Fresh Water Threatened as Never Before
New Report Tracks Emerging Threats, New Solutions
OAKLAND, CA - Ten to twenty thousand people die every
day from water-related diseases; worldwide, half of all
wetlands have already been lost to development and conversion.
Global climate change will wreak potential havoc on the
In short, across the globe, the world's scarce fresh
water is being threatened as never before. To make matters
worse, the traditional methods long-used to ensure our
supply of water - dams, reservoirs, and pipelines - are
actually adding to our woes. The good news is there are
solutions. A new assessment released this week by the
Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment,
and Security (Oakland, California) lays out these global
threats and offers ways to solve them by breaking with
the destructive patterns of the past. The report was funded
by the UN Environment Programme.
"The aim of this new assessment is to look ahead
at four critical emerging threats to the world's freshwater
resources," stated Dr. Peter H. Gleick, director
of the Pacific Institute of Oakland, California and the
report's lead author. "And when we do, the picture
is not pretty. Growing populations, increasing water pollution,
and the wild-card of climate change all point to an upcoming
Freshwater is essential for human survival, for agriculture
and for the survival of our planet's plants and animals.
But pollution, climate change, water-related disease,
and the destruction of natural systems all threaten the
purity and availability of our most precious resource.
Despite the pressing nature of these threats, water institutions
and policymakers have, so far, been largely unable to
develop the tools and approaches needed to address these
"Governments have failed to adequately address these
problems. The impacts of water-related diseases on the
world's children, and the coming risks of climate change
are especially threatening. Changing weather patterns
may dump too much water into barren areas and leave our
massive networks of dams and reservoirs with only drops.
We've got to prepare for tomorrow today."
Despite the challenges we face, there are solutions to
the problem. First among these is a realization that sustainable
use of freshwater requires a new dialogue on the ultimate
ends to be served by water management.
The most crucial solution is a rethinking of how we use
and manage our scarce resources," said Dr. Gleick.
"We must look at ways to increase our efficiency
of use, instead of just building more dams and reservoirs.
Improving the efficiency of our water systems, taking
real steps to stem global warming, and opening the policy
debate over water to new voices can all help turn the
The report is available online at:
Hard copies can be obtained by calling, faxing, or emailing
the Pacific Institute.
Threats to the World's Freshwater Resources Fact-Sheet
Among the major concerns raised by the report:
· Two-thirds of the world's population is at risk
of water-related diseases. Even today, there are 250 million
cases of water-related diseases reported every year, and
between 5 and 10 million deaths, mostly of children. Water-related
diseases, like cholera, malaria, dengue fever, and dysentery,
will continue to rise in the future unless these basic
needs are met.
· The impacts of climate change on water are already
apparent - Climate change, also called global warming,
is already evident, and impacts on water resources are
being ignored by water policymakers.
· Freshwater pollution - In both the developing
world and in industrialized nations, water pollution and
contamination is a growing problem.
· The world's wetlands are disappearing at an
alarming rate. Half of the world's wetlands have already
been lost. The report highlights with new satellite maps,
for example, Iraq's recent destruction of the unique freshwater
marshes where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet.
The Pacific Institute for Studies in Development,
Environment, and Security is an independent, nonprofit
research center working on issues at the intersection
of sustainable development, environmental protection and
Dr. Peter H. Gleick is one of the world's leading
scientific experts on fresh water problems and solutions.
He is the author of the "The World's Water"
(published by Island Press, Washington) and serves on
the National Academy of Sciences Water Science and Technology
Board. He was elected an Academician of the International
Water Academy of Oslo, Norway in 1999.