Earlier this year Cape Town hit the headlines when city authorities announced that it was about to run out of water and declared a ‘Day Zero’ when the taps would run dry. By 2050, 66 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas but will they face a future in which water is rationed?
Water covers 71 per cent of Earth’s surface yet only 2 per cent of it is accessible as a source of fresh water. Pressure on this limited resource is rising, a trend likely to continue.
It is important to recognize that it is not just city dwellers who consume water. Agriculture, industry and tourism often require more water than the municipal water supply. Globally, 70 per cent of fresh water is abstracted for agriculture, but locally in heavily irrigated areas this can increase to 90 per cent. A healthy environment also requires fresh water; the quality of available water is as important as its volume.