Saturday, March 22, 2014

World Water Day

Today is UN World Water Day. My little leopard has been home sick today, so I haven't been able to put together much of a post, which is probably just as well, since this topic gets rather depressing pretty fast.

Just the bare facts are pretty overwhelming, from the Pacific Institute's 10 Shocking Facts about the World's Water

1.  3.4 million people—mainly children— die as a result of preventable water-related diseases every year.

2.  1.2 billion people—nearly 20% of the world’s population—live in areas of physical water scarcity.

3.  In developing countries, an estimated 90 percent of sewage and 70 percent of industrial waste is discharged into waterways without any treatment at all.

4.  Energy is a major user of water. In the US, thermoelectric power plants account for nearly 50% of all freshwater withdrawals.

5.  There have been 265 recorded incidences of water conflicts from 3000 BC to 2012. The past several years have seen an increase in the total number of reports of violent conflict over water.

You can see the other five on the Pacific Institutes website. 

The key messages for this years World Water Day involve the relationship between water and energy:

1. Water requires energy and energy requires water

Water is required to produce nearly all forms of energy. Energy is needed at all stages of water extraction, treatment and distribution. 

(In class on Friday several students kept asking why we didn't just move the water to the people who needed it - I had to keep point out that water is heavy 7 odd pounds per gallon.  Moving enough water to make any sort of difference takes a huge investment in energy.)

2. Supplies are limited and demand is increasing

Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase significantly over the coming decades. This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions, especially in developing and emerging economies. 

(Seven billion and growing - and most of that growth is occurring in areas that are already water stressed.)

3. Saving energy is saving water. Saving water is saving energy

Choices concerning the supply, distribution, price, and use of water and energy impact one another.

4. The “bottom billion” urgently needs access to both water and sanitation services, and electricity

Worldwide, 1.3 billion people cannot access electricity, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation.

5. Improving water and energy efficiency is imperative as are coordinated, coherent and concerted policies

Better understanding between the two sectors of the connections and effects on each other will improve coordination in energy and water planning, leading to reducing inefficiencies. Policy-makers, planners and practitioners can take steps to overcome the barriers that exist between their respective domains. Innovative and pragmatic national policies can lead to more efficient and cost effective provision of water and energy services. 

In the United States many people have tended to think that water is a 'third world' problem - hopefully the drought in the southwest will wake them up - at least when they look at food prices. 

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