Which country consumes the least water
70.8% of the earth’s surface is occupied by water, but only 2.5% of all the water on the planet is fresh water, that is, suitable for consumption. Of this, most is inaccessible in glaciers, at the poles, etc., so we only have 0.5% available for consumption, which is groundwater or surface water. There are currently 6,000 million people on Earth, of which nearly 20% live in 50 countries that lack this vital liquid and, at the current rate of consumption, it will soon become (has already become) a problem capable of generating armed conflicts and will affect (is already affecting) the future of the biological diversity of many areas of the planet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that the adequate amount of water for human consumption (drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, household cleaning) is 50 l/inhabitant/day. To these quantities must be added the necessary contribution for agriculture, industry and, of course, the conservation of aquatic and river ecosystems and, in general, those dependent on fresh water. Taking these parameters into account, a minimum quantity of 100 l/inhab/day is considered.
Top 5 water-consuming nations in the world
The rapid growth of the world’s population is making water an increasingly precious and scarce commodity. In fact, just three countries consume 38% of the planet’s available water resources. China, India and the USA top the world ranking that calculates each nation’s water footprint, a measure that estimates the total volume of water consumed by humans to produce goods and services. Brazil is in fourth place.
The study, prepared by Dutch scientists, is published this week in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (PNAS). The research calculates the water footprint of each country from the perspective of consumption and production.
The study establishes three components in the water footprint: blue, green and gray. The blue footprint refers to the consumption of water available on the earth’s surface. The green footprint refers to the consumption of water from rainfall, which is particularly relevant in crop production. Finally, the gray footprint is an indicator of the degree of water pollution. China is the country that generates the most polluted water.
Water consumption in developed and underdeveloped countries
The responsible use of water resources is one of the main challenges facing mankind. Water wastage in cities is therefore a major problem. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has produced a report on water wastage in a selection of 48 of the world’s cities based on criteria of water safety, supply, sanitation, wastewater management and treatment, and drainage.
On a planet where water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s population, reducing unnecessary water waste is imperative to meet the sixth of the Sustainable Development Goals.
On the contrary, the data show that those municipalities where water management has been decentralized have more shortcomings when it comes to making good use of the water cycle in the urban environment.
The United States locates the problem of this controversial report in the water treatment of cities, suspected of being managed by the Neapolitan Camorra for two decades, which they say has not met the relevant biosanitary standards.
Water consumption in the world
All economic sectors consume water, albeit in different ways and quantities (). Access to a sufficient supply of freshwater is essential for many key economic sectors and for the communities dependent on their activities. However, it is still appropriate to ask the question: is the way water is used in the economy sustainable?
Surprisingly, power generation also consumes a large amount of water and accounts for about 28% of its annual consumption. Water is mainly used as a cooling medium in nuclear and fossil fuel power plants. It is also used to generate hydroelectricity. Mining and manufacturing account for 18 %, followed by domestic consumption, which accounts for about 12 %. An average of 144 liters of water per person per day is supplied to European households.
In most cases, once abstracted water is used by industry, households or agriculture, the resulting wastewater can cause pollution through chemical discharges, sewage and nutrient or pesticide runoff from farmland. In the case of power generation, the use of water to produce hydroelectricity impairs its natural cycle in rivers and lakes, while dams and other physical barriers can prevent fish from migrating upstream.