The water problem is today one of the greatest problems the world faces. The UN calculates that if the present development continues the 2/3 of the world population will live with serious water scarcity or nearly without water by the year 2025. The UN calculates that one should have 100 litres of water pr day to manage. This is for everything - home consumption, agriculture, industry, etc. Many people today have less than 50 litres, and in a country like Mozambique there is only 20 litres of water for each person pr day. Those 20 litres are the sum of the water taken from boreholes, rivers and lakes.
We already use over half of all the freshwater, which is available in all the world's rivers, lakes and groundwater, and the UN calculates that this figure is up between 70 and 90 % in the year 2025, unless something radical is done to change this development. The problem is that more water is used than what is returned to the freshwater systems. The large water consuming areas - USA, China, India, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula for example use so much water that their water reserves every year are depleted of an amount of water which corresponds to the double of the water running in the Nile - (160 billion m3). Most of the water is used for agriculture - over 70 % of the consumption. For every kilo of rice, wheat or maize over 1000 litres of water are used.
At the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year the water problem was one of the only issues where a decision was reached - that the amount of people without access to clean water should be halved by the year 2015. It is between 800 million and 1 billion people who do not have clean water. This means that many die of the accompanying diseases. Between 3 and 4 million people - mostly children - die every year because of water borne diseases. These are diseases spread by contaminated water such as diarrhoea and cholera, and for example malaria which is spread by mosquito, whose larvae live in water. Besides the large amount who die directly because of these diseases, unclean water is also indirectly causing many deaths. This is because people's immune system is weakened when they are sick or for example having worms. The large part of people in Southern Africa have worms because of unclean water. When the immune system is weakened it is much more likely to be infected with HIV. This is one of the main reasons that HIV has spread so fast in Southern Africa.
The problem is actually simple to solve. In Africa there is maybe 100.000 villages without access to clean water. It is possible to drill boreholes and set up manual pumps in nearly all of these, and this can be done for less than 10.000 USD on average. This equals 1 billion $, which sound like a big amount. But it can be compares with the amount that the EU and US give to their farmers every day. So if the farmers in these rich countries could do without the support for just one day, all the villages of Africa could get access to clean drinking water!! It is also equal to the amount of money Americans use in 3 days on visiting Mc Donald or other Fast Food Shops.
Water is killing people in other ways than by spreading diseases. The last 25 years more than 300,000 people have been killed by floods world-wide. Some years ago we saw how the Yangtze River flooded large parts of China and killed thousands of people. The big part of the reason for these floods can be found in human activities. China has had a very big economic growth during the last 20 years, and much building activity has been carried out. The timber for these constructions have come from the inner China, where large forest areas have been clear felled. Even though new forest have been planted all the time, it has not been enough. When there is less vegetation, there is more of the rainwater which runs to the rivers instead of being stored...