Douglas Broom recently wrote an article in World Economic Forum that says: As much as half of the world’s water supply is being stolen. He based his article on a research paper that claims that these figures come from Interpol. Read on to know more.
How is water theft is posing a threat to the future of mankind.
Broom’s article in World Economic Forum is based on a new study by an international team of researchers led by the University of Adelaide appeared in the Journal, Nature Sustainability where researchers state that water thieves steal between 30% to 50% of earth’s water supply annually. The report suggests that policy-makers could overhaul legal and political frameworks inorder to protect water supplies.
The report findings say that rising global population is putting global water supplies under stress. It also says that the major culprit for illegal water abstraction is agriculture. It attributes the water crisis to the climate change that is affecting the world.
Dr Adam Loch, Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Global Food and Resources, says that water theft has received little global attention. It’s mainly because water stealers hail from a poor and vulnerable background in developing countries. He highlights that water theft is also rampant in the developed world.
There are many forms of water theft. It includes using potable and treated drinking water without paying for it. Taking water from natural sources is also a breach in some countries. 70% of water globally is used for agriculture and farmers are often guilty. The report says that social attitudes and uncertainty over future supply are contributors to this crime.
The report uses three case studies to illustrate their point:
- California: Growing marijuana
- Spain: Cultivating Strawberries (here thieves took water from an area protected for migratory birds)
- Australia: Cotton Farming
Researchers used these three water-intensive activities to show the effects of market demands on water theft. They say that stealing water is simple and more profitable than following environmental regulations. Since this area receives less attention, it’s difficult to get caught.
World Water Council says: domestic consumption only accounts for 10% of worldwide water usage, with industry taking 20% and evaporation from reservoirs claiming a further 4%. The rest is down to agriculture. Domestic consumption numbers are appalling! It means that the common man, across the world is being denied water because of water theft among other issues.
This infographic by United Nations on Water and Sanitation will tell you more:
- Despite progress, billions still lack water and sanitation services
- 2.2 billion people lack safely managed drinking water
- 4.2 billion lack safely managed sanitation facilities
- 3 billion people worldwide lack basic hand-washing facilities at home
- Water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030
How to stop water theft?
It’s important for policy makers, government and community to work towards the common goal of preserving water for our own good. Some measures suggested by the report are:
– Reduce uncertainty of water supply by creating storage solutions like rain water harvesting
– Tighten the policing and give importance to water theft as a serious issue
– Issue penalties for stealing water and ensure that they are enforced correctly
– Water theft identification system: Have advanced monitoring systems and bring in coordination between regulators, governments and communities
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