Water is essential for life; we cannot grow the food we eat without water, we cannot survive without water to drink, we need water for personal hygiene and various other uses, and millions of plants and animals live in water. In spite of all of this, we still take water for granted and seem to assume that it is infinite, but the truth is that the available stock of freshwater in the world is less than 1% of all the water on earth.
The human population has burgeoned over the past few hundred years and this has threatened various freshwater species, which fell by approximately 47% between 1970 and 2000 according to UNESCO. In some parts of the world millions of people and animals have died due to water scarcity while in other parts excess nitrate runoff is responsible for low-oxygen areas in the oceans called dead zones.
Human beings need drinking water that is clean and safe in order to survive, which is why civilisations have historically settled around various bodies of water.
Water-related disasters within the last decade alone that have resulted in many deaths include the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami; the hurricanes in the west Pacific, in the Caribbean and the United States in 2004 and 2005; floods in Central/Eastern Europe and many other regions in 2005; extensive droughts in Niger, Mali, Spain and Portugal; the 2010 cloudburst in Ladhak, India and the 2010 floods in India and Pakistan.
People waste water every day by not fixing leaking taps, replacing broken pipes, leaving hoses running, not ensuring that sprinklers are trained on the grass instead of the path, and various other wasteful habits. Some water is caught up in ice-floes, and other water is there but is so polluted by human activities that it is not safe to use.
The lack of clean drinking water and clean water for other uses is a global problem that is getting worse every year. The rapid population growth/shifts in urban areas and internally displaced and international refugees, migrants and tourists are putting pressure on outdated water infrastructure and stress on water supplies.
Countries need to work together on sustainable solutions to ensure access to clean drinking water for all, and this needs to be done quickly or we will all be facing even worse problems within a few short years.