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Will we ever run out of water?

We discuss the possibility of whether or not our planet can run out of its fresh water supply. We take a look at the dangers and ways the situation can be improved.

You may be aware that eventually we will run out of energy sources, these do not last indefinitely. It is estimated that if we don’t find any additional resources then we will run out of natural gas and coal around the year 2060, but the big question is, will we ever run out of water? 

The simple answer to this is no, we will not run out of water, but we could run out of usable water, or it could at least drop to dangerously low levels. Water never leaves our planet, the levels of water on Earth has not, and is not changing, but the levels of fresh drinking water is changing. The population on Earth is growing, and the bigger the population, the more water is needed to sustain households, businesses and the environment.

Water crisis - The Facts

If we use the UK as an example, by 2050 our population is estimated to rise from 67 million to 75 million. This bigger population would mean more houses, roads, food, businesses, and energy sources, and all of this requires plenty of water. The amount of water available by this point could be 10-15% lower than it is now, and alongside this, climate change will mean less predictable rainfall with potentially drier and hotter summers. You may think that the UK wouldn’t have a water problem as this country has a reputation of being constantly hit with rain, but this is only true for parts of the UK. The huge amounts of rain mostly come from the North of England, Scotland and Wales, whereas the South East of England actually sees less rainfall than South Sudan and Perth in Australia. The South East of England happens to be the most populated part of the country too. The year 2018 saw 6 consecutive months of below average rainfall in the UK, which caused many reservoirs to run at really low levels, and this was in no way a one off, as the previous year saw the driest 10 month period in over 100 years. 

Of course it’s not just the UK that is having issues with water, this is a worldwide problem, it is estimated that the global demand for water will increase by around 55% between the year 2000 and 2050, this is mainly due to the growing population and the extra development that comes with that. The world's water supply is diminishing faster than it is being replenished, and many of the world's major aquifers are receding. To put it in a simple way, there is not an infinite supply of fresh water. 

Water is used in the production of almost everything, as it is a fundamental part of the manufacturing process. There are a wide range of reasons why water is used in manufacturing, it is used for fabricating, washing, processing, diluting and cooling and even travel. There is a large amount of water used to produce paper, chemicals and food. 

Question - How do you fit 130 litres of water into one cup? 

Answer - Make a cup of coffee

Nearly 19,000 litres of water are used to produce a 1kg of coffee beans, which equates to one cup of coffee having a water footprint of 130 litres. It also takes approximately 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans, and around 2,500 litres to make a t-shirt. 125 litres of water are used to produce 1 apple, and 168 litres are used to make 1 pint of beer .

Climate change

Climate change is also negatively affecting the world’s water supply, extreme weather events in some countries are making it difficult to access safe drinking water. When these natural disasters do hit they can contaminate or even destroy water supplies, with rising water levels causing the fresh water to become salty. Global warming is also causing more droughts and unpredictable rainfall. 

Water security

One of the ways we can help overcome the issues with water we are having at the moment is by having a more water-secure system. Currently, our water cycle will start from places like rivers, aquifers and reservoirs (which are mostly filled by rainfall) and then after it has been through households or industry it will leave via wastewater networks and sewage, some of this is reused, but much of it leaves the system. With rainfall being less predictable, and this process relying heavily on rain, it just means we are only losing water from our water cycle. 

How you can help

Huge changes need to be made around the world, as individuals a lot of it is out of our control but there are changes everyone can make that will make a difference;

Don't buy bottled water

It sounds strange but the creation of the bottle itself uses around 6-7 times the amount of water in the bottle, to make the bottle. Drinking tap water is just as safe. 

Use less water in the house

Try not to leave the taps on and take quicker showers. Taking just a minute off every shower can make a huge difference.

Cut back on meat and animal products

The meat industry has a huge impact on the water supply. A litre of cow’s milk uses 3 times the amount of water to produce than soy milk. A beef burger uses 15 times the amount of water than a soy burger of the same size. 

The way we use water is off balance with the natural order of things. We are not living to this planet's limitations. One of our most precious resources is running low, but the good news is that it’s not too late to fix it. 

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