Oct 08,2021

Water on Earth. The demand and the deficiency

Water is not a commercial product, similar to any other, but rather a hereditary good that needs to be secured, protected, and treated as such…[1]

Water, H2O, despite being just a regular substance, is incredibly important in our life. Colourless, odourless, and yet priceless. It’s the only natural substance that occurs in all three of the states – liquid, solid, and gaseous.

1. Why does the human organism need water?

Water isn’t only responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients in the organism, but it also maintains all of its vital processes. It’s essential when it comes to adjusting the body’s temperature, excreting the products of metabolism, and digestion processes. It protects the brain, the spinal cord, the eyeballs, as well as the pregnant woman’s fetus[2]. It’s crucial in making the organism function properly. A deficiency of liquids in the human body has a negative impact on the internal organs and our appearance. That is why water is so important to us.

2. Water in the environment

Water plays a huge role in nature as well. It’s crucial in the vital processes of living organisms and plants, including the process of photosynthesis or the process of weathering rocks. Due to its ability to contain heat, water protects organisms from overheating, as well as from getting cold. It has an incredible ability of thermal expansion. When freezing, the surface layer of water doesn’t sink and stays afloat. Because of that, bodies of water don’t freeze all the way to the bottom, which is really important for the organisms who hibernate in the water.

3. The demand for water

Water can be used in a variety of ways. From the households where it’s used for drinking, cooking or cleaning, through agriculture, water transportation, or creating electric energy. As a raw material, it’s used in the production processes across all industry branches.

4. Water resources in Poland and across the world

Water resources cover a substantial part of the Earth. The hydrosphere, one of our planet’s layers, consists of surface waters – oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, swamps – as well as underground waters, precipitation, and glaciers. The oceans are the largest part of the hydrosphere, which is why the Earth is often called the ‘Blue Planet’.

Our world is mostly covered by salt waters:

  • seas and oceans – 96.5%
  • underground waters – 1.7%
  • glaciers –1.7%
  • rivers and lakes – 0.0132%
  • the atmosphere – 0.001%

 

Freshwater makes only 2.5% of the Earth’s natural water resources and it accumulates in the surface and underground waters; only 1% of it is drinkable, however.

40% of areas on Earth have restricted access to drinking water (deserts and dry areas).

2.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water.

In Europe, over 100 million people do not have access to clean drinking water.

The state of the waters around the world worsens due to urbanisation, industry and agriculture growth, as well as the increase of the human population.

The need for drinking water will increase by 55% by 2050[3].

 

 

 

5. The deficiency

According to the data provided by the World Resources Institute, as many as 36 countries around the world are likely to suffer water deficiency[4]. Most of them are Asian and African countries, but the list also includes many islands that belong to North or South America.

 

Source: Table #1. Countries most likely to suffer from water deficiency, www.inzynieria.com/wodkan/analizy_i_komentarze/51374,kraje-najbardziej-zagrozone-deficytem-wody

6. Aral Sea degradation. How a sea was turned into a puddle…

It may seem like something out of a science-fiction story, but it’s true. In half a decade, Soviet specialists of cotton fields irrigation led to the Aral Sea becoming almost completely dry. In the 60s, it covered more than 68 thousand km², which is almost the same size as… Lithuania. It was called the Aral Sea due to its enormous size – in reality, it was the 4th largest lake in the world[5].

In the 1960s, the lake remained within the borders of the Soviet Union. And so it was the Moscow authorities who decided that the lands of the Kyzyl Kum and the Kara Kum deserts would be used for gigantic cotton field plantations. At first, they created a dense system of irrigation canals. They were built quickly, but not thoroughly. The canals were not sealed properly, so most of the water soaked into the ground. No one cared, however, because it was taken from the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, so there was no need to pay for it. Soon, the blank lands started generating enormous crops. The plantations have been regularly expanded, which led to even more water being used.

Source: Picture #1. The process of drying up the Aral Sea, https://www.szwendamsie.pl/blog/ciekawostki/jak-z-morza-zrobiono-kaluze.

7. Water prices in California

In the state of California, (the most populous and one of the richest states in the USA[6]) water is as valuable as gold. A few years ago, the droughts were so intense that farmers who watered their rice fields could simply sell the water, instead of using it for their crops, and earn about 700 dollars more than if they were to sell their agricultural goods[7].

‘The West of the USA struggles with catastrophic heatwaves, forest fires, and droughts’ – read the article published in July of this year on websites run by National Geographic. In June, the water level of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country, reached a historical low – it’s concerning, considering the fact that the USA’s West is majorly dependent on surface waters. A nearby Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir, shows similar tendencies[8].

The above shows that water deficiency in Poland and around the world is a common phenomenon, and the actions, which must be undertaken to slow it down, are obvious and don’t require additional comment. So let’s use the water rationally and pass that knowledge on to other inhabitants of our planet.

 

Author: Andrzej/ translated by Konrad

Footnotes:

[1] Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy.

[2] www.wodociagi-sroda.pl.

[3] https://www.wodkany.pl/zasoby-wody-w-polsce-i-na-swiecie/

[4] inzynieria.com/wodkan/analizy_i_komentarze/51374,kraje-najbardziej-zagrozone-deficytem-wody

[5] https://www.szwendamsie.pl/blog/ciekawostki/jak-z-morza-zrobiono-kaluze.

[6.] https://www.wikipedia.org.pl.

[7] https://tvn24.pl/tvnmeteo/najnowsze/woda-w-kalifornii-na-wage-zlotasusza-dotyka-juz-98-proc-stanu-4895676.

[8] https://www.national-geographic.pl/artykul/zachod-usa-boryka-sie-z-katastrofalna-fala-upalow-pozarami-lasow-i-susza.

Source of title image: Personal archive

The article was created as part of project called Teenage Action for the Environment. The project is conducted thanks to the grant from Active Citizens Fund National, financed by EEA.