1. Water pollution and the freshwater crisis
HSIE Stage 2 Outcomes
The activities associated with this topic meet the following syllabus outcomes:
Relationships with Places ENS 2.6
The activities also have links to
Patterns of Place and Location ENS 2.5
Geography Stage 5 Outcomes
The activities associated with this topic meet the following syllabus outcomes in focus areas 5A2 and 5A3:
5.1 Identifies gathers and evaluates geographical information
5.2 Analyses, organises and synthesises geographical information
5.5 Explains geographical processes that form and transform Australian environments
Science and Technology K-6 Outcomes
The activities associated with this topic contribute to achievement of the following Stage 2 outcomes:
LT S2.3 identifies and describes the structure and function of living things and ways in which living things interact with other living things and their environment.
ES S2.6 identifies some of the features of the solar system and describes interactions that affect conditions on Earth.
INV S2.7 conducts investigations by observing, questioning, predicting, testing, collecting, recording and analysing data, and drawing conclusions.
The activities also have links to the Stage 3 outcomes below:
LT S3.3 identifies, describes and evaluates the interactions between living things and their effects on the environment.
ES S3.6 recognises that the Earth is the source of most materials and resources, and describes phenomena and processes, both natural and human, that form and change the Earth over time.
INV S3.7 conducts their own investigations and makes judgements based on the results of observing, questioning, planning, predicting, testing, collecting, recording and analysing data and drawing conclusions.
Background information compiled from:
Global Environment Outlook 2000, UNEP, Earthscan Publications, 1999.
The World's Water 1998-1999, The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources; Peter H. Gluek, Island Press, 1998.
World Resources - A Guide to the Global Environment, 1998-99, A joint publication of The World Resources Institute, United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Development Program and The World Bank, Oxford University Press, 1998.
NSW State of the Environment 1997, 2000 NSW Environment Protection Authority, 1997.
Who Cares about the Environment? Environmental knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours in NSW: A Community Survey, NSW Environment Protection Authority, 1997 and 2000.
It is no accident that Earth is often referred to as `the water planet'. Earth is unique amongst planets of our solar system largely because of its abundant water - in oceans, in the atmosphere, in glaciers and as fresh water on land. Without water, life as we know it, could not exist.
Even though water is abundant, the amount of potable fresh water available is a tiny fraction of the total amount of water in the world. The vast majority of the world's water is in the oceans, but because of the salts in ocean water it is largely unsuitable for use. The supply of fresh water is limited, vulnerable to human abuse and not evenly distributed in both time and space.
Fresh water resources around the world have been overused, polluted, fought over and squandered with little regard for human health and ecological consequences. Polluted stormwater is a major contributor to the degradation of fresh water.
NSW Water Situation
Australia is the driest continent and has the most variable rainfall and stream flow in the world. In the Community Attitude Survey Who Cares about the Environment? conducted by the NSW EPA, water was identified as the single most important issue in NSW today.
The effective management of water resources is a major environmental challenge because of:
- the dryness and variability of Australia's climate
- the dependence on agriculture and fishery industries, which require water resources
- the concentration of our population in cities has increased the negative impacts of sewage and stormwater run-off.
Global Water Situation
The world's thirst for water is likely to become one of the most pressing resource issues of the 21st Century. Global water consumption rose six-fold between 1900 and 1995, more than double the rate of population growth.
In wealthy urban communities, an abundance of irrigated gardens and household appliances is responsible for an increase in household water consumption. Population growth will cause a rapid increase in agricultural demand for water.
Globally, water supplies are unevenly distributed. Some countries experience an abundant water supply. Other countries experience severe water shortages. In some areas, such as India and Africa, water withdrawals are so high that surface water supplies are shrinking and groundwater supplies are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. Climate change is also an increasing cause for concern for water managers, as glaciers that feed many of the world's rivers, recede at an alarming rate.
A 1997 United Nations (UN) assessment of freshwater resources found that one-third of the world's people experience moderate to high water stress. Moderate water stress levels are said to occur when water consumption exceeds renewable freshwater supply by 10 per cent. The problems are most severe in Africa and West Asia.
The UN expects the global water situation to get considerably worse over the next 30 years. It estimates that by 2025 the proportion of the world's population experiencing moderate to high water stress will rise to two out of every three people.
Water pollution adds enormously to existing problems of water scarcity by contaminating large volumes of available water, thus making it unsuitable for use. This situation is worst in third world countries, where human health is gravely damaged by accelerating contamination of water supplies by eutrophication, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, acidification and sewage pollution.
For example, in the city of Varanasi in India, the Ganges River is severely polluted with sewage (faecal coliform levels range from 50,000 cfu/100mL to over 5,000,000 cfu/100mL). Inadequate treatment of the city's sewage has also caused severe contamination of groundwater, resulting in high nitrate, heavy metal and faecal coliform levels.
In rich countries, people use between 850 and 1,000 litres of water each day. In poor areas where people rely on public taps for their water, consumption drops to between 20 and 70 litres each per day. Where there are no taps at all and people (usually women) have to travel to collect water, daily consumption often drops to between 2 and 5 litres. This is close to the absolute biological minimum people need to stay alive.
Global Water Crisis
The dawning of the 21st Century brings with it a global water crisis. If we continue business as usual (increasing population, water usage, pollution and wastage) it is estimated that by the year 2030 the global water demand for freshwater will exceed the supply. Currently more than one-third of the world's population experiences serious water problems and polluted water sickens more than 1 billion people each year. (UNESCO Sources No 84, November 1996).
World Water Day Poster (22 March) - Full colour poster with class activities for World Water Day on the back. Available from Oz GREEN email@example.com
Page last updated: 26 February 2011