In this guide, we outline some of the major reasons why water is important to society.
Summary – Why Water Is So Important To Society
- In society, there is a water footprint for almost everything we do, use and consume
- A water footprint is the direct and indirect water used throughout the lifecycle of a product, service or activity (from sourcing of materials, all the way through to disposal and waste management). Take a car for example – water is used to mine and fabricate car materials, in manufacturing, to refine petroleum that the car might run on, at mechanics and repair shops, to clean the car, and in sending the car to junk and recycling scrap materials.
- Water is used across all aspects of society – agriculture, industrial and commercial activity, and residential/households
- It’s no surprise that countries or regions who don’t have access to basic clean water supply (both drinking water and non potable water), and sanitation have all sorts of serious problems as individuals and a society. Water is critical for socio-economic development
- Water is also critical for wild life and the environment
An obvious reason why we need water – to drink, survive and keep healthy.
Drinking water should meet certain safety and quality standards set out in regulations and guidelines in a particular state/province or country.
Some countries and states can have contamination or safety issues with their public drinking water supply.
Although access to drinking water has improved for many people worldwide since 1990, the fact remains that:
- 785 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 144 million people who are dependent on surface water.
- Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces
Countries and regions that lack access to clean and safe drinking water face severe health and social problems.
Children are particularly at risk of sickness, disease and death in these places.
Health, Hygiene and Sanitation
Washing and human waste are key components of health, hygiene and sanitation.
We need water for showers, baths, toilets, taps, and so on (and we also use water for cooking and other household activities)
Developed countries tend not to have an issue with this, apart from those with contaminated public water supplies.
Lesser developed regions of the world are a different story though:
- In least developed countries, 22% of health care facilities have no water service, 21% no sanitation service, and 22% no waste management service
- 74% of the world’s population (5.5 billion people) used at least a basic sanitation service.
- 2.0 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines.
- Of these, 673 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water.
Spread of disease and sickness is huge in countries and regions without proper water supplies for health, hygiene and sanitation.
In most countries, irrigation for agriculture uses a majority of the annual fresh water consumption.
Food and fibers like livestock, crops, and cotton are some of the main consumers of water supplies.
Dry climates particularly rely on irrigation as they don’t usually have the rainfall levels required for rain fed farming.
Electricity & Energy Generation
Part of the industrial sector (the industrial sector, and electricity generation are usually the second biggest consumers of water, but can be equal to agriculture or slightly more in some countries.)
Some people don’t realise that the electricity we use can take a lot of water to produce.
Thermal plants usually have cooling towers that use water to cool the steam that passes through and spins the turbines.
But, newer cooling systems are making use of dry cooling, and lower water use technology, or even recycled or alternate water use methods. Some use air cooling too.
Manufacturing cars requires more water usage than most other products.
Water is also used at various points in the petroleum sourcing and refining process.
Water is also used to clean, service and repair cars and other vehicles.
Other Sectors That Use Water
Mining, construction, textiles, government, raw material production and supply, and many other sectors and industries use water in everyday society.
It’s accurate to say all successful and healthy communities and countries need fresh water.
From what we have outlined above in regards to how humans use water in day to day life, and how the different industries and sectors use water, we can see that societies rely on water for socio-economic development.
Without adequate water supplies, societies face major problems and challenges.
Water For Ecosystems, The Environment & Wildlife
Water is also critical for natural ecosystems, the environment and wild life (which humans rely on in different ways).
It’s a give and take relationship too – plants and forests need water, but also play a role in helping with water retention in soil, and channeling water into ground water sources. Obviously aquatic organisms and environments also need water free of contamination and pollution to thrive.
So, water is important for ecosystems in themselves, but also for healthy ecosystems that humans depend on.
Water Issues Now & In The Future
There’s several water related issues we face both now and in the future.
They include water scarcity, water shortages, water pollution and contamination, water stress, + more.
Developing nations or low income nations also face major issues like a lack of access to safe and clean water.
The good news is that many of these issues can be solved, but, they need more time, investment and focus from us now, and in the future.
3. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ Water Guides