No one questions the fact that access to clean drinking water is a right to which every human being is entitled; however, approximately 5,000 children perish each year as the result of preventable diseases brought on by a lack of water and inadequate sanitation.
Since 1990, 1.7 billion people have gained free access to drinking water, but there are still 884 million people around the world who do not have such access. Drought affects some of the poorest nations in the world, and intensifies hunger and malnutrition. By 2050, at least one in four people will most likely live in a country affected by a constant reoccurring lack of fresh water. Climate change, the escalating rise in temperatures and the lack of precipitation further exacerbate this situation.
For the time being, technological advancements do not allow us to return the seasons as our predecessors knew them to our planet, nor do they make it rain enough in winter and spring, but they do indeed help us adapt and look for solutions.
Oceans take up three quarters of our planet’s surface and contain 97% of the water on Earth. Only 3% of the water in existence is fresh water, which makes it an essential resource that is in short supply, in either quantity or quality, in particular areas. However, technologies such as desalination can enable us to obtain water that is apt for consumption and thereby increase and improve accessibility to this resource in populations close to the sea.
Desalination basically consists of eliminating the salts dissolved in water in order to render it potable or at least suitable for use in industry, agriculture, etc. The desalination process has been practiced since ancient times, when small amounts of drinking water were obtained (and continue to be obtained in this fashion) using rudimentary evaporators and solar energy. Today’s technological development enables large-scale production of water apt for agricultural and industrial use from sea water and other types of brackish water.
The scarcity of water resources has a negative influence on nutritional security, options for means of subsistence, and opportunities for education for impoverished families throughout the world. The General Assembly of the United Nations recognizes “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”. In order to build a sustainable economy and achieve sustainable progress, we need to invest in infrastructures that will enable better access to drinking water, alleviate the negative effects of climate change and achieve water security. Global awareness of the importance of water for health, social welfare and economic development is essential for establishing policies which promote the construction of infrastructure, such as desalination facilities, to mitigate and solve water supply problems.