8 Billion people having a limited resource of a basic necessity

What is always available?  It is unimaginable you can’t have it.  You cannot live without it. The answer is not your phone, but something way more important: freshwater. We cannot live without drinking water. Part 4 of our research focuses on global freshwater.


Chapter 1: resource versus demand/use

Freshwater: a limited resource

Our planet Earth has an atmosphere. That means the global quantity of water has remained the same for 2 billion years. The global water volume will always be the same, therefore you can say it has a limit. Most of the water on our planet is salt water in oceans and seas. Only 2.6% of the water on our planet is freshwater. Much of this freshwater is trapped in polar ice and glaciers, which leaves only 0.6% of all water on our planet suitable for human use.

Groundwater and surface water

Global freshwater resources are categorized into two types: groundwater and surface water. By far most of the global freshwater resources are stored below the surface as groundwater. Two major groundwater challenges need our attention. There are no large groundwater deposits in (any more) relative accessible locations. Any new resources will be very expensive to develop. And the second challenge: Groundwater remains vulnerable to over-exploitation and pollution, both of which can have devastating effects on the resource and its availability. A further study into groundwater is needed because it has a different “set” of specifics, dynamics and challenges; this will be the next chapter.

Terrestrial surface water is the major source for human freshwater demand. An estimated 75 to 80% of global human annual freshwater withdrawal is extracted from terrestrial surface water. Surface water comprises various forms, lakes account for the largest percentage; other surface water resources are rivers, reservoirs, swamp-lands and wetlands.

Freshwater withdrawal

The global freshwater withdrawal for human demand/use for the year 1900 is estimated at 671 cubic kilometers, for 1950 the estimation is at 1.230 cubic kilometers. The start of the second millennium (2000) has an estimated global freshwater withdrawal of 3.790 cubic kilometers. This means global annual freshwater withdrawal for human demand/use increased 564% in a century, while the world population number grew from an estimated 1,6 billion to 6,1 billion; an increase of 381%.

Looking at current estimates of global human annual freshwater withdrawal one phrase comes to mind: they are flexible. They vary from an estimated 3990 cubic kilometers in 2015, to 4600 cubic kilometers in 2018, to 4300 cubic kilometers in 2022. In 2007 humanity used an estimated 4000 cubic kilometers of freshwater. So, it is safe to say that “todays” global human annual freshwater withdrawal is “at least” 4000 cubic kilometers. If this estimate is considered to be  exact, the actual number, the daily global human freshwater withdrawal would be at least 10.958.904.109.589 liters. That would bring us to the currently global human freshwater withdrawal in one hour: in one hour we humans use 456.621.004.566 liters of freshwater, at least.


Part 2

There is a similarity between this new part 4 and part 2, called people want protein. In part 2 it becomes clear that the richer a country is, the more meat an average person tends to eat. The same is true for water use: the richer a country is, the more water is used per person.

It rains an awful lot

In theory there is absolutely no problem concerning freshwater. Because it rains. It rains an awful lot. Every year a tremendous volume of freshwater falls from the sky. According to a very extensive and recent NASA research 502.100 cubic kilometers of freshwater fall as precipitation every year. That is a volume of freshwater that exceeds the volume of global human annual freshwater withdrawal more than a 100 – fold. But we humans are just one of many  species living on the terrestrial surface of our planet. And we all need freshwater. About 18 % of all available freshwater in 1990 was used directly by humans, and an additional 34% is required to maintain ecological health. After a “weeks on a row” research in the global water cycle and the quoted NASA study the conclusion is: of the annual global awful lot of rain volume approximately 9% is potentially available for human purposes. Why potentially? To answer that question you have to press the WPLM button.


liters global human freshwater demand per second
"at least"


liters global human freshwater demand per hour
"at least"


liters global human freshwater demand per day
"at least"

The water we need in the future

The demand for water is only going to increase as the population number increases: “An additional 4.600 cubic kilometers of water will have to be found by 2025 to supplement global supplies (of freshwater resources) at the 1995 level. If the additional 1.2 billion population increase between 2025 and 2050 proves correct, another increase of 3.090 cubic kilometers is necessary by 2050. This leads to the staggering conclusion that nearly 7.700 cubic kilometers would have to be found by 2050 to supplement global supplies (of freshwater resources) at the 1995 level.


Cause for concern

Global human freshwater withdrawal is a cause for concern. It is disproportional. For all species living on our planet’s terrestrial surface freshwater is essential, but humans use by far the most freshwater; at least 456.621.004.566 liters per hour. This unbalances the water cycle and deprives other life from their proportional resource of freshwater. There are many examples of how our use of freshwater influences the planet, some of which can be found by pressing the WPLM button.

In conclusion, it is important to realize global freshwater is a basic necessity. Because we forgot. The majority of the world population lives, works, and has children where freshwater is an available resource. The majority of the world population assumes freshwater resources are a commodity. Or a service. Or a product, with unrestricted access if you can afford it. Used to fill up that inflatable large swimming pool for the kids on a hot summer day. We forgot that freshwater resources are a basic necessity, and they have a limit. Current global freshwater resources available for human purposes are limited. Pushed by the growing world population number humanity gets closer to that limit.

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