Water is an indispensable resource to human activity weighing heavily on the quality of life of populations. In fact, water is not only essential to life, but also a key factor in economic development and social well-being.
In 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro most participating countries acknowledged the need to conciliate environment and economic development and agreed to partner up towards a sustainable development. Subsequently, and in consonance with this principle, emerges the need to rationally use water in order to prevent its future scarcity. Today, around the world, one in every ten people still has no access to potable water and one in three has no access to a toilet (World Health Organization, 2015).
Overall water can be considered an abundant resource if you consider there are about 1300 million cubic kilometres of it around the Earth. However, 99.9% of that water is either salty or frozen, which leaves only 0.01% of fresh water available in its liquid state. Water consumption is also unevenly distributed as 70% of it is used in agriculture and the remaining is split between the industry (20%) and the rest of society (10%). (Water Institute of Portugal).
99.9% of that water is either salty or frozen, which leaves only 0.01% of fresh water available in its liquid state.
According to the International Office for Water, in the 1950s water availability was of 16800 m3 a year per inhabitant while at present it is of 7300. This decrease is troublesome if we consider that the counterpart for economic development and change in social habits has been a six-fold increase in water consumption. If changes in water consumption keep up at this pace, water consumption will soon meet existing reserves. From that point on, 8 billion people will consume more water than nature can make available. This is aggravated by the uneven distribution of water resources in which ten countries hold 60% of the world’s fresh water reserves. This same mismatch occurs along temporal and spatial lines, as we can see in the Portuguese case, where floods and droughts are frequent occurrences.
There is an announced water shortage! It is urgent to use water in a rational way and manage this vital resource in a sustainable way.