Water is something some of us take for granted and it is only when water is not available that we fully appreciate its importance in our lives.
A growing population and climate change are putting increasingly intense pressure on our limited fresh water supplies.
We face an enormous challenge in the years ahead in order that we have in place a stable and safe water supply across the world.
Chennai, an Indian city with a population of seven million which is dependent on monsoon showers to fill up its reservoirs, ran out of water earlier this year. It is not the only dry city in India.
India’s business capital Mumbai along with the information technology capital, Bengaluru and Hyderabad all suffer from water scarcity.
The water problems are not isolated to urban cities and India’s rural communities suffer from an acute water shortage that has had a severe impact on the country’s agriculture.
The water scarcity has already cost jobs, lives and it is estimated to hamper India’s growth.
Jordan, the third most water scarce country in the world, is trying to deal with an influx of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
The government has recently announced a crackdown on illegal wells after an international study indicated that water levels at several aquifers have been dropping at a rate of one metre per year.
Water is underpriced in most places and does not cover the costs involved in bringing it to the consumer.
There is a lack of money to invest in new networks to support ever growing urban areas and existing networks lack proper maintenance.
Three out of every four jobs globally are dependent upon water in some way, said a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation adviser.
By 2050, estimated demand for food will rise by 50 per cent but we do not have 50pc more water to allocate to agriculture.
Also, by 2050 it is estimated that over two-thirds of the global population will live in fast-growing cities.
We must consider that access to water is very unequal.
In the US they use around 800 litres per person per day, in Europe it is around 200 but in many poor parts of the world it is just 10 to 15 litres.
Bahrain uses an astonishing 400 litres per person!
Even in wet countries they are running out of water. In the UK, the head of water resources at the Environment Agency said people do not understand that the nation is becoming water scarce.
This is especially true in the south-east of England, the most populous of the nine regions of England.
After three successive dry years, they are recording the lowest levels of groundwater ever recorded.
James Bevin, the head of the Environment Agency, has warned that a “jaws of death” scenario is close at hand when supply cannot meet demand. This message has not gone far from the halls of government in London with the public totally unaware of the circumstances.
How can we encourage people to use less water when recent flooding affected large parts of England?
Finally, let’s not forget the impact global warming is having on Venice this month with the city awash from three floods over 1.5 metres and the highest in 53 years at 1.87 metres.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]