Water is one of the world’s most abundant materials and makes up more than 70 percent of an adult’s body composition, and it covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface. It is estimated there is more than a total of 326 million cubic miles of water in and on the earth. Yet, in spite of this great abundance, less than 0.3 percent of this water is available for humans to use. This is the reason understanding the severity of the current and future potential for a catastrophic water shortage is important to all people.
Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink
This quote from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” deals with an isolated instance of being surrounded by unusable water. Unfortunately, it is a circumstance that affects more than 1.2 billion individuals around the globe every day. These people live their lives in constant threat of disease, undernourishment, and death from a lack of clean, potable water.
Ironically, it is the great quantity of water that makes it so difficult for most of the world to understand its scarcity. It is even more difficult to anticipate the looming water shortages so many knowledgeable experts predict. Unfortunately for those billion plus men, women and children, the shortage is already a life-threatening problem today. The crisis is so real, the United Nations Development Programme reports that more people die each year due to unclean water and inadequate sanitation than all deaths from war and guns.
A Problem of Supply
The reality of these statistics point not to an issue of the existence of sufficient clean water, it is more a problem of supply and access. Even in the developed countries of the world, the infrastructure that delivers clean water is in a severe state of deterioration. While many countries have never had access to adequate supplies of drinkable water, others are facing the loss of existing supplies due to old and inefficient systems.
According to Business Insider, it is estimated by the American Society of Engineers that at least $255 billion must be spent in the United States alone over just the next 5 years to deal with infrastructure problems. Less than half of that amount is currently budgeted to replace century-old pipes, install new centrifugal pumps, and add new water transport capabilities.
As the issue of clean water occupies a greater part of the global conscience, it will take some of mankind’s most imaginative minds and inconceivable levels of investment to deal with this vital problem.