Why the taps run dry around the world?

The world has abundant freshwater but it is unevenly distributed and under increasing pressure, UN agencies say, as highlighted by the severe shortages in Cape Town. South Africa on Tuesday declared a “national disaster” over a drought that has ravaged parts of the country and threatened to leave the city without domestic tap water. More than 97 per cent of the planet’s water is salty, most of it in the oceans and seas, but there is also a good supply of freshwater.

Every year around 42.8 trillion cubic metres of renewable freshwater circulates as rain, surface water or groundwater, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This equals 16,216 litres per person per day — four times the amount required in the United States, for example, for personal and domestic consumption, industry and agriculture. Depending on diet and lifestyle, a person needs between 2,000 and 5,000 litres of water a day to produce their food and meet their drinking and sanitation requirements, the FAO says. About 60 per cent of the planet’s freshwater reserves is locked in the Antarctic. — AFP