Ban Ki-Moon World Water: UN Secretary-General Claims Fresh Water Will Run Out

By Philip Ross on May 23, 2013 1:14 PM EDT

water
Freshwater is a scarce commodity in a world of 7 billion people. (Photo: Reuters)

Ban Ki-moon and world water: The UN Secretary-General says that the world's freshwater supply is drying up, and that global officials will have to address water insecurity or face the consequences of a tapped-out reservoir.

The 68-year-old South Korean, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations. He spoke during the UN's International Day for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, and highlighted the need to address global water insecurity, a problem that has plagued poorer parts of the world for many years.

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"We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards," Ki-moon said. "Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met."

Freshwater is not as readily abundant as we might think. Ninety-seven percent of all the water on our planet is saltwater; 2 percent of the remaining water is locked up in glaciers and snowfields, leaving just one percent available to Earth's 6.8 billion people.

Geography, climate, technology, government regulation and competition for resources all play a role in global freshwater availability, according to National Geographic. Some regions of our planet have abundant supplies of freshwater, while others are plagued by drought and pollution.

"In much of the developing world, clean water is either hard to come by or a commodity that requires laborious work or significant currency to obtain," National Geographic reports.

Also, climate change impacts the availability of water by disrupting rainfall, soil moisture, and river, ground and water flows, the Guardian reports. According to the UN, humans consume water at twice the rate of population increase in the last century. By 2025, the UN estimates that 1.8 billion people will live in areas that don't have enough water and two-thirds of the world's population living in areas that are strained for water.

The world's population, which is growing by about 80 million people every year -- mostly in the developing Global South -- demands more freshwater every year. According to the U.N., about 70 percent of the world's freshwater is used for irrigation; 20 percent for industry and 10 percent for domestic purposes.  

By 2025, the UN estimates that developing countries will use 50 percent more water withdrawals.

Reuters reports that last year, U.S. intelligence released a statement that said freshwater supplies won't be able to support global demand by 2040. The consequences of this are increased political stability, stunted economic growth and world food market shortages. From Reuters:

The report said that during the next 10 years, the over-pumping of ground water supplies in some agricultural areas will pose a risk to food markets and cause social disruption if mitigating steps such as drip irrigation and improved agricultural technology are not implemented.

It also said that through 2040 water shortages and pollution would likely harm the economic performance of important U.S. trading partners by limiting the use and development of hydro power, an important source of electricity for developing countries.

These fears of global water insecurity are echoed in Ban Ki-moon's world water statement earlier today. When a single hamburger in the U.S. takes about 630 gallons of water to produce, it's no wonder we're on the brink of a global water shortage.

Read more from iScience Times:

Oldest Water On Earth: How Did Scientists Find An Ancient Pocket Of Water 2 Miles Underground?

Ghost Town Under Water: What Happened To The Argentinian Village Of Epecuen?

Earthquake Turns Water Into Gold; New Study Shows Fault Lines Have the Midas Touch

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