Water allocation is to some degree a population issue, said Giegengack, who noted that the worldcounts 6.8 billion people in 2011, and is likely to grow to just under 10 billion by the end of thecentury. The amount of fresh water available for human use is a tiny percentage of all the wateron earth (oceans are 97.41 percent of the total, for instance), he said. But, he added, all water isrecycled and fresh water supplies are adequate for human needs
the annual precipitation over
the state of Pennsylvania alone is 10 times the world’s consumption requirement, estimated at
four liters per person per day.However, growth in human per capita demand is higher than the population, as people eat higheron the food chain, Giegengack said. Water is also heavily used in industrial processes and inagriculture. Energy production is also water intensive
(a subject covered in IGEL’s “ValuingWater” report, issued in conjunction with the conference)
, and human energy use per capita isalso growing faster than the population. These factors mean that despite water conservation
efforts, we’re actually moving
rapidly away from sustainable management of this preciousresource.Giegengack cited several examples, including very limited per capita water availability in northAfrica and shrinking resources in the Colorado River Basin. He described the Colorado as 23percent of the available water resources on the west coast, but under incredible stress (from out-of-basin transfers to agriculture, industry and cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix and LasVegas) almost from the day the Colorado River Compact was enacted in 1922. Because of suchtransfers, increasing over time, the 1922 water commitment to Mexico is rarely met.Other river basins under stress, according to Giegengack, include the Jordan, Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Yangtze and Mekong. Overdrafts from the 10,000-square-mile Ogallala Aquifer,which extends through eight states and is the principal water source for the High Plains U.S.,brings it down a meter annually.As solutions to human water overdrafts, Giegengack proposed a variety of conservation methods(including efforts to reduce evaporation and leakage), inter-basin transfers, technologicalimprovements to irrigation practices, stepped-up desalination, and reduced industrialconsumption
which can involve replacing drinking-quality water with reclaimed grey water.
People can also eat lower on the food chain, and “improve” food crops to make them less water
“The water cris
is is more threatening to human welfare than climate change and more
immediate than the energy crisis,” Giegengack said.
Some 884 million people don’t have access to clean water, but world water withdrawals areincreasing and 47 percent of the world’s pop
ulation will face some degree of water shortage by2030, said Will Sarni. He is a Deloitte Consulting director who leads Enterprise Water Strategy
for the company’s sustainability services
, and author of the forthcoming book
Corporate Water Strategies
(Earthscan).Water availability will be an increasing concern for corporations, Sarni said, and the issue isbeginning to have an impact in board rooms.
“The public expects industry to have a role, though
full disclosure of water use is still
an issue,” Sarn
i said. Water scarcity issues are easier for the