What Is Water and Do We Have Enough?
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Water, H2O, is one natural resource that is abundant in our environment, yet it is gradually running scarce.
So, What Is Water?
It is a natural occurring resource made up of 2 Atoms of Hydrogen ions and One atom of Oxygen connected by a covalent bond. It is a universal solvent whose uses cut across all aspects of our daily lives - such as washing, cooking, bathing, recreational, and agricultural use to name a few. Water is one resource which over the years has been a source of territorial and communal clashes. It is a major factor in human development and is vital for all known forms of life. It exists in various forms: solid (ice),liquid (water) and gas (vapour). It has its sources from rain water, melting ice, rivers, streams, oceans, wells, water vapors, and bore holes. Water is a renewable natural resource which occupies about 71% of the earth's surface, yet it a scarce resource because its normal bio circle is currently being altered by human activities and climate change.
Why is water a scarce resource?
Though water exists in a large volume on the earth's surface, approximately 1 billion people still lack access to it because more than half of the water on the earth's surface has been polluted. In a recent report: 500 scientists said that the "majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will live with severe pressure on fresh water within the space of two generations as climate change, pollution and over-use of resources take their toll, they warned." The world's water systems would soon reach a tipping point that "could trigger irreversible change with potentially catastrophic consequences", hence they called on governments to start conserving the vital resource. They said it was wrong to see fresh water as an endlessly renewable resource because, in many cases, people are pumping out water from underground sources at such a rate that it will not be restored within several lifetimes. "These are self-inflicted wounds," said Charles Vörösmarty, a professor at the Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Centre. "We have discovered tipping points in the system. Already, there are 1 billion people relying on ground water supplies that are simply not there as renewable water supplies."
Let's Talk Population and Water Supply!
A majority of the population – about 4.5 billion people globally – already live within 50km of an "impaired" water resource – one that is running dry, or polluted. If these trends continue, millions more will see their water running out or polluted that it will no longer support life.
Relating this to Nigeria: Currently you will realise that an average Nigerian home is a local government of its own, where families provide their own electricity, provide their own revenue and their own water from either dug wells or bore holes. People drink directly without proper treatment or laboratory testing to know if the water is safe for utilisation or not. A typical example of this is the Ogoni area in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in an area. The UNEP report in 2010 revealed that the Ogoni area underground water is polluted with Benzene a cancerous chemical to about 300 times above the recommended standard, but yet they till utilise it because they have no other source of safe drinking water. The Nigerian Niger Delta region is a region filled with water yet they are experiencing water scarcity already.
Where Is Government Help?
It beats my imagination to see that our government can no longer take water issues seriously. This is gradually resulting to an excessive wastage coupled with water pollution from oil spills, underground leakages, buried pipelines and leaching of chemicals and fertilizers into water bodies by individuals and cooperate organisation, yet the governments are not doing anything to remediate this situation.
It has been reported also that in recent time the run-off from agricultural fertilisers containing nitrogenous chemicals has created over 200 large "dead zones" in seas, and rivers where fish and other aquatic organisms can no longer live. Cheap technology to pump water from underground and rivers, has also led to the over-use of scarce resources for irrigation or industrial purposes, with much of the water wasted because of poor techniques.
A rapidly rising population has increased demand beyond the capability of some water resources. This report came at the right time, when the governments of the world are busy transacting CDM and Carbon credit businesses and neglecting the basic issues of finding a sustainable solution to climate change. These threats are numerous. Climate change is likely to cause an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, floods, heat-waves and storms.
These scientists warned that the developed world would also suffer. For instance, there are now 210 million citizens of the US living within 10 miles of an "impaired" water source, and that number is likely to rise as the effects of global warming take hold.
In Europe, some water sources are running dry because due to over-extraction for irrigation, much of which is carried on in an unsustainable fashion. In a similar vain the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, added his voice to concerns about water security: "We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met."
These scientist at the end of their research came up with a resolution that: Politicians should include tough new targets on improving water in the sustainable development goals that will be introduced when the current millennium development goals expire in 2015. They want governments to introduce water management systems that will address the problems of pollution, over-use, wastage and climate change.
What Should Be Done, But What Do YOU Think?
The water issue is a global affair and thus a well strategic management and monitoring system should be adopted by the government.
Highly polluted regions like Niger Delta region in Nigeria should be supplied with safe drinking water from well treated, purified and distributed water source so as to curb the high rate of water borne disease victims in that region.
Integrating nature-based solutions into urban planning can also help us build better water futures for cities, where water stresses may be especially acute given the rapid pace of urbanisation."(Ban Ki-moon)
In order to solve this menace of water scarcity globally we must adapt a sustainable water management plan to mitigate the impact of water scarcity in Africa, Nigeria and the rest of the world.