While the present and future water scarcity issues are severe, there are several organizations around the world that are making an impact on global water issues. On this World Water Day 2015, we highlight eight organizations making a positive difference.

Pacific Institute
The Pacific Institute is a leader in producing research and informational resources about water conservation. They provide frequent reports on water conservation issues around the world including sustainability, water conflicts, and water use for agriculture and energy. Every two years they publish The World’s Water, a comprehensive report providing data and analysis about the world’s freshwater resources.

World Water Council
The World Water Council is an international organization that promotes political awareness and action on water conservation issues. The organization is planning its 7th World Water Forum in South Korea, which brings together participants from the international water community to exchange ideas and develop partnerships.

Project WET
Although many people are unaware of the magnitude of water problems throughout the world, Project WET is helping inform people at a young age through their programs. Through instructional materials they help educators teach students about important water concepts such as managing and protecting water resources.

Clean Water Action
For 40 years, Clean Water Action has promoted legislation to protect water resources in the United States including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. They continue to work to close legal loopholes to prevent pollution of freshwater resources. In California they are promoting legislation to allow the public to anonymously request well log data.

Water Aid
Water Aid is a 30 year-old international non-profit that has helped over 20 million people gain access to clean water. The organization focuses on providing clean water to the poorest communities through water projects and changing government policy in 26 countries worldwide.
Co-founded by Matt Damon, provides innovative solutions to the world water crisis including the microfinance program WaterCredit. Water microloans allow borrowers to improve their access to clean water and then repay the money so it can be redeployed to other communities. They also partner with communities to construct and maintain clean water projects.

Columbia Water Center
The Columbia Water Center at Columbia University develops evidence-based innovations to address global water issues. They have implemented large scale rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharging systems in Africa and water quantity and quality management strategies in China’s Yangtze River basin. They produce research on issues such as America’s water security and the water-food-energy nexus.

Charity: Water
Charity: Water tackles the problem of lack of clean water by raising money for clean water projects. It finds organizations providing long-lasting water services and funds their projects to provide clean water. What sets it apart is that 100% of public donations fund water projects and GPS coordinates are provided so completed projects can be viewed on Google Maps.

5 Consequences of a Global Water Shortage

by admin on March 9, 2015

According to one recent study, by 2040 there will not be enough water available to meet global demand for both drinking and energy production. The shrinking freshwater resources and growing demand will have negative ramifications for billions of people. In this article we discuss five consequences of a future with widespread water shortages.

water bucketIncreased Global Conflict
Freshwater resources are often shared by two or more countries which may lead to more international conflicts as freshwater becomes more scarce. The United Nations has identified 276 transboundry river basins and 200 transboundry aquifers. While treaties have outpaced acute disputes over the past 50 years (150 verses 37), the US director of national intelligence warned in a 2012 report that overuse of water could potentially threaten US national security.

Lack of Access to Clean Water
Currently 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to clean freshwater. Without access to clean freshwater, these vulnerable populations are exposed to deadly water-borne illnesses and water gathering can limit educational and economic opportunities. As the global population grows and water resources shrink, greater numbers will face the challenges of inadequate water accessibility.

Food Shortages
With a global population on pace to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, shrinking water resources will make it difficult for food production to keep up with rising demand. The United Nations warns that political turmoil, social unrest, civil war and terrorism could result from food shortages unless food production is increased by 60% by 2050. Agriculture already accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals to keep up with current food demand. Increased farm water conservation through water saving irrigation techniques are needed to slow the unsustainable withdrawals from groundwater sources.

Energy Shortages
World energy requirements are rapidly increasing with modernization and population growth, however energy production is one of the world’s greatest consumers of freshwater resources. In the United States, thermoelectric power plants accounted for 38% of freshwater withdrawals in 2010. Global electricity demand is projected to grow 70% by the year 2035 with India and China accounting for half of the growth. Alternative energy sources like wind and solar energy require far less water to produce but only make up a small fraction of today’s energy production.

Economic Slowdown
The United Nations estimates that half of the world’s population will live in areas of high water stress by the year 2030. It is difficult to have a thriving economy when fresh water is not easily accessible for industrial, farming, and individual use. Production of water-intensive goods like cars, food, and clothing could be limited by lack of freshwater resources. Lack of freshwater can also affect worker productivity by causing illnesses and higher water costs for individuals can reduce household disposable income.

5 Reasons the World is Running Out of Freshwater

by admin on February 23, 2015

While there will always be plenty of water in the world, the amount of usable freshwater that is easily accessible is rapidly shrinking due to a few key factors.

EarthIncreased Food Requirements of a Growing Population
About 70% of the world’s freshwater consumption is for agriculture and food demand is rising. The global population is increasing and becoming richer, which will significantly increase global food demand in the coming decades. By 2030, the global middle class is estimated to grow from 2 billion today to 4.9 billion and this will significantly increase the water required for food production. As people move from low income to middle class, demand increases for meat products which have higher water requirements than crops.

Increased Energy Requirements by a Growing Population
Energy production is the second largest consumer of water resources globally after agriculture. In 2010, thermoelectric power plants in the United States withdrew as much freshwater as farms (38% of the total freshwater withdrawals). The International Energy Agency projects that at current rates, freshwater used for water production will double over the next 25 years. At the current pace, there will not be enough freshwater available to meet global energy needs by 2040.

Increased Frequency of Droughts
The world’s changing climate has been linked to an increased incidence of droughts that can greatly diminish freshwater supplies in a region. The historic drought in California has depleted the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins by an estimated 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels. According to modeling by NASA, there is a high likelihood of megadroughts in the 21st century which span multiple decades.

Groundwater is Being Pumped at Unsustainable Rates
In numerous parts of the world, people are pumping out groundwater much faster than it is being replenished naturally. The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest underground water source in the United States and for decades it has been pumped at rates thousands of times greater than it is being restored. A Kansas State University study predicts that 69% of the Ogallala Aquifer will be drained in the next five decades at current rates.

Inadequate Water Infrastructure
Leaky pipes lose huge amounts of water on the way to homes in both modern and developing countries. It is estimated that in the United States 2.1 trillion gallons of treated water is lost each year from leaks. In Mexico city, aging pipes are losing 1,000 liters of water per second. Additionally, the lack of adequate water treatment is resulting in widespread pollution of freshwater resources. A UN and Pacific Institute report estimates that 2 billion tons of human, animal, and industrial waste are dumped untreated into freshwater bodies each year.

10 Recent Studies on Water Conservation

by admin on February 9, 2015

The global issues of freshwater shortages and increasing demands of a growing population has led to interest in the academic community in studying water issues. Here are 10 recent studies related to measuring water resources and seeking solutions to the water scarcity problem.

farmer water conservation toolsThe Southwest United States Has a 20-50% Chance of a Megadrought
A joint study by Cornell University, University of Arizona, and the U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that the risk of a megadrought in the Southwest United States is between 20 and 50 percent. A megadrought is a drought lasting over 30 years.

How Eating Less Meat Would Impact Global Water Consumption
While it is well known that eating meat requires more water resources, researchers at Aalto University have quantified the impact in a new study. They estimate that switching to a vegetarian diet would provide adequate food supply for 1.8 billion additional people without an increase use of water resources.

11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed to Recover from California’s Drought
Satellite data allowed scientists to quantify the amount of water lost in California’s severe drought. Based on the data NASA scientists estimated that 11 trillion gallons of water are needed to return to normal seasonal levels.

Worldwide Water Shortage Expected by 2040
Researchers estimate that the growing energy needs will result in a worldwide water shortage by 2040. The researchers conclude that there will not be enough water to meet energy demands by 2040.

China’s Hidden Water Footprint
Researchers studied the richest provinces in China and their findings showed the high impact on the country’s water resources. Through consumption of water-intensive goods the richer provinces are drawing resources from water scarce areas of the country.

How Water Scarcity Can Be Reduced by 2050
McGill University and Utrecht University researchers have found a path to reducing water scarcity by 2050. A new paper outlines strategies to reduce water scarcity including increasing irrigation efficiency, increasing desalination, increasing water storage in reservoirs, and improving domestic and industrial water use.

Groundwater Reservoirs Are Shrinking at a Faster Rate
Hydrologist Petra Döll from Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main has made a new estimate on global groundwater depletion at 113,000 million cubic meters per year for the period from 2000 to 2009. This estimate is believed to be more reliable than older estimates and uses data from satellites and wells.

A New Method to Accurately Measure Groundwater
A team from Stanford recently published its findings about a new method to accurately measure groundwater resources using satellites that use electromagnetic waves. The satellites can detect millimeter changes to the elevation of the earth’s surface which can be used to estimate the amount of water underground.

A Decentralized Wastewater Fertigation System
Bernd Leinauer and Elena Sevostianova from New Mexico State University published a paper that explores using a decentralized system that takes advantage of the nitrate in wastewater to efficiently fertigate lawns with drip irrigation.

Improving Desalination with Solar Power
While desalination typically produces carbon dioxide, Dr. Philip Davies from Aston University has come up with a method to use solar power to make desalination plants into net absorbers of CO2. This method would discharge magnesium oxide into the ocean which would neutralize ocean acidity and remove carbon dioxide.

5 Growing Trends in Water Conservation

by admin on January 26, 2015

Facing growing challenges with freshwater availability, people throughout the world are focusing on new ideas for conserving water resources. Here are five trends that will play a significant factor in the future of water conservation.

Tap with dropletsWater Recycling
According to the 2012 United Nations World Water Development Report, 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is not collected or treated. However, severe freshwater shortages in some areas is driving governments to develop water recycling programs that produces water that is clean enough to drink. In fact, Singapore’s wastewater recycling program uses advanced techniques that produces water clean enough to be bottled.

Although it is expensive and energy intensive, governments from San Diego to Dubai are investing billions of dollars in ocean water desalination. The introduction of membrane-based desalination has increased the affordability and decreased the energy requirements. As of 2013, Dubai was sourcing over 98% of its potable water supply from desalination.

Overuse Fines
California made headlines in 2014 when they started imposing expensive fines to people caught wasting water. Offenses like allowing landscape watering to flow into streets and hosing driveways were subject to $500 fines. As water resources become more stressed, more local governments may start imposing fines to discourage water waste.

Efficient Irrigation Techniques
With farm irrigation amounting to about 70% of global freshwater use there is a lot of opportunity for farm water conservation. Irrigation systems that accurately measure usage with water flow meters can minimize overwatering which accounts for a significant amount of water waste. See our article “10 Water Conservation Tips for Farmers” for techniques that farmers are using to conserve water such as drip irrigation and low-energy spray irrigation.

Efficient Technology for Home Conservation
Although home water use accounts for a small percentage of total water consumption, new consumer tools for saving water are constantly being introduced. Toto recently released the Carlyle II 1G toilet that uses just one gallon of water per flush. The OrbSys Shower saves more than 90% of water by purifying the water that falls into the drain and then pumping it back through the showerhead.

10 Cities in the World Facing Water Shortages

by admin on January 12, 2015

A growing list of cities in the world are facing serious challenges in providing adequate freshwater to their residents. The United Nations predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may be living under water stressed conditions. Here are 10 cities in the world that are currently facing freshwater supply issues.

São Paulo
In São Paulo, Brazil a drought has left the reservoir system dangerously depleted in South America’s largest city. The Cantareira reservoir system is down to 7.1% of its capacity and could dry up in July if rainfall doesn’t increase.

San Diego
San Diego is spending billions on alternative sources of freshwater including desalination and wastewater recycling. San Diego imports 85 percent of its water supply.

Las Vegas
Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, has been drained by 4 trillion gallons and has fallen to record low levels.

San Antonio
San Antonio was found to be tied with San Jose, Lincoln, and Miami for the highest water vulnerability in the nation according to a 2012 University of Florida study.

In 2013 Beijing’s annual water consumption reached 950 billion gallons but only 554 billion gallons were locally available. A major challenge in China is pollution of rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Almost half of China’s water sources are polluted.

New Delhi
In the capital of India the water demand (1,100 million gallons per day) is outstripping supply (800 million gallons per day) while the population is expected to grow to 36 million by 2030.

Mexico City
With 22 million residents, Mexico City faces significant challenges in providing clean water to its population. An inefficient water infrastructure loses 40% of water before it reaches homes and depleted aquifers are causing the ground to sink.

Farms use up 85% of Egypt’s water while pollution of the Nile river and a desert climate is making water accessibility difficult.

As a small island, Japan has limited freshwater resources and Tokyo depends on rainwater harvesting to supply its 36 million residents with water.

Istanbul’s water reservoirs that supply its population of 13 million has shrunk dramatically to 22% of capacity as of July 2014.

Top Water Conservation Stories of 2014

by admin on December 29, 2014

The top water conservation stories this year included the continued severe drought in the southwestern United States, a water crisis in cities like São Paulo, and unprecedented fines in California for individuals caught wasting water. Here is a selection of some of the top water conservation stories of 2014.

Tap Shaped Water Saving Concept Word Cloud

What Will it Take to End California’s Drought? 11 Trillion Gallons of Rain CBS

“A new analysis from NASA satellite data concluded that the state would need 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from its three-year dry spell.”

Colorado River Groundwater Disappearing at “Shocking” Rate CBS News

“Since December 2004, the basin of the Colorado River lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the region’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead.”

São Paulo’s Water Crisis: Reservoir Hogs Economist

“The Cantareira reservoir system, on which 6.5m people depend, is down to 7.1% of its capacity. At this time in 2013 it was half-full.”

Water Conservation Efforts Pay Off: U.S. Usage Lowest in Decades LA Times

“Overall in the U.S., about 355 billion gallons of groundwater and surface water were used per day in 2010, compared with 410 billion a day in 2005.”

Study: Southwest May Face ‘Megadrought’ Within Century Cornell University

“Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decade long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” – one that lasts up to 35 years – ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century.”

States in Parched Southwest Take Steps to Bolster Lake Mead The New York Times

“Officials from water agencies in Arizona, California and Nevada signed an agreement last week to jointly add as much as three million acre-feet of water to Lake Mead by 2020.”

California Imposes Unprecedented Water Conservation Rules

“Activities like using a hose to wash a car without a shut-off nozzle or using drinkable water in certain decorative water features will be banned, while infractions will carry fines of up to $500.”

Can California Conserve Its Way Through Drought? National Geographic

“If farmers adopt the latest efficient technologies, such as drip irrigation and precise irrigation scheduling, they could slash water use by 17 to 22 percent.”

Worldwide Water Shortage by 2040 Science Daily

“Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today.”

In the Wake of Toledo, We Need Innovations to Prevent a World Water Crisis The Washington Post

“For more than 48 hours, the 400,000 citizens of Toledo, Ohio were told not to drink their tap water out of fear that dangerous toxins from algae blooms in Lake Erie may have contaminated the water supplies.”

Study: Bay Area Loses Billions of Water to Leaky Pipes

“The San Jose Mercury News reports that Bay Area water agencies have lost from 3 to 16 percent of their treated water due to damaged underground pipes. The bad pipes have leaked enough water annually to meet the needs of 71,000 families for an entire year.”

Americans Use Twice as Much Water as they Think They Do, Study Says LA Times

“Americans underestimated their water use by a factor of 2, and were only slightly aware of how much water goes into growing the food they eat.”

Gulp: The Lake That Supplies Vegas With Most of Its Water Is Now at Record-Low Levels Slate

“According to Bureau of Reclamation data as of June 2, there’s never been so little water behind Hoover Dam since its construction in the 1930s.”

As Oklahoma Drought Continues, Farmers Prepare For Losses NPR

“Wheat is Oklahoma’s number one crop. In a good year, the state produces 120 to 140 million bushels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts this year’s crop will be half as big.”

Los Angeles, City of Water New York Times

“The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third, to 3.9 million people from 2.8 million.”

Making Water Conservation Pay Project Syndicate

“Every day, the world’s largest 100 cities move 3.2 million cubic meters of water more than 5,700 kilometers to address local water shortages or problems with pollution.”

Abu Dhabi to Recycle 100% of Waste Water Within 3 years Gulf News

“The plan follows the successful model in Al Ain, which has become the first city in the country to reuse 100 percent of recycled water.”

San Diego Approves $3.5B Recycled Water Project NBC San Diego

“Experts say it’ll likely exceed current water quality standards – while supplying about a third of the city’s daily needs and saving big bucks on wastewater treatment costs.”

The growing issues of freshwater scarcity in many parts of the world are encouraging more water recycling projects from San Diego to Singapore. Here are 15 facts about water recycling from around the world.

Water drops on leaf and recycle logo“A 2012 National Academy of Sciences study found that U.S. coastal cities could increase their water supply 27 percent with treated wastewater.”

Israel recycles 80 percent of its sewage, using much of it for irrigation.

It is estimated that reuse of all the wastewater we discharge to the oceans and estuaries would increase the water available to U.S. municipalities by about 6 percent.

1 billion gallons per day of treated wastewater is reclaimed to meet non-potable water needs (in the U.S.).

Florida is a national leader in water reuse. Approximately 719 million gallons per day of reclaimed water was reused for beneficial purposes in 2013.

Globally, around 20 million ha of land are irrigated with wastewater, and this is likely to increase markedly during the next few decades as water stress intensifies. (2007)

95% of water that enters the home goes down the drain daily.

Singapore’s wastewater recycling plant uses advanced membrane techniques to produce water that is clean enough to be used for the electronics industry and be bottled as drinking water.

“In 2010, California recycled roughly 650,000 acre-feet of water per year (ac-ft/yr). They have set ambitious goals to increase water recycling, with at least 1 million ac-ft/yr recycled by 2020, and 2 million ac-ft/yr by 2030.”

“Less than three-tenths of 1 percent of total water use across the United States involves recycling.”

“Of the 32 billion gallons of wastewater discharged every day, 12 billion gallons is discharged into oceans and estuaries.”

“According to the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center, between 60 and 65 percent of the water that goes down a home’s drain has the potential to be reused.”

“Thirty-two billion gallons of municipal wastewater are produced everyday in the United States but less than 10 percent of that is intentionally reused.”

Recycled water costs about $1,100 an acre-foot to produce, about half the cost of desalinating ocean water.

“The Orange County Water District, which serves 2.4 million people in California, plans to boost production of recycled water next year from 70 million gallons to 100 million gallons a day. It has reused wastewater for drinking since 2008 through treatment that includes sending water through ground basins.”

Wastewater Recycling Grows Across US and World

by admin on December 1, 2014

With the growing lack of freshwater resources in many parts of the world, governments are looking at non-traditional ways to increase freshwater supplies like wastewater recycling. This week we share articles about wastewater recycling which is gaining adoption around the world.

Water recycling on sewage treatment stationColorado weighs taking “waste” out of wastewater to fix shortfall The Denver Post

“Denver Water has focused instead on recycling wastewater solely for irrigation, power-plant cooling towers and other nonpotable use. An expanding citywide network of separate pipelines distributes this treated wastewater — 30 million gallons a day.”

From toilet to tap: Getting a taste for drinking recycled waste water CNN

“The plant is expanding production from 70 to 100 million gallons per day, enough for 850,000 people, around one-third of the county population. As the OWCD output is mixed with the main groundwater supply it reaches over 70% of residents.”

Abu Dhabi to recycle 100% of waste water within 3 years Gulf News

“Thomson, who was a keynote speaker at the inaugural session, told Gulf News that Al Ain city recycles 190,000 cubic metres of waste water it generates a day, which is fully distributed for reuse.”

Recycled Water Facility in Australia Offers Lessons for Global Drought Planning Blue Circle

“Officials at Water Corporation, the state-owned utility that provides the city’s water, want to boost recycling rates to 30 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2050.”

Water Waste: Going, Going … New York Times

“At the San Francisco 49ers’ new home in Santa Clara, which opened this summer, 85 percent of the water used is recycled water.”

Orange County Recycled Water System Shows Importance of Collaboration Circle of Blue

“Water agencies send 3 billion gallons of wastewater into the Pacific Ocean each year, according to the California WateReuse Association, an industry group. Much of that could be put to use, with significant benefits.”

San Diego Approves $3.5B Recycled Water Project NBC

“Orange County is now recycling 70 million gallons a day to ‘potable’ — and is soon expected to reach 100 million gallons a day.”

States, Cities Get Creative About Recycling Water The Pew Charitable Trusts

“Florida reuses roughly half of its treated wastewater, or 725 million gallons each day, the most of any state.”

Recycled Wastewater Is Crucial The New York Times

“Thirty-two billion gallons of municipal wastewater are produced everyday in the United States but less than 10 percent of that is intentionally reused.”

The US, South Africa and Australia are turning wastewater into drinking water The Guardian

“Among the key advantages of DPR is that the water tends to be available much closer to the location at which it can be used, compared to water which must be imported over long distances.”

California Drought: San Jose’s New High-Tech Water Purification Plant to Expand Recycled Water Use San Jose Mercury News

“The recycled water isn’t cheap — about $1,100 an acre-foot to produce, or roughly triple what it costs to buy water from the Delta, yet still about half the cost of desalinating ocean water.”

Within the next few decades, the lack of freshwater in certain areas of the globe will intensify and cause one of the greatest challenges to the world’s population. This week we share several interesting articles describing the growing challenges of the diminishing freshwater supply from the United States to China.

Water savings flat banner setThese Maps of California’s Water Shortage Are Terrifying Mother Jones

“California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 cubic kilometers of total water per year since 2011.”

World faces ‘insurmountable’ water crisis by 2040 – report

“If present trends continue there could be a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by 2030.”

Worldwide Water Shortage by 2040 Science Daily

“In fact, the results predict that by 2020 about 30-40% of the world will have water scarcity, and according to the researchers, climate change can make this even worse.”

In the Wake of Toledo, We Need Innovations to Prevent a World Water Crisis Washington Post

“Slightly more than 40 percent of all water used within the United States is used for thermoelectric cooling.”

A World Without Water Financial Times

“Water scarcity is starting to hit the balance sheets of multinationals, who have spent more than $84bn managing their water usage in the last three years.”

“Water is needed for almost every aspect of energy production, from digging up fossil fuels to refining oil and generating power, and the amount of water consumed by the sector is on track to double within the next 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency.”

If You Think the Water Crisis Can’t Get Worse, Wait Until the Aquifers Are Drained National Geographic

“A new satellite study from the University of California, Irvine and NASA indicates that the Colorado River Basin lost 65 cubic kilometers (15.6 cubic miles) of water from 2004 to 2013.”

China’s Looming Water Crisis The Ecologist

“According to Jiang Liping, senior irrigation specialist at the World Bank in Beijing, China is over-exploiting its groundwater by 22 billion cubic meters a year – yet per capita water consumption is less than one third of the global average.”

Why Global Water Shortages Pose Threat of Terror and War The Guardian

“In seven years, beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers lost 144 cubic kilometres of stored freshwater – or about the same amount of water in the Dead Sea.”

The Thirsty West: 10 Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming Slate

“California almonds use a stunning 1.1 trillion gallons of water each year, or enough for you to take a 10-minute shower each day for 86 million years (using a low-flow showerhead, of course).”

Brazil drought crisis leads to rationing and tensions The Guardian

“After the driest six months since records began 84 years ago, the volume of the Cantareira system has fallen to 10.7% of its capacity, raising alarms for the nearby urban population of 20 million people.”

India’s Worsening Water Crisis The Diplomat

“The World Bank predicts that India only has 20 years before its aquifers will reach ‘critical condition’ – when demand for water will outstrip supply – an eventuality that will devastate the region’s food security, economic growth and livelihoods.”