Water is the essential component of all life. It comprises 70% of the Earth's surface, 75% of
the human body, 90% of blood and sap. 97% of Earth's water is in the oceans, 2% is frozen in icecaps, 1% is fresh, but much of this is inaccessible, deep in the Earth. From what is
left, we use 98% for industrial purposes and agriculture, only 2% for the nutrition and health
of every living organism.
“If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water — unless we change our approach to managing this precious and vital resource.”
Ismael Serageldin first gave this warning in 1995, a year before he helped found the Global Water Partnership. As the regional effects of climate change continue to ramp up, we’re seeing this prediction come true in many parts of the world.
Now a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science calculates humanity’s “water footprint.” Much like the carbon footprint used to determine an individual’s contribution to global warming through the burning of greenhouse gases, the concept of the water footprint is being used to measure and compare water usage by nations, industry and individuals.
The paper notes that “[t]he Earth’s freshwater resources are subject to increasing pressure in the form of consumptive water use and pollution. Until recently, issues of freshwater availability, use, and management have been addressed at a local, national, and river basin scale. The recognition that freshwater resources are subject to global changes and globalization has led a number of researchers to argue for the importance of putting freshwater issues in a global context.”