Our groundwater is being used up at record rates and claims to ownership are becoming increasingly contentious. It won't be long before the first water war begins.
There's a lot of water on the planet we inhabit – an estimated 326 million trillion gallons or 1,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters.
That makes it hard to believe that there are somewhere between 780 million to one billion people without basic and reliable water supplies and that more than two billion people lack the requirements for basic sanitation.
Harder still to believe are reports water is going to get much dearer in our near term future – yet Peter Voser the chief executive of the world's second-largest energy company, Royal Dutch Shell
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) (NYSE: RDS.B
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), warned us in June 2011, that global demand for fresh water may outstrip supply by as much as 40 per cent in 20 years if current fresh-water consumption trends continue.
Our planet is 70 percent covered in ocean, ninety-eight percent of the world’s water is in the oceans – which makes it unfit for drinking or irrigation because of salt.
Just two percent of the world’s water is fresh, but the vast majority of our fresh water, 1.6 percent, is in its frozen state and locked up in the polar ice caps and glaciers.
Our available freshwater (.396 percent of total supply) is found underground in aquifers and wells (0.36 percent) and the rest of our readily available fresh water, 0.036 percent, is found in lakes and rivers.
Freshwater aquifers are one of the most important natural resources in the world today, but in recent decades the rate at which we’re pumping them dry has more than doubled. The amount of water pumped has gone from 126 to 283 cubic kilometers per year - if water was pumped as rapidly from the Great Lakes they would be dry in roughly 80 years.
These fast shrinking underground reservoirs are essential to life on this planet. They sustain streams, wetlands, and ecosystems and they resist land subsidence and salt water intrusion into our fresh water supplies.
Many people think of aquifers as underground lakes but that’s not the case - the water is held between rock particles. Water infiltrates into the soil through pores and cracks until it reaches what is called the zone of saturation - all of the spaces between the rocks are filled with water, not air.
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