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Water stress and its significance in water research

North Vancouver Lower Lonsdale

Having lived in Vancouver (and in Canada) for the better part of the past 12 years, it still shocks me that people who live in this beautiful country think that we actually have A LOT of water simply because it rains a lot.

The concept of water stress (water extracted/demanded in relation to water that is really available) is a good metric to understand why we need to conserve water (and stop flushing so much water into the sewage streams!). In situations of high uncertainty, we need to ensure that the availability of water exceeds forecasted demands.

With growing population and increased demands on the precious liquid, the general feel I get from my conversations with the general public is that there is a broad perception that water is readily available in Canada. For the record, only 0.06% of the 2% of the global water availability is actually drinking water. The rest is neither readily available nor appropriate for human consumption.

This graph (the worldwide map of global water stress from the World Water Council) shows that North America actually has a high degree of water stress, despite conventional perceptions.

Source: World Water Council

Source: World Water Council

My hope is that in the near future, the public will realize that 1 billion people lack access to improved water supplies (source: World Water Assessment, UNESCO) and that a global water balance is going to leave many millions of people without access to water while we waste it here in Canada shamelessly. Remember that nothing is local anymore, we need to think globally.

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Posted in water policy, water stress.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD » New tools for old problems: Water footprint, water stress and virtual water (Canada and worldwide) linked to this post on March 23, 2009

    […] the way I approach water problems. The first one is the concept of water stress. I have written on water stress previously on my blog, and I just want to show you that there are MANY areas all over North America under high water […]

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