The world's water: think globally, act locally

World Water Day March 22 1997

ater is vital for sustaining life on earth. It is crucial for economic and social development, including energy production, agriculture and domestic and industrial water supplies. Water is a basic requirement for all life, yet water resources are facing more and more demands from users - and competition for this increasingly scarce resource. In 1992, the UN General Assembly designated March 22nd of each year as the World Day for Water.

Of all the water on earth, 97.5 percent is salt water, found primarily in the oceans. The remaining 2.5 percent is freshwater, almost all of which is stored in the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland, and as fossil groundwater. The most accessible freshwater resources are in lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams. These resources amount to only 0.26 percent of the total amount of freshwater in storage, or 0.007 percent of all water on earth that is renewable and available for use on a sustainable basis.

Growing tensions over water resources are becoming a potentially explosive source of conflict from the community level up to interstate politics. Many predict that wars of the next century will be over water, not oil or politics.

Much has been said about our shrinking supply of freshwater. In reality, the world's potential supply of freshwater has not decreased, but the pollution to which it is being subjected and the demands which are placed on this supply have indeed increased, complicated by irregular rainfall patterns. Water pollution is responsible for the death of some 25 million people each year, especially in developing countries. Half of the world's diseases are transmitted by or through water. It is estimated that 20 percent of the world's population lacks safe drinking water and 50 percent lacks access to adequate sanitation.

Between 1900 and 1995, world water use has increased by a factor of six ­ more than double the rate of population growth during the same period. The world population is projected to increase from the current 5.7 billion to 8.3 billion in 2025. The result is already evident in the competition for water for agricultural, domestic and industrial purposes. Some estimates suggest that, at the turn of the century, the amount of water available to each person in Africa will be one-quarter of that in 1950; in Asia and South America, it will be about one-third of the 1950 figure. This situation is aggravated by the occurrence of floods and droughts. To compound the issue, the longer-term threat of global warming is expected to impact significantly on regional water resources, with increases in floods in some areas and droughts in others.

Efforts to mobilize support for the World Water Day require focusing public attention on the emerging global water crisis as the 21st century approaches.

Community called to San Diego gathering on World Water Day

La Jolla Convocation
(con·vo·ca·tion: an assembly called together to confer)
Saturday, March 22
10am - 1pm
Auditorium of the School of Public Relations and Pacific Studies
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
(park in lot #308 off Salk Road)

hat we do on the land ends up on the beach. What are the problems? What are the risks? What are the causes? Is there a cure? How long will it take? How much will it cost? Without sound science combined with public pressure to act, the problems will persist as they have for the last decade. Find out what's being done, what can be done and what needs your help. This gathering can be a turning point in identifying and solving coastal pollution problems. For more information, call Kim Baker 454-1444.