On our blue planet, there are about 1.4 trillion liters of water, which is quite a lot and rightly gives the earth its name. However, only about 3.5% of it is fresh water and usable for humans. Due to the steadily increasing population of the earth, the demand for water is also rising, making water scarcity an increasingly serious problem. Nevertheless, we were initially puzzled when we heard about water theft. Water theft, can such a thing even exist, isn't water a commodity that should be available to all people unconditionally? Definitely!
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And this is not the issue at all. Because it is not the needy people in regions that have now almost dried up who are grabbing the water of others out of their need, but agricultural businesses.
Between 30-50% of the annual water supply is stolen from farms.
At a time when conventional agriculture consumes about 70% of the global water supply, these are disturbing numbers.
A team of researchers investigated three water-intensive agricultural projects for possible use of stolen water. A cannabis plantation in the United States, a strawberry plantation in Spain and a cotton plantation in Australia. It was discovered that the strawberry plantation in Spain was irrigated with water from a nearby bird sanctuary.
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While the study makes it clear that water theft in general needs to be punished more severely, it also shows something else: In regions where people are educated about considerate use of water and the associated regulations, water theft was significantly lower.
The water becomes scarce, with or without theft
In the next 10–20 years, parts of the earth will have dried out to the point where no people will be able to live there.
Humanitarian crises triggered by water shortages are becoming an increasingly relevant threat and challenge to people. If the authorities do not understand the true value of water, it will be difficult to change anything. Awareness must be created that water is not an endless resource and could be more valuable than gold in the future.
Currently, some 2 billion people already live in regions with insufficient water supplies. By 2030, global water scarcity will probably force 700 million people to relocate.
Data from the World Water Council shows that only about 10% of water use goes to households, another 20% to industry, and 4% to evaporation.
The rest, i.e., at least 66 %, goes to agriculture. Forecasts say that the difference between available and required water will be 40% in 2030.
According to the United Nations Water, water will be the medium where we humans will feel climate change the most.
So it's high time for a rethink.
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1. Broom, Douglas, D. (2020, September 03). As much as half of the world's water supply is being stolen, report finds. Retrieved September 09, 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/global-water-theft-report-agriculture/
2. Loch, A., Pérez-Blanco, C., Carmody, E., Felbab-Brown, V., Adamson, D., & Seidl, C. (2020, August 24). Grand theft water and the calculus of compliance. Retrieved September 09, 2020, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-0589-3
3. Nield, D. (2020, August 25). Up to Half The World's Water Supply Is Being Stolen, a Troubling Report Reveals. Retrieved September 09, 2020, from https://www.sciencealert.com/up-to-half-the-world-s-water-is-stolen-but-there-are-ways-to-fix-the-problem
4.UN-Water, U. (2020). Climate Change: UN-Water. Retrieved September 09, 2020, from https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/climate-change/