Coming soon: World Drinking- water Shortages?

Coming soon: World  Drinking- water Shortages?

If you are still getting a good supply of clean water from your taps at home, you are very fortunate.

More than half the population from 31 countries is seriously concerned about water shortages, says a global study.

 On the other hand,  another global report says that the expansion of ‘bottled  water industry’ is actually working against achieving  a key Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target: the supply of  reliable drinking water.

Fifty-eight percent of people who responded to a global public opinion survey on freshwater supply and pollution said that water shortages were a “very serious” problem. A larger share – 62 percent – said the same about water pollution.

How have they been affected by water shortages? Three in 10 respondents said “greatly.”

“We’re looking at citizens who are deeply concerned with water and feel the impact of climate change,” said Perrine Bouhana, director at GlobeScan, the polling firm that conducted the survey.

The UN2023 Water Conference will be held in New York City from March 22-24, 2023. It is a platform to raise awareness, define a roadmap and advance the water agenda.

That’s why these global studies,  published days before the UN 2023 Water Conference, are quite important.

Water Shortages

The first study showed that 58 per cent of people from 31 countries are ‘seriously concerned’ about freshwater shortages. Another 30 per cent claim to be ‘greatly impacted’ by it.

A survey collected responses from almost 30,000 people from 31 countries, in order to analyse attitudes to water shortages. It was carried out by GlobeScan and released by Circle of Blue, a non-profit newsroom and the conservation organisation World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on March 15.

Some 58 per cent of the population who raised serious concerns about access to water includes Mexicans, Colombians and Brazilians. Residents of Asian countries like China, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea were the least concerned about water shortages.

Strong concerns about freshwater shortages have increased over the past few years, from a low of 49 per cent in 2014 to 61 per cent in 2022, among 17 countries consistently tracked. Fears about climate change have also increased from 45 per cent in 2014 to 65 per cent in 2022.

People in Argentina, South Korea, Vietnam, Colombia, Germany and Peru reported the largest increases in concerns about water shortages over the past few years.

Some 30 per cent of people globally claimed to have been “greatly” personally affected by freshwater shortages, while a global majority (56 per cent) feel moderately personally affected.

About 15 percent say they are not affected at all.

The global survey was conducted online among samples of 1,000 adults in 31 countries and territories. This involves 1,500 people in the United States, 500 each in Hong Kong, Kenya, Nigeria and Singapore and 850 in Egypt, weighted to reflect general population census data.

The research was conducted during June and July of 2022 with a total of 29,293 participants.

The participating countries include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, the USA and Vietnam.

“We are seeing a rare convergence, when public opinion is aligning with profound realities as the world faces compounding water challenges that are affecting how we grow our food, generate our power, and support a sustainable economy and environment, said J Carl Ganter, managing director of Circle of Blue in a press release.

Bottled water affects long term water supply

For Representation only

The rapidly growing bottled water industry is helping mask a crippling world problem: the failure of public systems to supply reliable drinking water for all. This is said in  a review report published in the run-up to the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, being held from Wednesday (March 22)

Supply of reliable drinking water is a key Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target. But, the expansion of the bottled water industry works against achieving it or at slowing progress towards it.

The bottled water industry adversely affects investments and the role of the state in long-term public water supply infrastructure development and improvement, according to Global Bottled Water Industry: A Review of Impacts and Trends.

The report cited an example. It compared estimates of global bottled water sales with the estimated needs to finance the progress to Sustainable Development Goal  6.1.

Half of what the world pays for bottled water annually at present would pay to provide clean and long-term public water supply for hundreds of millions of people, according to the document.

“The rise in bottled water consumption reflects decades of limited progress in and many failures of public water supply systems,” Kaveh Madani, director, UN University Institute of Water Environment and Health (UNU INWEH), was quoted as saying in the report.

UNU INWEH, which is part of the UN University, and McMaster University, Canada, compiled the report. The document is based on an analysis of literature and data from 109 countries.

Resource depletion

The report noted that like many other industries, the bottled water industry was a high consumer of water. The main source of water that is bottled across the globe is groundwater, it added.

It gave several instances of how the industry was bleeding groundwater sources dry across the world.

In the United States, Nestlé Waters extracted three million litres a day from Florida Springs. In France, Danone extracted up to 10 million litres a day from Evian-les-Bains in the French Alps.

Groundwater is a precious resource with over two billion worldwide relying on it as their primary water source.

The report noted that in certain areas, the amount of groundwater extracted exceeded the amount that was recharged naturally.

“Fifteen percent of all extracted groundwater is non-renewable,” it said, adding that global groundwater depletion varied between 56 to 362 cubic kilometres per year over the last three decades.

Dollars, litres and regions

The rise of the bottled water industry has been nothing short of meteoric.

In just 50 years, it has developed into “a major and essentially standalone economic sector,” experiencing 73 per cent growth from 2010 to 2020. Sales are expected to almost double to half a trillion dollars by 2030.

The report has mapped and ranked the top 50 countries in the world by total and per capita bottled water sales both in dollars and litres. The current global bottled water sales are estimated at almost $270 billion and 350 billion litres.

The Asia-Pacific region constitutes about half of the global bottled water market, and the Global South countries together make up about 60 per cent.

Germany is the biggest market in Europe, Mexico in the Latin America and the Caribbean region and South Africa in Africa. Singapore and Australia stand out as the leaders in both annual revenue and volume of bottled water sold per capita, with the USA and China per capita indicators being much smaller.

Bottled water market drivers differ significantly between the Global North and the Global South.

“In Global North, bottled water is often perceived as a healthier and tastier product against tap water. It is more of a luxury good than a necessity. In the Global South, bottled water sales are stimulated primarily by the lack or absence of a reliable public water supply,” the report said.

It calls for strengthening the regulations of the overall industry, given that global sales of bottled water were expected to rapidly grow by 2030.

The UN conference in New York City from March 22-24 is likely to raise awareness on global water crisis and decide on concerted action to achieve the internationally agreed water-related goals and targets.


One Response to "Coming soon: World Drinking- water Shortages?"

  1. Sam Daniels   March 20, 2023 at 7:13 am

    A long report no doubt. It shows a link between water shortages and our consumerism. We should all try to minimize our water consumption and avoid buying bottled water unnecessarily.