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Thinking About Drinking – The Thirst for Sustainable Water Management


By: Julia John-Scheder

Thinking About Drinking – The Thirst for Sustainable Water Management

According to the OECD, global water consumption will see an increase of 55% by 2050. This can be explained by a predicted rise in the global population (~10 billion). It is also driven by demand from manufacturing industries, thermal power plants, and private households. Before we focus on the future, let’s look at the situation in 2017.

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation estimates that 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation. At least 1.8 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Agriculture requires the most water, followed by public water systems, and industry. Visit this interactive world map to learn more about current water availability and water use at the municipal and industrial levels.

Watch this video to find out how much water is used in Germany on agriculture.

Let’s talk numbers, looking at water globally:

The oceans contain 97.5% of the Earth's water. Fresh water makes up only 2.5% of global water resources. Two-thirds of this fresh water is trapped in glaciers and only one-third is available in liquid form.

You might wonder why scientists are alarmed about a future in which humans lack water. A variety of factors contribute to their concerns. Some regions are already suffering from water scarcity, especially South East Asia, the Middle East, as well as sub-Saharan Africa and southern Europe. Furthermore, urbanization, population growth, and changing lifestyles are contributing to the acceleration of water usage worldwide.

In Germany, a number of government agencies provide advisory services to their partners in the water sector around the world. One of these organizations is GIZ, which aims to uphold the human right to water and sanitation as well as achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“GIZ advises about 400 water and wastewater companies around the world on improving their services. This, in combination with financial cooperation, allows more than 100 million people to benefit from improved service quality,” says Michael Rosenauer, head of the Competence Centre for Water at GIZ headquarters in Eschborn, Germany.

© Andreas Fritsche

Germany, a water-rich country, has been conducting research on its current and future water usage to find out whether or not the country will at some point need additional water sources. The research concludes that this is not the case. Yet the researchers uncovered a different problem that needs to be resolved. The wastewater treatment in its current state cannot dissolve or clean water completely. Microwaste, such as medication, can still remain undissolved in the water, which calls for a methodical and comprehensive risk management plan for the use of wastewater.

Additional innovative research is required to ensure that the world population has access to a clean water supply. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) established the “Research for Sustainable Development” program, which was created for researchers interested in sustainable water management.

Part of the BMBF program is administered by one of Germany’s largest funding agencies, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The DAAD program „Study Scholarships and Research Grants for Foreigners“ is focused on the promotion of young scientists from Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The program offers highly-qualified students and doctoral students the opportunity to study in selected English-speaking Master’s programs at German universities. Students conduct research on sustainable water management. PhD candidates carry out projects in Germany in the thematic fields of “Water and Health” (particularly, the treatment of emerging pollutants and pathogens in the water cycle) or “Water in Urban Areas” (particularly new approaches to urban water and wastewater infrastructure). Studies are carried out in Germany and should be technology-oriented. For more information please visit the DAAD website.

Read about German innovations in global water sustainability here.

Here is a video from our event, Water: Planning for Today and Tomorrow from February 16th, 2017: