AboutZoos, Since 2008


Global fresh water sup­plies could be exhausted in two generations

pub­lished 30 June 2013 | mod­i­fied 30 May 2014

Water footprint per nationOn a global scale many mil­lions of peo­ple do not have access to clean and safe drink­ing water on a daily basis. Water sci­en­tists are more than ever con­vinced that fresh water sys­tems across the planet are in a pre­car­i­ous state. This could lead within one or two gen­er­a­tions to a global cri­sis where the major­ity of Planet Earth’s pop­u­la­tion will be feel­ing the pres­sure of severe water scarcity.

This was the out­come of the con­fer­ence ‘Water in the Anthro­pocene’ in Bonn, Ger­many on May 2124, organ­ised by the Global Water Sys­tems Project (GWSP). In Bonn world experts con­vened to focus on how to mit­i­gate key fac­tors con­tribut­ing to extreme dam­age to the global water sys­tem while adapt­ing to the new real­ity. As all causes of water short­ages are entirely avoid­able accord­ing to the ‘Bonn Dec­la­ra­tion on Global Water Secu­ritypdf ’ which was adopted at the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the conference.

This 3-​minute video ‘Water in the Anthro­pocene’ charts the global impact of humans on the water cycle. why it is chang­ing, and what this means for the future. The ver­ti­cal spikes that appear in the film rep­re­sent the 48,000 large dams that have been built.

Evi­dence is grow­ing that our global foot­print is now so sig­nif­i­cant we have dri­ven Earth into a new geo­log­i­cal epoch — the Anthro­pocene. Human activ­i­ties such as damming and agri­cul­ture are chang­ing the global water cycle in sig­nif­i­cant ways. The data visu­al­i­sa­tion was com­mis­sioned by the Global Water Sys­tems Project for a major inter­na­tional con­fer­ence (Water in the Anthro­pocene, Bonn, Ger­many, 2124 May, 2013).

Among many exam­ples of humanity’s over­sized imprint on the world, are:

  • Human­ity uses an area the size of South Amer­ica to grow its crops and an area the size of Africa for rais­ing livestock

  • Due to ground­wa­ter and hydro­car­bon pump­ing in low lying coastal areas, two-​thirds of major river deltas are sink­ing, some of them at a rate four times faster on aver­age than global sea level is rising

  • More rock and sed­i­ment is now moved by human activ­i­ties such as shore­line in-​filling, damming and min­ing than by the nat­ural ero­sive forces of ice, wind and water combined

  • Many river floods today have links to human activ­i­ties, includ­ing the Indus flood of 2010 (which killed 2,000 peo­ple), and the Bangkok flood of 2011 (815 deaths)

  • On aver­age, human­ity has built one large dam every day for the last 130 years. Tens of thou­sands of large dams now dis­tort nat­ural river flows to which ecosys­tems and aquatic life adapted over millennia

  • Drainage of wet­lands destroys their capac­ity to ease floods — a free ser­vice of nature expen­sive to replace

  • Evap­o­ra­tion from poorly-​managed irri­ga­tion ren­ders many of the world’s rivers dry — no water, no life. And so, lit­tle by lit­tle, tens of thou­sands of species edge closer to extinc­tion every day.

An inter­ac­tive map on the global threats to human water secu­rity can be found here.

The Dec­la­ra­tion com­prises a set of core rec­om­men­da­tions to insti­tu­tions and indi­vid­u­als focused on sci­ence, gov­er­nance, man­age­ment and decision-​making rel­e­vant to water resources on Earth. The sci­en­tists lists six pri­or­i­ties that sci­en­tists, law­mak­ers, and busi­nesses need to acknowl­edge in order to get in front of the cri­sis. These include more research into under­ground water sup­plies, devel­op­ing risk assess­ments, train­ing more water sci­en­tists, fur­ther util­is­ing satel­lites to mon­i­tor the state of the water sup­ply, a greater embrace of green alter­na­tives, and invest­ment in the water insti­tu­tions that pro­tect our drink­ing water supply.

Web­site (wel­come to the) Anthropocene:

There are now so many of us, using so many resources, that we’re dis­rupt­ing the grand cycles of biol­ogy, chem­istry and geol­ogy by which ele­ments like car­bon and nitro­gen cir­cu­late between land, sea and atmos­phere. We’re chang­ing the way water moves around the globe as never before. Almost all the planet’s ecosys­tems bear the marks of our pres­ence.

Our species’ whole recorded his­tory has taken place in the geo­log­i­cal period called the Holocene — the brief inter­val stretch­ing back 10,000 years. But our col­lec­tive actions have brought us into uncharted ter­ri­tory. A grow­ing num­ber of sci­en­tists think we’ve entered a new geo­log­i­cal epoch that needs a new name — the Anthropocene.

Parts of the above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at GWSP via EurekAlert!. Orig­i­nal text is edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: Global Water Sys­tem Project; Anthro­pocene; GWSP media release, 19.05.2013)

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