Why preserving and saving water matters to the life on planet 

The scarcity of high quality fresh water for consumption
Seventy percent of the planet’s surface is covered by water.
Almost all the Earth’s water is salt water and is in the oceans, improper for agricultural and industrial use.
Only 3 percent of the planet’s water is fresh water and most of it is in glaciers.
Less than 1 percent of the water is suitable for human consumption and is in rivers, lakes and water tables (difficult to reach).

According to the HDR – Human Development Report (UNDP - UN, Nov. 2006) :
- around 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water;
- around 2.6 billion people do not have basic sanitation facilities (most of them living in Africa and Asia);
- half of the hospital beds are occupied by patients with waterborne diseases;
- diarrhea claims the lives of as much as 4,900 under-5 children every day.

While a Mozambican uses an average of less than 10 liters of water a day, a European uses between 200 and 300, and a North-American uses 575 (50 liters only for flushing). Every person should have at least 20 liters of water for consumption available per day.

Water is unequally distributed around the planet.
Some countries in Africa and in the Middle East do not have water anymore.
From all fresh water available in the planet, approximately 13.7 percent are in Brazil.
The Amazon Basin holds 73 percent of the country’s fresh water.
The remaining 23 percent are unequally distributed around Brazil, to serve 93 percent of the population.
Northeastern has 28 percent of the population and 5 percent of the water reserves.

Some 90 percent of the Brazilian population has access to water. Many of the Brazilian cities with water distribution network usually suffer from rationing.
Regarding basic sanitation, 75 percent of the Brazilian population is served by sewage network, meaning that 43 million people are not.
Only 32 percent of the waste water and sewage produced in Brazil receive adequate treatment according to the Ministry of the Cities (2006).
Dumping untreated sewage in rivers, creeks and oceans is a threat to public health.

The consumption demand of water by the modern human being is increasing. The use of water increased three-fold ever since 1950.
The world population in 1820 was 1 billion inhabitants, 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1988, 6 billion in 2000 and 6.5 billion in 2006.

In view of the scarcity, there is an increased risk of disputes and conflicts among nations for the control of water springs.

The environmental pollution is a leading factor in the degradation of the country’s hydro-resources.
Rivers are polluted by pesticides, industrial residues, waste deposit leakage and the discharge of untreated domestic sewage.
Deforestation of riparian forests in river banks leaves the soil unprotected and causes the fast flow of rain waters resulting in floods and sedimentation of river beds with debris.
Slums and illegal lots grow along rivers and dams, polluting the reservoirs and threatening the population’s health (video).

The irrigation for agriculture is responsible for over two-thirds of all water drained from lakes, rivers and water tables, according to UN-FAO.
When wasting food, we also waste the water used to produce it.
The irrigation methods in farming are usually inefficient, wasting a lot of water.
Pesticides used in agriculture are poisonous chemical compounds, whose residues can cause a number of diseases. Some do not degrade causing a long-time contamination in the soil, underground and air.  

Cattle raising requires a large amount of water, for the living animals, in the slaughter, in the agro-industrial meat processing, and with the preparation of dairy products, according to CNRH – National Council of Hydro-resources.  

Industrial activity is the second largest consumer of the available fresh water. In addition to wasting and the lack of modern techniques for water reuse, the discharge of non-treated industrial effluents in rivers endangers the life of fish and other living creatures.  

Pricing of water : charging for the water consumed, not only for the distribution service as it used to be, makes agricultural and industrial producers more aware about not wasting it.

The high home consumption of water also produces more sewage which, in turn, when non-treated, pollutes rivers.

Brazil has the world’s largest reserve of fresh water but is a great waster of drinking water. Part of the treated water that leaves distributors does not reach the end user either due to leakage in the network or for unauthorized connections. The water is wasted through poorly maintained pipelines that are broken or diverted.

In some sections of the Sao Francisco River, the deforestation of riparian forests caused the silting of the river bed, with an abnormal formation of sand banks that prevents navigation and spoils fish habitats. In other places, the non-treated sewage of nearby cities polluted the waters. The Ministry of Environment coordinates a program to revitalize the San Francisco basin.

Global Action
The water and sanitation crises is, above all, a problem of the poor people. According to the UN, most countries have enough water to satisfy their home, industrial, agricultural and environmental needs. The problem is in its management.
The report (RDH, 2006) advocates a Global Action Plan, to be coordinated by the G8 countries, to focus efforts for the mobilization of resources and place water and sanitation issues in the core of the development agenda.
A crucial point for such action would be the affirmation of water as a basic human right.
Governments should have as minimum target the spending of at least 1 percent of GDP with water and sanitation.
Developed countries should increase their contribution to help solve this emergency crisis.
Clean water and sanitation are among the most efficient preventive remedies to reduce child mortality.

Did you know ?
March 22 is the World Water Day.
Algae produce most of the Earth's oxygen.
The human body consists of 3/4 of water.
A human being can survive 28 days without food, but only 3 days without water.
The first living organisms on Earth appeared in the water more than 3 billion years ago.
Examples of waterborne diseases : fever, diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis, poliomyelitis, malaria, dengue, etc.

A dripping faucet wastes 46 liters of water a day. That is 1,380 liters per month.
A thread of water of only 2 millimeters accounts for 4,140 liters in a month. And a thread of 4 millimeters represents 13,260 liters of wasted water in a month.
A 2-millimeter leak in a pipeline can cause a waste of 3,200 liters a day, that is, over three water tanks.

Water is a vital resource. Everyone can cooperate by doing a part : agriculturists, governments, companies, institutions and society.

Learn more : Agência Nacional de Águas, MMA, SABESP, CETESB, IBGE, PNUD-ONU, Universidade da Água, Lei do Saneamento Básico and Planeta COPPE.

Tips to avoid water waste and to require the preservation of hydro-resources

www.natureba.com.br On-line Environmental Education for All