Valuing every drop

A drop of water is in demand. A drop of water is powerful.

Water is at the core of sustainable development. Water resources, and the range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and inclusive growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions.



Water is health

Water is essential to human health. The human body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Water is essential to our survival. Regular handwashing, is for example one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Up to one trillion germs can live in one gram of poop.

As for the human body, in average it is made of  50-65% water. Babies have the highest percentage of water; newborns are 78% water.  Every day, every person needs access to water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Water is essential for sanitation facilities that do not compromise health or dignity. The World Health Organization recommends 7.5 liters per capita per day will meet the requirements of most people under most conditions. A higher quantity of about 20 liters per capita per day will take care of basic hygiene needs and basic food hygiene.

Despite impressive gains made over the last decade, 748 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion do not use an improved sanitation facility. Investments in water and sanitation services result in substantial economic gains. The return on investment of attaining universal access to improved sanitation has been estimated at 5.5 to 1, whereas for universal access of improved drinking-water sources the ration is estimated to be 2 to 1. To cover every person worldwide with safe water and sanitation is estimated to cost US$ 107 billion a year over a five-year period.

Water is food



To produce two steaks you need 15 000 liters of water.

Each American uses 7,500 litres of water per day—mostly for food. One litre of water is needed to irrigate one calorie food. Inefficient water use can mean 100 litres are used to produce one calorie. Irrigation takes up to 90% of water withdrawn in some developing countries. Globally, agriculture is the largest user of water, accounting for 70% of total withdrawal.

By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60% more food globally, and 100% more in developing countries.

Economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water. Producing 1 kilo rice, for example, requires about 3,500 litres of water, while 1 kilo of beef some 15,000 litres. This shift in diet is the greatest to impact on water consumption over the past 30 years, and is likely to continue well into the middle of the twenty-first century.

The current growth rates of agricultural demands on the world’s freshwater resources are unsustainable. Inefficient use of water for crop production depletes aquifers, reduces river flows, degrades wildlife habitats, and has caused salinization of 20% of the global irrigated land area. To increase efficiency in the use of water, agriculture can reduce water losses and, most importantly, increase crop productivity with respect to water.

With increased intensive agriculture, water pollution may worsen. Experience from high income countries shows that a combination of incentives, including more stringent regulation, enforcement and well-targeted subsidies, can help reduce water pollution.



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