That's how long up to 40 percent of the world's population has until it will begin to see serious water shortages.
According to a recent pair of studies conducted by Aarhus University in Denmark, CNA Corporation in the U.S., and Vermont Law School, a significant portion of the globe's population will face water shortages by 2020 if things continue at their current rate.
The situation will become even more frightening if no one makes any effort to change how water is used around the world. The aforementioned studies suggest that by 2040, water shortages will be the norm across the globe. Fortunately, there are solutions to the impending water problem. Companies such as Turf Feeding Systems have developed products that use less water and that are more sustainable compared to traditional practices.
What Uses So Much Water
Water scarcity isn't just an issue for the future— it’s already beginning to have an impact on the planet. According to the United Nations, nearly 800 million people currently have no access to clean water.
Two industries use a significant amount of water globally. One of these, the agriculture industry, uses a shocking amount of water. Depending on the location, agriculture can use up to 90 percent of the water safe for consumption. In the U.S., western states such as California use the most ground and surface water, as these states tend to be drier, and also tend to have a lot of agriculture.
The production of energy and power also uses a significant amount of water. In some cases, the energy is needed to provide power to farms, while in other cases, it is used to provide electrical power to urban areas. The Aarhus University study suggested that electrical power uses the greatest amount of water in countries around the world. Many power plants need a cooling cycle, which uses countless gallons of water to perform properly.
While the current state of water usage in the world today may paint a bleak picture for the future, there are existing solutions to the problem. When it comes to agriculture, step one is figuring out ways to grow plants and raise livestock without using copious amounts of fresh groundwater.
According to Michael Chaplinsky, the founder and president of Turf Feeding Systems, "When nature, soil biology, and plant health work together, you need less water to propagate plants. This is the number one thing that people need to understand." The irrigation and fertilizing systems – also known as fertigation systems - developed by Turf Feeding Systems take this into account.
Fertigation is the process of including liquid fertilizer and soil nutrients in irrigation systems, which results in supplement-rich irrigation water. This process results in plants requiring less water to grow, which in turn results in less water being wasted – as well as a reduction in fertilizer, chemicals, labor, and energy.
"Water is important, but it does not make a plant green and grow," Chaplinsky continues, "What people do not understand is that when a field or lawn starts to brown, the wrong thing to do is to turn the water up."
Instead, the answer involves using less water and making sure that all the elements needed for farming are in balance. Fertigation systems reduce water use while focusing on the health of the soil, and are just one part of the sustainable solution to the impending global water crisis. These systems can be implemented anywhere, from sports fields to parks to college campuses.
“The three largest problems facing the world today are water, soil health, and the production of food," explains Turf Feeding Systems' Chaplinsky. "All of those things are tied into how water and nutrients are transferred to the world’s green spaces. What people do not understand is that we have to live with nature; we can’t overpower it. And when you empower nature as a partnership, all of a sudden you’re using less energy and less inputs, but producing more results."
Using more sustainable sources of electrical power is another part of the water shortage solution. The Aarhus University studies noted that there are certain methods of generating electrical power that don't require massive, water-intensive cooling systems. Those methods include wind energy and solar power. Sustainable methods are already in use in some areas, but have yet to become widespread.
Professor Benjamin Sovacool, one of the leader researchers on the studies, boiled the situation down to this: if populations around the world continue to rely on antiquated and unsustainable sources of power, people will need to choose between having access to fresh, safe drinking water or having access to electricity.
Solving the global water problem will require a multi-pronged approach. It will mean more investments in sustainable energy sources, as well as more research into ways to cool older plants without using extensive amounts of water. It will also mean more demand for innovative fertigation systems such as Turf Feeding Systems to provide efficient delivery of nutrients and water to agricultural crops and other greenery.