An interactive map developed by Aalto University has mapped the shocking water shortage the world currently faces.
The availability of clean water is a challenge the world currently faces as climate change and thirsty commercial processes make it scarce in certain regions.
Agriculture, apparel manufacturers and chemical production all require enormous amounts of water and climate change has also made extreme drought become more commonplace.
The average person in Europe now uses 3,000 to 5,000 litres of water per day, researchers claim.
In the last year, droughts and water shortages have affected Great Britain, South Africa and Australia as well as vast swathes of Africa and central Asia.
The situation in South Africa became so dire that a marine salvage expert was trying to secure funding to bring an enormous iceberg to Cape Town to provide clean drinking water to its parched residents.
Water resources are becoming an even more pressing for future years as populations continue to grow and climate change worsens.
The Water Scarcity Atlas is a web application created by Postdoctoral Researcher Joseph Guillaume and Assistant Professor Matti Kummu at Aalto University and uses interactive global maps to show the problems that arise with limited water and provides information on how to fight it.
The map allows people to track the areas where people live in water scarcity, water stress and water shortage.
Water stress can be thought of as demand-driven scarcity, while water shortage is population-driven. Stress can occur even with a small population if water use is sufficiently high and water availability sufficiently low.
‘Choices that consumers make here in the North have an effect on the other side of the world. Understanding water scarcity and the impact of your actions is the first step to shaping the future,’ explains Dr Guillaume.
‘We wanted to create a capacity building tool so that people can better understand what makes their choices sustainable or not.’
The tool visualises how water scarcity has evolved over the past 100 years and presents potential scenarios for the rest of this century.
It also allows people to see how different factors, such as changes in diet and food losses, affect water resources all over the world.
‘As water use increases, it becomes more difficult to access the resource sustainably. Eating less meat and avoiding food waste can reduce water use,’ says Dr Guillaume.
‘We need to support initiatives by governments, NGOs, and companies with water stewardship programmes.
‘It’s hard to strike a balance between environmental and human needs, especially when there isn’t enough water to go around.
‘We can work together to help farmers and other water users adopt new techniques, and establish effective management arrangements.’
HOW MUCH WATER DO WE USE?
Agriculture, textile manufacturing and the chemical industry require enormous amounts of water.
The apparel industry is a major consumer of water as it is integral in the manufacture of many products.
Denim is one of the worst offending products as water is needed to die the fabric in the desired colour. Indigo coloured jeans are the worst by this metric.
Levi Strauss, a leader in the sector at trying to reduce unnecessary water consumption, conducted a life-cycle assessment on their iconic 501 jeans.
They found that one pair of jeans uses 3,781 litres of water in its lifetime – from growing cotton, manufacturing, consumer care and end of life disposal.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) was setup by Levi’s in 2005 to make the use of water in the industry more efficient as well as improving labour standards and increasing the economic livelihood for farmers.
BCI farmers use up to 18 per cent less water than non-BCI farmers and, by 2020, othe firm’s goal is to use 100 per cent sustainable cotton to significantly reduce our total water footprint.
A report from 2017 found that the manufacture of chemicals and chemical products is the largest sub-sector in terms of volume for water usage in the UK.
This sector accounts for over one-half of the total volume directly abstracted by the manufacturing sector for consumptive uses.
Another significant sub-sector was the ‘Manufacture of paper and paper products’.
In total, these two sub-sectors accounted for approximately 70 per cent of the total volume directly abstracted for consumptive use by the manufacturing sector in England.
In a table showing the estimated volume of water from non-tidal sources in England and Wales the upper limit for the ‘manufacture of chemicals and chemical products’ was 228,427 million litres.
Farming accounts for around 70 per cent of water used in the world today and also contributes to water pollution from excess nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants.
It is used to help and advance the growing of arable crops as well as fallow land.
The cotton industry is incredibly thirsty and improper Soviet irrigation has caused the Aral Sea to shrink drastically, destroying local towns and ecosystems.