Over the past 70 years, human numbers have tripled but our thirst for water has surged sixfold. To keep pace, we have diverted rivers, tapped lakes, and pumped aquifers. Everywhere, the best and cheapest sources of water are now being used. In some regions, we are approaching the limits: in the Middle East, 58 percent of all reasonably available fresh water is already being withdrawn. In Eastern Europe, the figure stands at 41 percent. Supply is only one part of the growing water crisis. For an increasing number of people, water quality is every bit as threatening. Population growth, industrialization, and urbanization are not only depleting lakes, rivers, and aquifers; they are polluting them as well. Already more than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water; 3 billion lack access to basic sewerage systems. For millions, life-sustaining water is now a deadly menace. Water and sanitation-related diseases will rob many more of their health and a productive future. Growing pressure on the world’s finite water resources may also increase the potential for water- related conflict in the coming years. With over 40% of the world's population living in 264 river basins shared by more than one country, it would seem more than possible that “the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water, not oil.” The environmental implications of the looming water crisis are just as profound. As we humans pollute and expropriate more and more water, there is less to support the very wildlife and ecosystems which make our survival possible. By undermining the water needs of nature, we are undermining our own future. Clearly these are serious problems. But what of answers? What can you as the future leaders do to begin addressing some of these worrying trends? To help you to begin answering this question, this briefing package will outline a number of the most important issues related to water, we hope you find it informative and useful! A Limited Supply Although some 70 per cent of the planet consists of water, all but 3 per cent of it is salt water. Of the 3 per cent that is fresh water, just 0.01 per cent of the world's total supply - amounting to some 14 billion cubic metres -is considered easily accessible for human use on a regular basis. This water is found in rivers, streams, lakes and shallow aquifers. Much of the rest is tied up in inaccessible ice fields and glaciers. The supply of freshwater is finite. There is no more freshwater on earth now than there was 2000 years ago when the population of the planet was less than 3 per cent of its current size. Although the amount of available freshwater is enormous, water is not distributed evenly around the globe, throughout the seasons or from year to year. Two-thirds of the world's populations -around 4 billion people - live in areas receiving only one-quarter of the world's annual rainfall. A Growing Demand While freshwater supply is limited, demand keeps on escalating as populations grow and consumption per capita increases. During the last 70 years, the global population has tripled, but water withdrawals have increased over six times. Since 1940, annual global water withdrawals have increased by an average of nearly 3 per cent per year, while population growth has averaged between 1.5 and 2 per cent. Global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth, while pollution and over-extraction in many regions of the world has reduced the ability of supplies to meet demand. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people on earth already lack access to fresh drink water. If current trends persists, by 2025 the demand for freshwater is expected to rise to 56 per cent more than the amount that is currently available. Imagine all the Earth’s water in a 1000-litre bucket filled to the brim: The fraction that is freshwater and not locked in ice would be a mere 25 mL... Of that total, South America’s share would be about half... Asia would get almost 6.25 mL... All of North & Central America, Europe, Australia, Africa & the Middle East would share the remaining 6.25 L... More people mean increased water use and less available on a per capita basis. In 1989 there was some 9,000 cubic metres of freshwater per person available for human use. By 2000, that figures had dropped to 7,800 cubic metres and is expected to plummet to 5,100 cubic metres per person by 2025, when the global population is projected to reach 8 billion. Increasing Water Shortages With finite water resources under increasing pressure from population growth and economic development, water stress becomes a more and more widespread and serious problem. A country experiences water stress when annual supplies drop below 1,700 cubic metres per person. When annual water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person, the country faces water scarcity for all or part of the year. In 1995, 31 countries accounting for 458 million people faced either water stress or scarcity. By 2025, according to projections made by Population Action International, more than 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will be facing water stress or scarcity. By 2050, it is predicted that the number of water-short countries will increase to 54, affecting four billion people, or about 40 per cent of the projected global population. Currently, the worst hit areas are in the Middle East, North Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 200 million sub-Sahara Africans already live in water short countries. This figure balloons to 700 million by 2025, of whom over half will live in countries facing severe shortages for most of the year. Some experts believe the need to share water across national borders could be a force for co-operation andpeace. Others fear that conflicts over water - bothpolitical and violent - could erupt in coming decades asmore countries, with ever largerpopulations, face water stress or scarcity. Dr. Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, puts it bluntly: the potential for conflict "is symptomatic of our inability in general to managed limited supplies of freshwater on a sustainable basis." Several years ago, World Bank vice-president Ismail Serageldin made the now famous statement that “the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water, not oil.” While many commentators have been quick to accept this opinion, some water experts believe that water-wars are not an inevitable reality. For example, Uri Shamir, an Isreali Hydrologist, has suggested that "if there is political will for peace, water will not be a hindrance. If you want reasons to fight, water will give you ample opportunities." The Potential for International Conflict Still, both geography and historical experience seem to indicate that there is definitely a potential for water related conflict to erupt in a number of areas where freshwater use has already reached critical proportions. In these areas, principally in North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, countries not only face mounting internal competition for limited supplies as a result of rapid population growth and escalating demand, but also find themselves squabbling with their neighbours over water rights. One of key factors which may serve to heighten the potential for water-based conflicts is international nature of many key water systems. In a recent study of the world’s major watersheds, the World Resources Institute found that, of the 145 systems examined, 91 crossed international borders at least once along their course. Another study found that approximately 40% of the world's population lives in the 264 river basins shared by more than one country. In a number of regions, this reality has led to heightened tensions, or in some cases, even armed conflict. For example, water has been at the centre of a continuing controversy between Israel and Jordan. In May 1997 a ceremony to create a joint "peace park" on the site where seven Israeli school girls were killed by a Jordanian border guard was cancelled after Jordan accused Israel of deliberately delaying implementation of a water agreement in the Jordan-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1994. Under the treaty Jordan was to receive an additional 50 million cubic meters of water a year from the over-drawn Yarmuk River, one of the main tributaries of the Jordan River. Since the "peace park water crisis" the Israeli parliament has approved the transfer of morewater to Jordan, but only when it appeared that inaction would result in markedly deteriorating diplomatic relations. Isreal and Syria have twice resorted to violence over the Jordan river. In the early 1950's, they exchanged fire after Israel began a water development project in the Huleh Basin, which lies between the two countries. In the 60's, a Syrian attempt to divert water from the Jordan actually accelerated into artillery attacks and finally bombing raids. Egypt, for its part, has explicitly threatened Ethiopia with war if it carries out plans to divert more water from the Blue Nile for agricultural use, without negotiating first with Egypt. The Egyptian government sees this issue as one of life or death. Without the Nile's nourishing waters, Egypt could not exist as a nation, since it depends on the Nile for 98 per cent of its freshwater needs. The Southeast Anatolia Project in Turkey is one of the largest irrigation and power generation schemes in the Middle East. This vast complex of dams, canals and irrigation systems began operating in 1992. Within the next few years, Turkey is expected to divert at least half of the flow of the Euphrates River - some 4 trillion gallons of water a year - into Turkish dams and irrigation canals. This diversion will leave downstream countries, Syria and Iraq, with less than half of the stable flow they now have access to. Syria is also planning to take some 3.5 trillion gallons out of the Euphrates before it enters Iraq. The entire region is set for a potentially ruinous conflict over limited water resources. The Aral Sea Basin in Central Asia is beset by international conflicts over water. Turkmenistan, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan all depend for their survival on the waters of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers. The flow of both these rivers is almost wholly diverted to feed intensive irrigated crops, mostly cotton and rice. Disputes are growing between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks over water and land in the fertile Fergana Valley; between Kyrgyz and Tajiks over the allocation of irrigation water from the Syr Darya; and between Turkmens and Uzbeks over the distribution of irrigation water from the Amu Darya. Although none of its member country have so far gone to war over water, the Commonwealth is certainly not immune to the possibility of water-based conflict. There has, for instance, been longstanding tension between Bangladesh and India over the Ganges river, which is vital to both nations. India and Pakistan, which share the Indus, remain locked in a dangerous nuclear standoff over Kashmir, which, incidentally, is one of the watersheds of the Indus. Although neither side has so far targeted the water facilities of the other nor attempted to disrupt the negotiated arrangements for water, the Indus remains a potential flashpoint in this regional powder-keg. In Africa, a continent under increasingly serious water stress, most major life-sustaining river systems span at least several nations, making the potential for conflict - or at least tension - very real. Consider for example, the Zambesi River system. Its 1.3 million sq.km basin spans nine states, seven of which are members of the Commonwealth, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia. The Potential for Domestic Conflict Some experts believe that the water-conflicts are much more likely to occur within countries — such as the competition for water between urban dwellers seeking drinking water and farmers seeking water for irrigation — than between countries. The violence that erupted in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000, following tariff increases for municipal water illustrates the kind of water conflict that believe will become more and more frequent as water stress grows in many parts of the world. In the South African community of Nelspruit, government attempts to privatize water distribution and raise the price of water services have been met with threats of civil disobedience and violence. Elsewhere in the country, citizens and town councils have resorted to sabotaging water meters and systems to provide affordable water.