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Water resources typically are supplies of water that could be beneficial to people. Making the distinction between water and water resources is important because not all of the water to which humans have access is suitable for their needs. Humans generally need fresh water, and most of the water on Earth does not fall into that category. Sources of fresh water include lakes, rivers, and ice caps.
Potential water resources for humans are limited when compared with the total amount of water on Earth. Only three percent of water on the Earth is fresh water. Although fresh water is distributed across the globe, the majority of it is frozen in the form of glaciers and the polar ice caps. This leaves most people on Earth to rely on rivers, lakes, and groundwater. These water resources are becoming subjects of increasing problems.
At one time, there was not a great deal of attention paid to water resources for humans. In modern times, however, people are beginning to realize that the subject cannot be ignored. Emphasis on conserving and protecting those resources has grown into international efforts. This has happened because some places already are experiencing water shortages. Experts foresee problems for much larger portions of the population in the future if prevention measures are not taken.
There are a number of things that are responsible for the present and impending water problems. Pollution, climate change, and urbanization are a few of the common examples. Climate change is affecting resources by causing rivers and lakes to dry up. Many of these water resources have been used for centuries to support household and agricultural uses. There often are not any sustainable alternatives readily available.
Urbanization affects water resources because many cities are growing but their water supplies are not. More people living in one place means that the water requirements in that place are greater. Unfortunately, it is not an option to make limitless supplies of water available to them.
Pollution involves people dirtying their water resources. Sometimes this is done by individuals and sometimes it is done by industrial entities. Dealing with pollution often is not simple. In some cases, even when it is technically possible, there is a lack of resources to do so.
Saltwater sources can in some cases be used as water resources. This is done by way of a process known as desalination, which involves removing the salt from the water. This is an expensive process and it is not widely used. It is not generally promoted as a solution for water problems.
Much effort is being invested by governments and civil society organizations to make people aware of the issues surrounding water resources for humans. Tips and solutions often are offered to educate people on how to change their habits. It is generally believed that sustainable solutions must include the efforts of all levels of society.
@clintflint - So many people waste water at the moment though it's not funny. When you look at the fact that astronauts have systems that essentially recycle 100% of their water usage you can see where the best solution to our problem of sustainable water resources might be.
The real problem is that people don't want to spend money and effort fixing a problem until it's almost too late.
@Fa5t3r - I think there are a few problems with desalination that have yet to be solved. For one thing, if it's done on a large scale, where are they going to put the salt and other minerals that are extracted? If they are dumped back into the ocean, that will start to concentrate the water which wouldn't be good for ocean life.
Doing it over a wide space would make it cheaper, as solar energy would be more of a viable option, but the ocean is already quite a crowded place, especially close to cities.
I've often thought something could be done that uses waste heat from industry, but that seems to be more and more often recycled in other ways.
Our dwindling water resources are definitely a cause for concern, but I don't think desalination is anywhere near a point where it should be considered a potential solution.
I do wonder why desalination hasn't become more widely used. I know it's expensive right now, but most technologies are when they first start out. I'm sure with solar power or some other kind of renewable energy source they could figure out a low-cost way of taking fresh water from the sea.
This is an issue that is going to become more and more urgent as time goes by, so we do need to figure out some way of increasing our water resources. Otherwise the world is going to end up in a lot of trouble.
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