Is water a renewable resource

The raw material water

Have you ever wondered where the water comes from when you turn on the tap? Why is it clean and safe to drink? How much of it do we use every day? What is taken for granted for many people today - for most of the world it is a new challenge every day.

At first glance you cannot imagine this, because 70 percent of the earth's surface is covered by water. An immense amount if you consider the size of the Pacific alone. However, this is salt water; only 2.5 percent of the world's occurrences are fresh water. And this number is falling further: of this, another 70 percent is bound in sea ice and glacier ice, the rest is divided into groundwater, soil moisture and water from rivers and lakes. 1)

The sun determines the worldwide water mechanism. With its irradiation, it determines how much water evaporates over the seas and over the land, and how much of it in the form of rain or snow replenishes the supplies. Or not: if precipitation is too heavy, the soil cannot absorb it. They are washed into the sea unused.

Despite the small amount of usable water, this raw material is in principle available for several billion people - there are other factors that are causing an increasing shortage.

Water is unevenly distributed, not only geographically but also seasonally. In the more northerly regions with a moderate climate, there is sufficient fresh water available all year round. But already in Spain and Greece the situation becomes critical again and again over the course of the summer. Other areas, however, such as Bangladesh, show very little rain overall. However, they are largely flooded almost every year during the monsoons. Tons of water that in such or similar cases cause more harm than good.

The water supply has remained roughly the same over the past millions of years, but according to a UN report, the world population will increase to 10 billion by 2050, which would double in just 50 years. More and more people mean increasing private water consumption and more and more arable land - which has to be irrigated. The increasing cultivation of food requires the deforestation of land. Soil erosion and desertification are the consequences.

The second largest water user after agriculture is the industrial and energy sectors. Emerging economies with large populations such as China and India are further boosting the demand for water.

Desalination plants, especially on the coasts, are therefore becoming increasingly important. But they also have downsides. The remaining salt is pumped into the sea, the salt concentration increases. The operation of the desalination plant is becoming more expensive. More salty sea water evaporates faster and contributes to global warming. In addition, most of the desalination plants are powered by petroleum-based energy. However, there are already projects to treat drinking water with renewable energies and also to use systems for salt production. 2)

It can also become critical if they share water sources in several countries. This includes the Jordan, whose main tributaries are in various arid countries. There is also tension over the Tigris and the Euphrates, the use of which Eastern Turkey, Syria and Iraq are fighting over. The Nile, over 6,000 km in length, supplies 9 countries with water, the last being Egypt. Its economy is almost entirely dependent on water. 3) It is understandable that here too the government has a great interest in a stable political situation in the countries of the upper rivers.

Access to clean water is an important health factor. It also determines the economic and political development of a country and its stability. In some regions it is already more important than oil. The population is growing all the time, so global strategies are necessary. These include, for example, opportunities for cooperation instead of resolving conflicts over the rights of use to water. Ways to reduce pollution are also part of it. Likewise, the avoidance of further desertification in order to keep erosion within limits. And also the awareness of how you use water yourself: is a shower enough instead of a full bath? Does the water really have to keep flowing while brushing your teeth? The car should be washed every Saturday? Thoughts we should all be making when
next time we turn on the tap.
1) Source:
Study Society for Peace Research, Munich: Food for thought - No. 37

2) More information at,0,0,Zur_Rolle_der_Ressource_Wasser_in_Konflikten.html,0,0,Zur_Rolle_der_Ressource_Wasser_in_Konflikten.html
3) Source:
Study Society for Peace Research, Munich: Food for thought - No. 37

, 30.03.2010