Five Terrifying Statistics for World Water Day

Written by  March 22, 2011

If you're worried about the world running out of resources...

- you know, energy, food, that kind of vitally important stuff - you probably have water on that list.

Indeed, as we mark World Water Day, it's hard not to think about some of the scary numbers floating around. Number one on my list, same as last year and the year before? The world is covered by 97.5 percent salt water. And from that 2.5 percent of freshwater resources, 70 percent belongs in ice and permanent snow on mountains and in the polar regions. Doesn't leave much for drinking water, eh?

The UN Water site has a great overview of water-related statistics, many of which are enough to make you take shorter showers. There is, however, a lot on there, so here are a few highlights (or, er, lowlights...):

  1. More than 1 in 6 people in the world don't have access to the recommended 20-50 litres of safe freshwater per day for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
  2. Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation - which could be avoided, in part, by access to enough clean water.
  3. By 2025, the amount of water we use is expected to double in developing countries, and increase by 18 percent in developed countries. By this point, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under "stress conditions" (meaning close to absolute water scarcity, but not quite).
  4. We only need 2 to 4 litres of safe drinking water per day, but we need 2,000 to 5,000 litres just to produce one person's daily rationing of food. 
  5. Seventy percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into the water supply - contaminating this usable water - in developing countries. 

Well, that's a downer, I know. But it's better to address these concerns head on, instead of pretending that they don't exist. And that's what World Water Day is for. So check out the official site here and read about the work being done to change these dire numbers. 

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Zalina Alvi

Zalina grew up in Toronto and began her career in journalism at the York University campus newspaper. Before joining Verge in 2010, she worked for a documentary festival, a non-profit organization and various magazines and newspapers. Zalina has had some eclectic travel experiences, including reporting for a newspaper on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.

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