Water management is the management of the water resources available on earth. Authorities establish systems and regulations that deal with water for a variety of uses, including agriculture and sanitation. Why is this so important? Water is a renewable resource, but only when it’s managed well. If it isn’t, the world faces serious consequences. Here are ten reasons why water management matters so much:
#1. Our access to water is limited
Knowing how much water we truly have access to at any given time is essential to management. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh and drinkable. Of that 3%, less than 1% is actually accessible. The rest is frozen in glaciers and ice caps or too remote for practical use. When it comes to water management, we’re working with a very limited amount for all our needs.
#2. Water management addresses complex issues
Managing water resources involves a lot of moving parts. The parties responsible must know how much water is available, how it needs to be used, and what needs to happen to make the water usable. They also need to be aware of competing demands, processes, and policies. The fact that water sources often cross national borders adds another layer. Good management helps streamline this complex task.
#3. Water management tackles serious challenges
Besides being complicated, water management is difficult. Many issues put access to clean, safe water in jeopardy. Climate change, aquifer depletion, and pollution threaten the amount of water available. Combined with a growing demand for water, those responsible for water management face an uphill battle. Certain areas are in more danger than others, so the stakes are high. Without water management, it would be sheer chaos.
#4. Water management and food production are linked
At 70%, agriculture uses the majority of the world’s freshwater. It’s needed to produce food, so the more people there are, the more water is needed. Biofuel crops also use a good share of water, so good management is critical. The World Bank lists agricultural food production and water management as a global issue. If trends continue, water scarcity is inevitable in many parts of the world.
#5. Water scarcity affects over 40% of the world’s population
According to the World Bank, 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity. Estimates show that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will live with scarcity. ⅔ of the global population will live in water-stressed areas. At the 2019 World Economic Forum, water scarcity was named as one of the most serious global risks going into the next decade. What are the consequences of water scarcity? Food shortages, energy shortages, and economic disruptions are just a few. A lack of water will also lead to increased conflict and a refugee crisis.
#6. More than 2 billion people lack reliable water services
According to a report released by the WHO and UNICEF in 2019, over 2 billion people lack access to a safely-managed drinking water service. Within that number, over 140 million people are drinking untreated surface water. In 2017, only 45% of the global population accessed a safely-managed sanitation service. According to the UN, that means 4.2 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation. Sanitation systems are linked to water management. In the past century, while water management has radically improved, poor, rural communities are still more likely to miss out on this essential service.
#7. Poorly-managed water resources are deadly
Waterborne illnesses like cholera cause millions of deaths each year. Children under the age of 5 who live in developing countries are especially at risk. In addition to possible death, contaminated water leads to diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, infections, and more. Disease isn’t the only threat to water safety. Heavy metals and chemicals like pesticides can contaminate drinking water. Strict policies regarding impurity levels are essential to any water management system. Good water management saves lives.
#8. Privatizing water systems raises prices
In recent times, many water systems have become privatized. This leads to an increase in prices. On average, private utilities charge 59% more than the local government. Private companies also increase water price rates three times higher than the rate of inflation. Good water management should ensure water is affordable because it is a human right. Private companies threaten that right.
#9. Water management is a local and national issue
Local authorities are best equipped to handle top priority issues within a community. This makes a strong local water management system essential. However, there still needs to be excellent communication between the local and national levels. If this communication breaks down, competing local and national water interests can throw a region into chaos. National regulations and laws are also necessary so water resources are consistently protected and managed.
#10. Good water management benefits everyone
When water resources are managed well, communities and the government benefit. Water management allows for reduced water and sewer costs, better irrigation controls during summer, and less energy waste. Good management also ensures that water is clean and safe, which protects public health.