Planetary boundary 6: Global Water Use

Grain | Planetary boundary 6: Global Water Use

Fresh water is a natural resource essential for human activities. The current freshwater use planetary boundary has been set at 4,000 km3/year blue water consumption, the lower limit of a 4,000–6,000 km3/year range that is considered a danger zone. Each year, about 3,800 km3 of fresh water are consumed per year in the world. This water is very unevenly distributed on the planet. The volume of renewable fresh water available annually per inhabitant ranges from less than 100 m3 in the Arabian Peninsula, to more than 30,000 m3 in Northern Europe. During the 20th century, water withdrawals have increased twice as fast as the size of the population. This strong increase concerns in particular agriculture which still takes 70% of the total volume (FAO, 2016). Despite a slowdown since the 1990s, water withdrawals should continue to grow by 1% per year by 2050, driven in particular by the increase in industrial uses and the cooling needs of power plants (UN, 2015) .

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