MILAN – To understand its value, significance and all that it affects, concerns and influences, take a look at the little set of guidelines produced by the United Nations to remind ourselves how much we should preserve water as a resource, in order to ensure its quality in the future.
Water is life
Water is essential to human health. The human body can live for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Every day, we need this resource for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. The World Health Organisation recommends 7.5 litres per head per day to satisfy individual health requirements, but globally, 748 million people do not have access to a source of drinking water and 2.5 billion cannot access an efficient infrastructure for sanitation.
Water is food
On a global scale, agriculture is the main “consumer” of water, making up 70% of the total. By 2050, it is estimated that 60% more food will need to be produced, with 100% more in developing countries. In terms of lifestyle, economic growth and individual wealth are transforming diets into those based on food which demands more water. To produce 1 kilo of rice, for example, requires around 3,500 litres of water, while 1 kilo of beef, around 15,000 litres. This change in diet has had the greatest impact on water consumption in the past 30 years and this is also destined to continue in the decades to come.
Water in nature
Ecosystems – including, for example, forests, wetlands and grasslands – are at the centre of the global water cycle. The healthy functioning of these ecosystems needs to be based on the sustainable management of water supplies. However, according to the UN, most economic models do not seem to take this into consideration. The greatest challenge is to maintain a beneficial balance between nature, infrastructure and service provision.
Water is urbanisation
“The management of urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century – declares John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations (DESA) – Success or failure in the construction of sustainable cities will be an important factor for the development of the United Nations”.
Water is industry
Every product manufactured needs water and some sectors are particularly demanding. Estimates by the United Nations show that the global demand for water in production will need to be increased by 400% by 2050. The business case for water efficiency often requires a financial compromise. Investments in efficient technological processes for dealing with cooling water can have longer periods of depreciation, compared with the immediate returns on short term alternatives for investment in production.
by editorial staff