3.13 Freshwater

Freshwater is the basis for life. More droughts, increasing depletion of groundwater sources and more severe floods are serious threats to life several places on Earth. How do we preserve and manage water more efficiently? How do we clean polluted water in better ways?

Water overuse is damaging the environment in many major basins. High overuse tends to occur in regions heavily dependent on irrigated agriculture, such as the Indo-Gangetic Plain in south Asia, the North China Plain and the High Plains of North America, and in areas undergoing rapid urbanization and industrial development. An estimated 1.4 billion people now live in river basin areas that are ‘closed’ (in that water use exceeds minimum recharge levels) or near closure. As millions of people in water-stressed areas are discovering, the environment is foreclosing on unsustainable water debts on an extensive scale. For example, farmers near Sana’a in Yemen have deepened their wells by 50 meters over the past 12 years, while the amount of water they can extract has dropped by two-thirds. Some people in water-stressed areas have the economic resources, skills and opportunities to leave their water problem behind. Author: Philippe Rekacewicz

The primary way we will experience climate change is through the water cycle – through droughts, floods, depleted rivers, shrinking reservoirs, dried-out soils, melting glaciers, loss of snowpack and overall shortages of water to grow our food and supply our cities. National Geographic, 2015

 The White Nile begins at Jinja, Uganda. The Nile is a crucial water source for millions of people in otherwise water-stressed region Photo: Å. Bjørke

Increasing water-use efficiency in all sectors is vital to ensure sustainable water resources for all uses. Human water demands, with only limited improvements in efficiency, are increasing and are already unsustainable in many regions.

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HomeChapter 33. Impacts
3.1 More water vapor
3.2 Sea level rise
3.3 Polar sea ice
3.4 Air pollution
3.5 Acidification
3.6 Health
3.7 Extreme weather
3.8 Economy
3.9 Refugees and conflicts
3.10 Glaciers
3.11 Tipping points
3.12 Biodiversity
3.13 Freshwater
Chapter 44. Ecosystems