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According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is an estimated 1.38 × 1021 liters of water within Earth’s dynamic system. However, only about 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh water. Moreover, only about .3 percent of the world’s water is usable by humans. With 6.57 billion humans on the planet, that leaves about 630 billion liters per person of accessible fresh water that we must share with the other living organisms on the planet.
The earth’s human population grew by nearly 200 percent in the twentieth century and the consumption of water by humans nearly tripled. According to the World Bank, the world’s water demands double every 21 years, and about 95 percent of the world’s cities still dump their sewage directly into the water system. According to the World Water Council, by 2050 the planet will be short about 17 percent of the water needed to feed the world’s population.
In 2003, humans consumed roughly 3.5 quadrillion liters of water. That comes to about 9.6 trillion liters per day, amounting to over 1,460 liters per person per day. China’s annual water consumption is roughly 640 trillion liters per year. That comes to about 1,350 liters per person per day, whereas US Americans consume closer to 1,735 liters.
Of all water consumption by humans on the planet, 69 percent goes to agriculture, most to livestock. In the USA, for example, 80 percent of agricultural land is used to raise livestock. And where it takes about 1,000 liters of water to grow 1 kilogram of grain, it takes about 15,000 liters of water to grow 1 kilogram of beef. Water for personal use accounts for less than 10 percent of total water consumption, but is a growing concern as underdeveloped countries urbanize.
China has roughly 22 percent of the world’s human population but access to only 8 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. China’s urban population uses approximately 220 liters per day per person for personal use, over 10 times that of the rural population. From 1978 to 2004, China’s urbanization rate grew to 41.8 percent from 17.9 percent. By the middle of the century, urbanization rates are forecasted to rise to 75 percent. That being the case, China will have to make over 85 billion more liters of water accessible to urbanites per day. A difficult feat considering 400 of China’s 660 major cities already suffer from insufficient water resources.
In 2001, the Rio Grande failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico; and due to damning and irrigation, other great rivers like the Colorado and the Yellow at times barely trickle into the ocean while the Mekong and the Nile are in future threat of encountering the same problem--What did the fish say when it ran into a wall... Dam! As a result, desertification is slowly claiming all the fertile lands in Egypt while the Gobi desert creeps at a rate of 3 kilometers per year towards Beijing—now only 160 kilometers away.
Where is Earth’s Water located? USGS. January, 2007.
How Much Water is there on Earth? How Stuff Works. January, 2007. http://science.howstuffworks.com/question157.htm
World POPClock Projection. U.S. census Bureau. January, 2007.
Specter, Michael. The Last Drop—Confronting the Possibility of a Global Catastrophe. The New Yorker. Oct. 23, 2006. Pages 60-71.
Livestock Water Use. USGS. January, 2007.
Livestock a Major Threat to Environment. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. January, 2007.
Global Water Outlook to 2025: Averting an Impeding Crisis. International Food Policy Research Institute. January, 2007.
Nation Sets Goals for Urban Water Consumption. China.Org.Cn. January, 2007.
China, Canals & Coal. EcoWorld. January, 2007.
China’s Urbanization Encounters “Urban Disease.” Chinanews.cn. January, 2007.
Global Water Shortage Looms in New Century. Arizona Water Res. January, 2007.
Vaknin, Sam. Who Owns the World’s Water? The Progress Report. January, 2007.
China Faces Growing Water Shortage. World Politics Watch. January, 2007.
China’s Season of Dust. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Unesco—The Courier. June, 2006.