ecosystems that provide us with fresh water services by 2050″.

Did You Know? Using satellite data, scientists have recently estimated that groundwater in India is being depleted across the country’s north, which includes its bread basket, to the tune of 1.9 trillion cubic feet (54 billion cubic meters) per year. As wells run dry, the nation’s food supply—as well as the livelihoods of the region’s 114 million people—are increasingly at risk. Says: Conservation International.org

Glacial Water. Glaciers act as natural reservoirs, storing water in the winter and doling it out in the summer as the ice slowly melts. “If most of it disappears, there will be extreme consequences for most of these regions,” Clarke said. “The stream flow will change, the timing of peak stream flow will change, and the temperature of streams will change.” Even the total volume of runoff will change, added Michel Baraer, of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, because glacial ice keeps the water locked away in a form in which it doesn’t easily evaporate. Thus, even if precipitation remains the same in the high mountains, more of the water will be in liquid form, which evaporates more quickly. Building dams also will not solve the problem of decreasing runoff. “Evaporation from reservoirs is much higher than sublimation [conversion of solid into gas] from glaciers,” Baraer said. “Dams will never, ever, replace the [natural] hydrological systems that are in place today.”

Peak Water? Already, Baraer said, Peru is on the verge of facing water shortages. That’s because one of the largest rivers coming off the high Andes glaciers, the Rio Santa, is already running low on glacial melt, he said. Previously, scientists had thought the problem lay several decades in the future. But based on satellite measures of ice cover and water-flow at gauging stations in the river, his team has concluded that the Rio Santa has already hit “peak water”—the point at which glacial runoff plateaus and then begins to decline. “What it means is that instead of having 10, 20, or 30 years’ perspective in which to find some solution for water allocation, these years did not exist,” he said. And that’s just the beginning. Much of South America, with its high mountains and tropical sunshine, appears to be particularly vulnerable to climate-induced glacial shrinking. Energy and water are inextricably linked. Water generates power, and, on the other side of the same coin, it takes large amounts of energy to clean and deliver water. Nearly 6 percent of electricity in the U.S. comes from hydroelectric sources, which capture the natural energy stored in moving water and convert it into electricity. Hydropower has been in play for thousands of year—an original use was to grind grain at small mills. But now huge dams associated with hydropower are under fire for altering natural flows and water quality. In most developing countries, elaborate systems are in place to treat and transport water into our homes, onto agricultural fields, and into factories. All of this pumping and disinfection, especially of salt water, can be very energy intensive, requiring large amounts of nonrenewable resources, such as coal. Understanding this energy-water nexus can help shine a light on our dependency on both and lead us toward conservation.

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Visitors: 665020
  1. this! spot on, I have to agree with that

    • Dominique
    • February 8th, 2012

    I will agree with you, (great watch)

    • Dominique
    • February 8th, 2012

    Thank you!

    • Dominique Buchberg
    • February 8th, 2012

    Great watches! Thank you.

    • Dominique
    • February 22nd, 2012
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