Fresh water is crucial to human health and welfare. The problem is that not only do we need water for drinking purposes, but also for personal hygiene, food preparation, farming, industry and various other uses.
One of the biggest problems facing humanity at the moment, due to our abuse of natural resources and pollution of our planet, is water scarcity and water shortages, in part because of climate change.
In order to fully understand the current and projected water shortages that many countries and regions are facing, we first need to understand the distribution of water. Although around 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, it is not all available, and 98% of it is salty.
Around 70% of fresh water is snow and ice; 30% is groundwater; less than 0.5% is surface water, which can be found in rivers, lakes etc. and the atmosphere also only contains less than 0.05% water.
Although the amount of water on earth is still the same as it has ever been, climate change has affected these proportions on a global scale. Global warming is causing polar ice to melt into the sea, which means that this water is no longer fresh but now forms part of the saltwater in the oceans.
Global warming also causes the amount of water in the atmosphere to act differently, leading to heavier rainfall and more of it when the air cools, leading to floods. More rainfall is not always a bad thing, but heavier rainfall will lead to faster movement of water from the atmosphere back into the seas, which greatly reduces our ability to store and use it.
A warmer climate also means less snow, which is replaced by rainfall, resulting in higher rates of evaporation. Higher temperatures also result in the melting of inland glaciers, increasing water supply to rivers and lakes in the short to medium term, and reduced rainfall in sub-tropical regions.
The best way to ensure that there is sufficient water for everyone, as well as for future generations, is for everyone to save water wherever we can and to invest in a water cooler to ensure that the water we are drinking is unpolluted as well as nice and refreshing.