Many countries in the world are faced with a water deficit, and water shortage has become a looming crisis for the whole mankind. The on-going World Water Forum in Istanbul has again drawn the world's attention to the problem.
Even though most of the Earth's surface is covered with water, 97 percent of the Earth's water is saltwater, which contains too many minerals for humans to use untreated. Two percent of the drinkable water is "locked up" in ice caps and glaciers, leaving only less than 1 percent of usable fresh water.
While water supplies are under threat, the demand for water is increasing rapidly because of industrialization, rising living standards and changing diets that include more foods, such as meat, which require a larger amount of water to produce, said the latest UN World Water Development Report released on March 12.
"The result is a continuously increasing demand for finite water resources for which there are no substitutes," it says, predicting that by 2030, nearly half of the world's population will be living in areas of high water stress.
Water shortage has begun to stifle economic development. Output of agriculture, which is responsible for 70 percent of the total water consumption, will diminish, further deteriorating the already existing food crisis.
Industries, which accounts for 20 percent of the fresh water used by people, will also be forced to cut down on production.
Meanwhile, squabbles over water in politically unstable areas are increasingly driving conflicts, requiring the development of new security strategies to resolve these disputes.
Water has become one of the sources of bitterness between Arabs and Israelis in the Mideast and it soured relations among many African nations.
Apart from rising populations and climate changes, insufficient control on pollution, waste and poor management are also responsible for water shortages.
Experts have called for enhanced legislative protection and efficient management, as well as redoubled efforts to improve technologies in seawater treatment and rainwater storage.
(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2009)