World Water Day: Water becomes a scarce commodity

Drinking water emergency in 2025?

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Humanity is growing, resources are becoming increasingly scarce. 745 million people already live in countries where there is a lack of water or scarcity of water. By the year 2025, their number is expected to increase fivefold. Then, according to current estimates, 2.8 to 3.3 billion people will already suffer from chronic or recurrent dehydration - most of them in Africa and Asia. The Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevlerik (DSW) pointed this out on the occasion of today's World Water Day. This is under the motto "Coping with Water Scarcity" - "Time to act - Water scarcity and drought".

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"While the earth's natural resources are shrinking, the world's population is growing by 78 million people every year, " says Jörg F. Maas, Managing Director of the German Foundation for World Population (DSW).

Population growth increases pressure on resources

The pressure on the limited resource of water is steadily increasing due to rapid population growth. This is also reflected in the fact that access to drinking water is a problem in many regions. "Sub-Saharan Africa grew between 1990 and 2004 from 477.3 million to 689.6 million people. At the same time, the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water fell from 52 to 44 percent. However, the absolute number of people affected has risen from 248.2 to 303.4 million due to rapid population growth, "explains Maas.

"Water is not a finite resource, but clean water is becoming scarcer all over the world. Climate change will aggravate the water shortage in many poor parts of the world. Therefore, we must not let up in our efforts to use water as sparingly and as beneficial as possible, "added Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel and UNICEF Germany chair Heide Simons called for finally giving the world's poorest people access to clean water. display

BUND calls for comprehensive water protection

Water shortage is, however, according to the German Federal Government for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) not only a problem of southern countries. Lower rainfall and more frequent droughts also threatened the availability of water in parts of Central Europe. In the river basins of the Danube and Elbe, there will be up to a third less water in the foreseeable future. In some regions of Germany, such as in the Palatinate or in Brandenburg, the formation of groundwater will almost halve.

Sebastian Schönauer, water expert of the BUND: "Global warming will further aggravate water scarcity. That is why the international community needs to integrate water protection more fully into climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. The most important source of drinking water and at the same time an extremely sensitive habitat is the groundwater. Its protection must be done nationwide. If, as planned, the EU Water Policy Directive permits zones in which harmful substance limits may be exceeded, this endangers the quality of one of our most important foodstuffs. "

Over half of the waters are already in critical condition due to ongoing pollution. In addition to nitrate input from agriculture, around 70 different pesticides and 100 active pharmaceutical ingredients were released into the groundwater. Every year, more than 5, 000 tonnes of heavy metals are discharged into the waters in Germany alone. The risks of increasing pollutants resulting from increasing water scarcity have so far remained unclear.

Schönauer: "We urge the EU Parliament and the EU Council to include substances such as lead, hormonally active substances, hazardous pesticides and plasticizers in their directive on preventing the entry of hazardous pollutants into the water. At the latest by 2020, these poisons can no longer get into the waters. This requires mandatory measures such as substance bans, regulations on the substitution of substances and wastewater treatment in agriculture, industry and health care

(DSW / BMU / BUND, 22.03.2007 - DLO)