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Water, Water Not Everywhere

Water shortages affect more than 40 percent of the world’s population, but hope is afloat.

Water may be the most basic human need, yet close to a billion people worldwide have limited access to clean water. Urbanization, pollution and climate change are significant threats to this crucial resource, which is in greater demand every day as the global population grows. While there are no easy fixes, there are some bright spots.

Pump It Up

Imagine that instead of walking into the kitchen when you need water, you had to trudge to a river miles from home and return with a heavy bucket. That’s a daily reality for many people in China, India and sub-Sahara Africa, and is why bringing clean water closer to needy villages is a major global initiative. Organizations like UNICEF are working to repair local water pumps so that women, traditionally the family water gatherers, can save time and energy by having a more convenient source.

Good to the Last Drop

Drip irrigation, which delivers low volumes of water directly to roots, increases vegetable production while minimizing the water lost to wind, runoff, evaporation and overspraying, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A recent three-year water conservation program successfully taught 1,000 village farmers in southern India how to correctly use the technology. Participants saw significant crop increases and water savings, ranging from 17 percent to 36 percent, and also shared the water conserving knowledge with their communities.

Round and Round

Industrial designers and engineers are working hard to design purification devices that will eliminate unsafe drinking water, which contributes to millions of fatalities every year. A recent addition to the market: a bicycle by Nippon Basic Co. that harnesses kinetic energy to purify water. The Cycloclean bike uses a portable pump to filter dirty water into a clean, safe drink with every turn of the wheel.

Sunken Treasure

In addition to these initiatives, there’s another way to combat water shortages: find new sources. Australian researchers recently discovered a huge reserve of fresh water beneath the seafloor of continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa, according to the scientific journal Nature. This source of more than 120,000 cubic miles of water could sustain some endangered regions for decades.