Gains from Improved Water Supply and Sanitation and Water Resources Management

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TOPIC: Gains from improved water supply and sanitation and water resources management

Sarajevo, April 2013

Table of Contents


3Water resources management4

3.1What is WRM4

3.2Water consumption4

3.3Agriculture: water's biggest consumer4

4Benefit of sanitation5

4.1Economic considerations5

4.2Industrial water use6

5Gains from water investvment7




Water is an essential resource for life on the planet. Although water is the most widespread compound in the world and only three percent of it is freshwater that is suitable for human use. Freshwater is of the upmost importance not only for a stable drinking supply but also for irrigated agriculture, industries, natural ecosystems, rural and urban water supply and  sanitation etc.

A very important reason for a growing pressure on limited freshwater resources is the population growth. The population is already over 7 billion people and the minimum requirement for water is 50 liters per person per day. That alone accounts for an enormous amount of freshwater. When we put the populations need for food in the equation we can get a sense of exactly how scarce freshwater will become. For example it takes about 1000 tons of water to grow one ton of grain and 2000 tons of water to grow a single ton of rice.  That is why properly managed water resources are a critical component of sustainable growth, poverty reduction and equity. 

Water resources management

1 What is WRM

Water resource management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. Water resource management planning compares all the competing demands for water and seeks to allocate water on an equitable basis to satisfy all uses and demands but that is almost impossible in practice. It is a sub-set of the water cycle management which relates to all planning, operational and tactical decisions to optimize the water-cycle to satisfy environmental and human needs.

2 Water consumption

Approximately 70% of the fresh water available on the planet is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland leaving the remaining 30% (equal to only 0.7% of total water resources worldwide) available for consumption. From this remaining 0.7%, roughly 87% is allocated to agricultural purposes (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC 2007).[1]

Agriculture is by far the biggest consumer of freshwater but it certainly is not the only one. There are four main factors aggravating water scarcity according to the IPCC: • Population growth: in the last century, world population has tripled. It is expected to rise from the present 6.5 billion to 8.9 billion by 2050. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and, although there is no global water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water. • Increased urbanization will focus on the demand for water among a more concentrated population. Asian cities alone are expected to grow by 1 billion people in the next 20 years. • High level of consumption: as the world becomes more developed, the amount of domestic water used by each person is expected to rise significantly. • Climate change will shrink the resources of freshwater.

3 Agriculture: water's biggest consumer

We already wrote about the agricultures influence on fresh water supply but as it is the biggest consumer by far we think this needs a better assessment. Water scarceness is becoming an important issue because in the last decade world's population rose steadily and it consumes more food and water, industries and urban developments expand, and the emerging biofuel crops trade...
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