World Water Day 2014: Shortages More Common Than You Think

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Most Canadians begin consuming water from the moment they wake, whether they’re drinking it, cooking with it, or using it for sanitation.

With fresh, clean water flowing out of our taps at the twist of a knob, it’s easy to forget that water consumption doesn’t come so easily for the majority of the world’s population.

To remind the world of the many issues facing the world’s water supply, the United Nations declared March 22 World Water Day in 1993. Each year, the UN focuses on a different water-related issue. This year, the focus is on water and energy shortages that are interlinked. In the past, topics such as water and food security, water for urban areas, and water sanitation have been chosen.

While main purpose of World Water Day is to raise awareness about inadequate water supply, the day also celebrates the world’s most precious resource.

To honour water, and also raise awareness about the difficulties people around the world encounter because of water shortages, here are 10 facts about water issues:

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1. In developing countries, about 80 per cent of illnesses can be linked to poor water conditions that led to a lack of proper sanitation.

2. Nearly 1 out of 5 deaths of children under the age of five is due to a water-related disease. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under five, more than malaria, AIDS and measles combined. Diarrhea is most commonly caused by improper hygiene.

3. In the developed world, a total of 10 million people lack clean drinking water. In Africa alone, 345 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water.

4. About 70 per cent of freshwater is used for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10 per cent for domestic use. This leaves rural communities, small farms and businesses vulnerable to scarcity.

5. In impoverished African and Asian communities, the walk to get water is 3.7 miles on average. Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely to be responsible for getting water for their families than boys.

6. Water-borne illnesses cost the Indian economy 73 million working days per year.

7. The World Resources Institute reports that 16 countries are currently tied for being the most water-stressed countries in the world – including Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Jamaica.

8. By 2025, as many as 3.5 billion people will live in water-stressed countries, meaning the availability of water will put a major constraint on human activities, according to WRI.

9. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any region. Nearly 13 per cent of the African population will experience drought-related stress once each generation.

10. On average, North Americans use 350 litres of water per capita per day, compared to 10 to 20 litres in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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