Global demand for water is rising. Water resources are stressed. Climate change, population increase and poor water management are causing water scarcity.
In the summer of 2018 Ireland experienced a drought. This event was one of the inspirations behind Climatree. At the time it was hard to believe that Ireland, a lush green country with an abundance of rivers and lakes, could experience a water shortage. The drought in Ireland in 2018 followed by another in 2020 serve as reminders that water shortages are possible and that water conservation is important.
How is climate change disrupting water supply?
New weather patterns and extremes of temperature are being driven by climate change. These new patterns and extremes increase the likelihood of drought and flood events which have a negative effect on water supply.
How much water is there in the world?
Water takes up 70% of the earth’s surface but roughly 97% of it is saltwater1.
What percentage of it is freshwater?
Less than 3% of Earth’s water is freshwater. About 70% of that is frozen in ice caps and glaciers or running in deep underground aquifers. If the remaining 30% is unpolluted and easily accessible that means less than one third of the available 3% is safe drinking water. It works out that roughly 0.9% is available and safe for drinking2. That’s not where it ends though. Most of that water is used for other purposes. The estimated usage of that 0.9% is broken down below.
How is our available water used?
72% of all water withdrawals are used by agriculture, 16% by municipalities for households and services, and 12% by industries.3 That means that of our available drinking water supply only 0.014% is available as drinking water. Some estimates say it could be as low as .003%.4 Our available fresh water supply is being used up fast while also being hit by extreme weather events. As populations increase and new climate patterns emerge we are going to have to become more water resilient. In the next post we’ll try to put Ireland in this picture.