On 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 21 – 24, 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 Security ’ 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.
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:
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)