News / Health

    4 Billion People Lack Fresh Water

    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage
    Rosanne Skirble

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously understood, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem.

    Water scarcity is fueled by population growth, consumption habits and demands from agriculture.

    Its impact is evident on the landscape, said Arjen Hoekstra, a professor of water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and co-author of the new study in the journal Science Advances.

    "Groundwater levels decline and lakes disappear,” Hoekstra said. “You have less water flowing in the rivers. This threatens ecosystems and biodiversity, and harms local downstream communities where water will not flow."

    FILE - Livestock find water on parched land in India, July 15, 2014. Half of the four billion people faced with water scarcity live in China and India.
    FILE - Livestock find water on parched land in India, July 15, 2014. Half of the four billion people faced with water scarcity live in China and India.

    Unlike previous studies, this work compares consumption to available water on a monthly rather than annual basis from around the world. In their models, researchers included data on climate, land use, soils, crop growth, irrigation, population densities and industry. 

    Water scarcity widespread

    The study finds that the situation affects many more than the 1.7 to 3 billion people previously estimated.

    China and India account for approximately half of the four billion reported in the study.

    Hoekstra said the problem is widespread, with critical shortages also in Mexico, North Africa, South Africa, the Middle East and the American West.

    "We have a much more accurate picture from all those places," he said. "The data shows us precisely when the scarcity occurs and for what reason."

    Hoekstra said the study creates a new baseline for policymakers.

    "Governments need to set a water cap for every month so they don't allow more water use than water available, and people must become more aware of how much water is being used for everything they consume," Hoekstra said.

    FILE - A villager in Tanshan, nestled among brown hills in central China's Ningxia region, walks to a well to fetch water Feb. 17, 2003.
    FILE - A villager in Tanshan, nestled among brown hills in central China's Ningxia region, walks to a well to fetch water Feb. 17, 2003.

    Consumer awareness also helps, he added, explaining, "Consumers can make choices based on the amount of water used for making their products. And if they consume less meat, for example, it will really save a lot of water."

    Sustainable use crucial

    Hoekstra said the key is to use water more sustainably, a mandate that ranks high on the international agenda.

    "The World Economic Forum names water scarcity — together with climate change — as the highest priority of environmental concern. It is the biggest risk to the global economy," he said.

    Hoekstra adds that governments should put a price on water resources and allocate those resources more wisely.

    He hopes the new data will lead to action to reduce water scarcity, taking into account how to use water more efficiently, how to consume water more sustainably and how, by changing our habits as consumers, we can make a real difference.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: rachmanyd from: indonesia
    February 14, 2016 8:09 AM
    While this is very urgent is the fight against climate change, the UN should do everything possible to "establish the mindset of" every citizen of the world to care about the fight against climate change.

    by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
    February 14, 2016 7:50 AM
    I once submitted an idea to major engineering firms on manufacturing water from air by extracting oxygen and hydrogen from the air and combining the two elements to make water. It seems straightforward enough. If it can be done efficiently, it would bring water to any location with an ATW (Atmosphere to Water) device that has normal air which is everywhere. I don't know the challenges to this in engineering but the concept is simple and therefore seems possible. Air filtration would produce clean water which would be an asset in locations where water is impure with chemicals, viruses or bacteria. Units could even be solar powered if possible making them useable without external power sources. This may be the route to clean abundant water in the future. I made this suggestion to GE I think but nothing has happened and so the idea may not work however.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora