WATER – A priceless yet endangered resource

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By Emir Šahinović, NextGen Plant Science Network

Water scarcity, water demand, clean water, water governance – these terms are increasingly being used due to the expanding effect of climate change on Earth. Climate change has significantly threatened this vital resource, influencing different facets of human life.

These adverse consequences are reflected in the disruption of the water cycle in nature that’s already led to large-scale droughts in some parts of the world. On the flipside, there have been major floods and severe storms.

The greatest impact that from drought is on agricultural production, which jeopardizes the production of safe food, one of the main goals of sustainable development.

Around 80% of global cropland is rainfed, and 60% of the world’s cropland is produced on rainfed land. It takes around 3,000 to 5,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of rice, around 2,000 liters for 1kg of soya, around 900 liters for 1kg of wheat and up to 500 liters for 1kg of potatoes!

The human population’s need for water is enormous, but large quantities of water are continuously being wasted in our daily lives.

For example, unless you turn off the water while brushing your teeth, almost 4,000 L of water a year goes down the drain. Or, if you are not careful about throwing out or consuming food, consider that about 15,000 L of water is needed to produce one kilogram of beef.

But despite this, we can still reduce the effects of climate change and use water in a sustainable manner to ensure that we achieve the sustainable development goals.

When it comes to states and their institutions, they need to adhere to the guidelines of the World Organization on Strategic Management of Water Resources. This is where we come across key concepts such as water management, water governance and water accounting which refer to the strategic management of water by states and institutions with the aim of providing enough water for the population.

What we as individuals can do is as significant as the measures taken by countries and world organizations.

To reduce your water footprint as an individual, you need to make more rational use of water resources: turn off the tap while brushing teeth, hands, dishes; take shorter showers; minimize or completely stop taking baths; reduce the use of detergents and other chemicals to minimize water pollution; and finally, minimize food waste.

These are just a few minor steps that can greatly help conserve water and ensure water safety.

We need to act immediately on water conservation. The predictions of world organizations are worrying to say the least. With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people. (UNCCD)

It is estimated that by 2040, one in four of the world's children under 18 – some 600 million in all – will be living in areas of extremely high water stress. (UNICEF, 2017). This is just part of what awaits us. But by responsible use of water, we greatly contribute to mitigating the consequences.

On the other hand, water can help us combat climate change in several ways:

  • Wetlands can absorb carbon dioxide from the air
  • Vegetation protects against flooding and erosion
  • Storing rainwater for dry periods
  • Reusing wastewater
  • Practicing climate-smart agriculture
  • Strategic water usage in agriculture

Fight climate change, fight for drinking water! Because water means life.

Happy International Water Day!

About the author
Emir Šahinović is a Bachelor student at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences – University of Sarajevo. He has a passion for science and agricultural research, having published four papers related to soil pollution and plant physiology. He is also an Ambassador for the NextGen Plant Science Network, a global community of early career professionals and students in plant science, supported by CropLife International.


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