Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Is Our World In A Freshwater Crisis?

Without water, there would be no life on our planet. A human being can survive without food or nutrition for months, but without clean, fresh water for only a couple of days. Lack of clean, fresh water is a worldwide disaster that already affects billions of people. Wastewater, on a global level, accounts for seven percent (7%) of all anthropogenic methane emissions. Not only is wastewater emitting large amounts of methane, but does contain many kinds of contaminants, bacteria and chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients, harmful for both our environment and for human beings. (Global Methane Initiative 2019; HSY 2019).

The European Union ́s water frame directive defines the minimum level of wastewater treatment in the European Union member states, including Finland. Finland, however, has its own stricter wastewater treatment regulation based upon Finnish legislation. In fact, Finland as a country ranks as having some of the cleanest waters worldwide: tap water is clean and safe to drink, since wastewater treatment uses advanced technologies allowing for wastewater treatment plants in Finland to process wastewater removing up to 95% of chemicals throughout the treatment process. For instance in Finland, dirt is being transformed into biogas and soil. (Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant 2019).

Why then, does wastewater treatment matter? Why is it important to purify both household and industrial water? If wastewater is not being treated, i.e. purified, it causes horrible odors. However, this is probably the smallest of all problems involved with dirty water, which unless treated, contains bacteria, chemicals and (other) toxins harmful both to our environment and to human health. Despite having some of the cleanest water and best water treatment facilities worldwide, Finland also experienced a water contamination crisis in Nokia in 2007. Through a single human mistake, hundreds of thousands of liters of wastewater at Nokia´s water treatment plant ended up mixed with purified water. Since the mistake was not immediately noticed, and communication failed, thousands of Nokia inhabitants ended up drinking the contaminated water and got sick – some for months, others still today have to deal with health problems that can be traced back to them having drunk contaminated water. The Nokia case led to improvements not only in crisis communication throughout Finland ́s municipalities, but also to all wastewater treatment plants in Finland being checked for any possible leakages and other risks. A decade after the Nokia contaminated water crisis the case was brought up again by media in Finland and acts as a reference case. 

Wastewater treatment is important both for the environment and for human health. The FAO states that wastewater treatment is necessary in order to avoid both environmental and health risks, and identifies the need for some degree of wastewater treatment before considering the usage of raw municipal wastewater to aquaculture, agriculture or landscape irrigation. In other words, dirty water should not be used directly anywhere. (FAO Corporate Document Repository – 3. Wastewater treatment). The Global Methane Initiative states that anaerobic decomposition of organic material during the treatment of wastewater leads to methane emissions. Moreover, in countries with less advanced technologies for wastewater treatment, methane emissions from wastewater are higher. (Global Methane Initiative. Municipal Wastewater Methane: Reducing Emissions, Advancing Recovery and Use Opportunities).

The United Nations identifies that the majority of human activity involving water also produces wastewater, followed by the fact that most wastewater worldwide is being released into our environment without any kind of treatment, with an exception to most highly developed countries. In its World Water Development Report 2017, the UN presents wastewater as an untapped resource, whereby wastewater treatment worldwide is necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In the World Water Development Report, the UN discusses the various aspects directly related to wastewater and its treatment, including general governance, technical aspects of wastewater, wastewater in municipalities and urban areas, wastewater from industry, agriculture and in various ecosystems, followed by wastewater by geographical region. As a conclusion, the UN suggests several response options in terms of wastewater management.

In a world with continuously growing demands for freshwater, it is simultaneously becoming an increasingly much scarce resource. Billions of people worldwide also lack access to clean water. Unless resolved, it is a vicious circle leading to both environmental and health problems. The UN sees the potential for both business and sustainable development through wastewater management/treatment. (The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017).

The OECD (2015), Environment at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264235199-en highlights countries that have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, improved waste and water management processes, and have a higher usage of renewable energy sources. In this report, the OECD states how significant freshwater resources are both on social and economic levels, and for the environment. It also identifies that overall water quality is impacted by water abstraction, anthropogenic pollution loads, climate, and weather.

With majority of wastewater worldwide neither being collected, nor treated, the vast majority of the world population is exposed to wastewater. Moreover, at least 2/3 of world population live in areas where they are faced with water scarcity for at least one month each year. When wastewater is being directly dumped into the environment without any treatment, this only worsens the water scarcity that already affects much of the world ‘s population. 

If and when we know how harmful it is to both animals, the environment, and human beings to use contaminated water, then why do we allow this to continue on a global scale? 

According to the Finnish Red Cross, every single hour 33 children worldwide die due to lack of fresh, clean water. That makes 792 dead children every day. 289.080 unnecessary deaths every year, only due to the lack of clean and fresh water. If we managed our freshwater resources better, this could all be avoided. For instance, the Red Cross distributes 500.000 litres of clean water  every day at the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, a country that has suffered severely from a war that has been going on for more than eight (8) years by now. Some sources claim that the origin of the Syrian war can be traced back to climate change issues, and environmental problems. 

Freshwater is also a basic human right, which should not be privatized or seen as a luxury product available only for the privileged. Why then, is for instance India facing its worst freshwater crisis ever? Where people living in slums hardly get any clean water and if they do, it is a constant battle. In countries like Tadzhikistan, where people depend on freshwater from the mountain glaciers, the battle for access to clean water is equally hard. These people can spend the vast majority of their days just to find clean water since they lack the resources to build even the simplest engineered systems to bring them some of the clean freshwater melting from the glaciers. The 21st century will be significant in the history of homo sapiens in terms of (the lack of) clean freshwater. In the Middle East, an effort to tackle the lack of freshwater is to import an entire iceberg from Antarctica. Can we afford to experiment with the environment and nature this way? Time will tell, and until then let us find out intelligent ways to solve the freshwater crisis, starting with (improved) wastewater management practices. 

Please share your thoughts and ideas concerning this article. If you found this helpful and/or interesting, do also share it with your social media networks. Access one of my previous articles here: Why Are Landfills Significant Sources Of Global Methane Emissions?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

Water Drops on Green Leaf Isolated

How Can You Save Fresh Water?

What are you doing to save fresh water?

It can be something as simple as not letting the water drop/run freely while brushing your teeth. Showering 5 minutes instead of 10-15 minutes.

Small actions when multiplied by millions of people lead to big results.

We live in a time where fresh water scarcity is already affecting most of the world population either directly or indirectly. We are already tapping into our groundwater resources all over the world. The situation is critical.

Four tenths (4/10) of total world population is already directly affected by fresh water scarcity. Millions of people live in poverty, without access to any fresh water at all.

Majority of wastewater around the world is being dumped directly into our environment and nature without any kind of treatment i.e. purification, which is a huge problem for the entire planet’s ecosystem and for healthy lives.

Learn how you can take action, even small steps. Start by spreading this message. Feel free to comment about your efforts to save water. Thank you. 

You can access some of my previous posts related to water management here:

 

Wastewater As a Source of Global Methane Emissions

 

Changes in Water Balance in The Arctic To Have Implications For Global Climate

 

What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

 

Fresh Water is a Basic Human Right

 

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys – for climate and environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to my newsletter at Yritys Executive Services to receive my messages delivered personally to you. Thank you.

Climate Change Expected to Reduce Crop Yields

Global Climate Change (72).jpg

“WHO. Increasing temperatures and more variable rainfalls on our Planet are expected to reduce crop yields in many tropical developing regions, where food security already is a problem.”

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Note from author: Although WHO´s statement refers only to crop yields in many tropical developing regions, anyone who has even the slightest experience/understanding about agriculture and farming, along with general comprehension about biology/geography will realize that one of the major risks of agriculture involves weather. It also depends much upon fresh water, healthy soils and a healthy environment. If and when weather patterns change (drastically) by becoming less and less predictable, with e.g. too much rain, it can have significant impacts upon crop yields, or at worst, even destroy a whole crop.

With agriculture being the largest consumer of fresh water resources worldwide, there is a need for optimizing fresh water usage in the agricultural sector. FAO (2012) has published a report, Crop yield response to water with the purpose to serve primarily agricultural practitioners along with a number of other target groups with important information on how to possibly optimize fresh water usage in agricultural/farming practices. The complete report can be found here: Crop yield response to water

At another TEDx Talk, Mark Owen speaks about the future of water:

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys – for climate-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank & to receive my newsletter delivered personally to you, subscribe to Leading With Passion

Paradoxes of Planet Earth

World population is growing exponentially:

1980: 4,4 billion

1990: 5,3 billion

2000: 6,1 billion

2010: 6,9 billion

Today, on the 27th of June 2014, the world population is 7,2 billion. According to estimates/calculations made by the UN, the world population will continue growing as follows:

2020: 7,6 billion

2030: 8,3 billion

2040: 8,8 billion

2050: 9,3 billion

Currently, the top 20 largest countries by population (Worldometers. Quoted 27.6.2014) are:

1. China – 1,3 billion

2. India – 1,2 billion

3. U.S.A. – 322 million

4. Indonesia – 252 million

5. Brazil – 202 million

6. Pakistan – 185 million

7. Nigeria – 178 million

8. Bangladesh – 158 million

9. Russia – 142 million

10. Japan – 127 million

11. Mexico – 123 million

12. Philippines – 100 million

13. Ethiopia – 96 million

14. Vietnam – 92 million

15. Egypt – 83 million

16. Germany – 82 million

17. Iran – 78 million

18. Turkey – 75 million

19. Democratic Republic of the Congo – 69 million

20. Thailand – 67 million

Other hard facts:

– Currently, an estimated amount of 168 million children are forced to work. A child is anyone under the age of 18. Child labor is unacceptable.

– According to estimations of the U.N., two-thirds of total world population will live in water scarcity in 2025. In only 11 years from now. 2/3 of total world population in 2025 means that around  5,3 billion people will live in water scarcity.

To check your personal water footprint, visit the following page and calculator:

http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/YourWaterFootprint

According to the UN Environmental Program, by 2025, agriculture is expected to increase its water requirements by 1,3 times, industry by 1,5 times, and domestic consumption by 1,8 times. (UNEP. Freshwater use by sector at the beginning of the 2000s. Quoted 27.5.2014).

Learn how to decrease water consumption at home:

http://www.savewater.com.au/how-to-save-water/in-the-home

To borrow Dalai Lama:

THE PARADOX OF OUR TIMES

“We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers

Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints

We spend more, but we have less.

We have bigger houses, but smaller families

More conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees, but less sense

More knowledge, but less judgement

More experts, but more problems

More medicines, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often

We have learnt how to make a living, but not a life.

We have added years to life, but not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back

But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.

We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.

We’ve higher incomes, but lower morals.

We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character;

Steep profits, and shallow relationships.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare,

More leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces;

Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom.

A time when technology can bring this letter to you,

And a time when you can choose,

Either to make a difference …. or just hit, delete”.

UN Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

(Ancient Indian Proverb)

The UN target of ensuring environmental sustainability includes:  

– Integration of the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes, as well as reversement of the loss of environmental resources: 

=> Forests continue disappearing at an alarming rate

=> CO2 emissions have increased worldwide by more than 46 % since 1990

=> There has been a reduction of over 98 % in the consumption of ozone-depleting substances in the past three decades

– Reduction of biodiversity loss

=> An increase of 58 % in earth´s protected areas since 1990

=> In 2010, 12,7 % of the world´s land areas were protected, but only 1,6 % of ocean areas

– Halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation 

=> Target has been met five years ahead of schedule

=> More than 40 % of people without improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa

=> Still, 2.5 billion people in developing countries have no access to improved sanitation facilities

– Achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

=> The target has been met, although the number of slum dwellers has grown

(UN MDG´s. Quoted 16.5.2014). 

Despite of continuous improvements in environmental sustainability, we are facing huge challenges that we are all responsible for, and that we need to respond to NOW: 

– According to forecasts, 2/3 of world population will live with water scarcity in 2025, 11 years from now. In 2025 world population will have grown to more than eight billion, meaning that more than five billion people will live with water scarcity. 

– Today, developed countries (20 % of all countries) use 80 % or more of all natural resources.

In Finland alone: if the total world population would consume as much as people in Finland, we would need three Earth´s instead of the ONE AND ONLY that we live in today. Despite of the excess usage of natural resources in Finland, there are other industrialized countries that are even worse in over-consumption. You can check the current situation in your country´s statistics for consumption, or visit WWF´s website for more information upon the topic.

YOU DON´T HAVE TO DECLARE YOURSELF GREEN TO ACT GREEN! PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT, FLORA AND FAUNA, IS SOMETHING WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR. 

NOT KNOWING OR NOT UNDERSTANDING ARE BAD EXCUSES. IF ONE DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE OR UNDERSTANDING, IT IS IN ONE´S RESPONSIBILITY TO EDUCATE ONESELF IN THESE MATTERS, AND TAKING ACTION!