Less than 1% of the world's water is readily available for direct human uses
These uses include agriculture and industry, drinking and domestic purposes, and energy generation and transport. Increasing competition for water among such uses is degrading the very natural resources on which we all depend.
According to United Nations agencies, one-third of the world's population live in countries that are experiencing moderate to high water stress
More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean freshwater. Three billion do not have adequate sanitation services and the annual death toll from water-borne diseases is estimated at more than three million.
Pollution from towns and cities, industry and agriculture directly affect water supplies for people and freshwater ecosystems
The collapse of a tailing lagoon at a gold mine near Baia Mare
in Romania washed 100,000 m3
of waste water containing cyanides and heavy metals into the Danube river basin, killing fish life and disrupting public water supplies.
Diversion of water for agriculture and industry is destroying freshwater lakes and rivers
In just 30 years, the Aral Sea - formerly the fourth largest lake in the world and a major fishery - has shrunk to less than half of its size, and has become as salty as the ocean. The diversion of irrigation water for agriculture
and for power generation, led to severely reduced inflows, leaving an area of almost four million hectares of polluted soils and caused widespread economic losses and human suffering.
Projections of trends into the future do not brighten the picture
Currently, 54% of accessible runoff is appropriated by humans. By the year 2025, two-thirds of the world's population could be facing serious problems with water availability. Predictions regarding freshwater biodiversity impacts over that time-frame vary from the disastrous to the apocalyptic.
Climate change is compounding these effects through increased frequency of extreme weather events.