Importance of Freshwater Conservation
Freshwater ecosystems are essential to human life. They support us with water, food, electricity, transportation, recreation and spiritual refuge. They purify the water we use, moderate floods and droughts and provide other economic benefits. As human demands grow, these systems are unraveling. What the world needs are practical solutions that improve conditions for nature and people. Predictions indicate that within the next 50 years, more than half the world will face water shortages. Yet, opportunities do exist to improve conditions for nature and people.
Freshwater ecosystems are a critically important source of food. Fifteen percent of the fish we consume comes from freshwater habitats — the fishery of Asia’s Mekong River supports 55 million people.
They provide more than food. Freshwater systems:
- Store flood waters,
- Purify water supplies,
- Generate electricity with hydropower,
- Produce building materials such as timber and clay bricks,
- Provide places for recreation and attractions for tourists, and
- Deliver sand to replenish coastal beaches.
- 2.5 gallons: The amount of water per person much of the world is allocated.
- 400 gallons: The amount of water per person used by the average American citizen; 30 percent of this is used for outdoor purposes, such as watering the lawn.
- 70 percent: The amount of worldwide water use that is allocated to farming; most of these farming irrigation systems operate at only 40 percent efficiency. According to a 2002 article by Lester Brown, aquifers are depleting all over the world—in China by 2-3 meters per year. In the US, the Ogallala aquifer is shrinking rapidly. In India, aquifers are going down by 3 meters per year, in Mexico by 3.3 meters per year.
- 263: The number of rivers that either cross or demarcate international political boundaries, in addition to countless aquifers. According to the Atlas of International Freshwater Agreement, 90 percent of countries in the world must share these water basins with at least one or two other states. Major conflicts such as Darfur have been connected to water shortages, and lack of access to clean water.
- 1430: Gallons of water per capita in the United States; only 100 gallons of that is household use per person as most is used for agriculture, according to water expert Peter Gleick.
- 88 percent: Of deaths from diarrhea are caused from unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation; this translates to more than 1.5 million of the 1.9 million children under five who perish from diarrhea each year. This amounts to 18% of all under-five deaths and means that more than 4,000 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases.
- $11.3 billion: The amount of money required to provide basic levels of service for drinking and waste water in Africa and Asia.
- $35 billion: the amount of money spent on bottled water in the most developed countries in the world.
- 1.5 million: Barrels of crude oil used for making PET water bottles, globally. This is enough oil to fuel 100,000 American cars for a year.
- 2.7 tons: The amount of plastic used to bottle water. 86 percent become garbage or litter.