What I have noticed missing from the dialogues on climate change is discussion on water and water quality as it relates to carbon emissions. Oil industry, for example, consumes and contaminates huge quantities of water and newer hydro fracturing technologies indicated more is on the way. Water management is a significant part of carbon management and translates directly into tones of GHG. It is also 100+ years problem (unlike air contamination). Most of companies have no established methods for water and groundwater accounting. Some progressive oil companies have made first steps in this direction and are quantifying their (dirty) water footprint. In my recent discussion with executives from several large companies it appears nobody wants to touch this subject. Yet, this is unavoidable issue that will move into the center stage as soon as GHG bubble bursts. Here is some interesting statistics on groundwater:
- 22% of all freshwater withdrawals
- 37% of agricultural use (mostly for irrigation)
- 37% of the public water supply withdrawals
- 51% of all drinking water for the total population (US)
- 99% of drinking water for the rural population (US)
Source: 2005 United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Water is often undervalued and wasted – the OECD forecasts that 47% of world population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030 unless new policies are introduced. Water, like climate change, is set to be a key issue for the 21st century. It is through water that the impacts of climate change are most likely to be felt, with changing patterns of precipitation and melting glaciers affecting the supply of this critical resource. At the same time population growth, urbanization and rising per capita consumption are expected to result in rapidly increasing demand for water. Businesses will be impacted positively and negatively, and will have a significant role to play in developing and implementing solutions to the water challenge. At present, however, awareness and understanding of water-related risks and opportunities is generally limited in the business and investment communities. For that reason, CDP initiated the Water Disclosure project.
Here are some other compiled facts on water from various sources:
- Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
- 3.575 million People die each year from water-related disease. •
- 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 – 14.
- 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world.
- 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
- The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
- At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
- An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.
- There are over 2 million known contaminated sites in the US. 80% of them have contaminated groundwater.
- About a third of people without access to an improved water source live on less than $1 a day. More than two thirds of people without an improved water source live on less than $2 a day.
- Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city. • Without food a person can live for weeks, but without water you can expect to live only a few days.
- The daily requirement for sanitation, bathing, and cooking needs, as well as for assuring survival, is about 13.2 gallons per person.
- Over 50 percent of all water projects fail and less than five percent of projects are visited, and far less than one percent have any longer-term monitoring.