Problem Area Water
Since the year 2000, the world population has grown by over 1 billion to currently 7.3 billion people. During the same period, the global water demand has increased by approximately 20%. The situation is exacerbated by the further increase of the global water demand of an additional 55% projected by the year 2050 and the resulting rise in conflicts over utilization.
Excessive exploitation of global water resources is already impacting the earth’s appearance. The water shortage has consequences not only for individuals, the ecosystems and economic development. An inadequate basic water supply is additionally a factor that can weaken the stability of political systems. For the year 2050, 40 % of the world population is expected to be living in regions with water stress.
Intact ecosystems constitute refuges for man and nature and guarantee the long-term availability of water. The appreciation of ecosystem services as well as the methods for determining the water demand of the ecosystems has recently been subject to a significant shift. A methodologically consistent, current and comprehensive description of the status of the global water resources and the associated ecosystems is, therefore, a central prerequisite for substantiated regional and global objectives. Without a secure water supply and efficient wastewater disposal, successful poverty reduction, societal prosperity, healthy economic growth and efficient environmental protection are not possible.
Water shortage and lack of basic sanitation
Nevertheless, approximately 1.2 billion people worldwide are still threatened by an extreme water shortage and roughly 748 million people have no access to clean drinking water. More than twice as high, with 2.5 billion, is the number of those, who must live without basic sanitation – i.e. they have neither a toilet, nor a connection to the wastewater disposal system. The resulting consequences for the people affected as well as for the economic and ecological development of their home countries parallel a “silent tragedy”.
Cities in the so called developing countries are particularly affected, since the water consumption as well as the degree of pollution respectively the resulting wastewater in a relatively small space is particularly high. Adequate infrastructures for wastewater disposal and treatment are frequently lacking, so, for the most part, only contaminated water is available to the residents of these cities. The obvious implication is that a reliable drinking water supply can only be realized in combination with efficient wastewater disposal.