Water Trends

07 Mar, 2014 - By

by Stella ThomasGlass globe in water

*Less than 1% of the world’s water is available for consumption.
*Agriculture accounts for 70%, Industry 22% and Domestic Use at 8%.

1. Demographics & Urbanization

  • The world’s population is growing by 80 million people/year and is estimated to reach 8.3 billion by 2030
  • 17 of the fastest growing cities are in emerging economies with populations over 10 million
  • The formation of slums along these cities is expected to increase at a similar pace
  • 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2030
  • By 2030, India alone is expected to add 270 million urban dwellers
  • China is expected to have 73% of their population living in cities in 2050

This rapid growth of cities will require implementing water distribution systems, new sanitation infrastructure and waste and disposal services.

2. Agriculture & Food

  • To feed a growing population, food supplies will need to increase 55% by 2030
  • Land available for agriculture will need to increase by 20% and water by 14%
  • Higher living standards create higher demands for water-intensive foods
  • A single kilo of rise uses 2-5,000 litres of water vs a hamburger using 11,000 litres of water
  • Already 1 billion people are malnourished
  • Agriculture will increasingly compete with land for industry & tourism

A reduction in the stocks of main commodities, increased bio-energy production, and unfavorable climate conditions all continue to be threats to rising food prices. Water is the key to food production.

3. Energy

  • World energy is set to increase by 45% by 2030
  • Water consumption for energy in the US alone is expected to grow by 165% by 2025
  • The State of California uses 20% of its electricity for water provision
  • Under drought conditions, generating plants need to shut down or curtail operations
  • All urban and wastewater systems require energy for delivery, collection, treatment and disposal
  • Desalination has a high energy cost

Understanding the link between water and energy is at the heart of the water challenge. Is it better for cities to import freshwater through pipes or to rely on fossil fuels to pump groundwater?

4. Aging Infrastructure & Leaky Pipes

  • Infrastructure in London, Paris and New York was mostly built around the beginning of the 20th century
  • Dilapidated pipes are losing 23 million cubic meters of water a day in the US alone, or equivalent to the daily water consumption of America’s 10 largest cities.

Water is a $500 billion industry and growing. There is a great demand for investment in pipes, pumps, valves, metering, controls, filtration, purification, and industrial treatment.

5. Pollution

  • 60% of China’s waterways are unfit for human or industrial use
  • Thailand’s rivers hold some 30-100 times the legally permitted pathogen load
  • 200 million liters of raw sewage are dumped into the Yamuna River in New Delhi every day

A delicate balance between economic development and environmental degradation must be realized before it is too late.

6. Poor Water Management & Loss of Ecosystems

  • 2 in 5 people in the world live on a shared water source
  • China’s Yellow River and America’s Colorado River ofter fail to reach the sea and are severely depleted
  • The Ogallala, North America’s largest aquifer, has lost over 10% of its total storage capacity
  • More than 100 of Mexico’s 643 aquifers have been overexploited causing salt water intrusion
  • Lake Chad in Africa has seen its fisheries industry collapse and livestock die, resulting in high poverty rates

The Aral Sea in Russia has virtually disappeared and has become highly toxic due to mismanagement for cotton production. Water knows know boundaries. Good water management is crucial.

7. ClimateChange

  • The climate affects the hydrological cycle and rainfall patterns
  • More intense rainfalls increase erosion, contaminate groundwater tables, and overburden sewage systems

Droughts could negatively impact crop production, biodiversity loss, and increase the number of environmental refugees.
With competing upstream and downstream users, climate is now part of the political landscape.

8. The Human Right to Water

  • In 2010, the United Nations recognized the Human Right to Water
  • Almost 1 billion people do not have access to clean water and 2.4 billion have no sanitation
  • There is an emerging debate to commodify water vs the protection of the common good
  • Clean water and sanitation has a multiplier effect on a nation’s economy and increases GDP

Recognizing the Human Right to Water is important for a nation’s commitments towards policies and development programs. Water needs to be used as a tool for economic and social progress. 


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