Posted: 02.04.2024 17:32:00

91%+ of global population to face problems with access to clean water

European climatologists have studied the condition of 10,000 aquifers around the world and concluded that, by 2050, a third of them will be unsuitable for human use as a result of pollution with nitrogen fertilisers, and more than 91 percent of people worldwide will experience problems with access to clean water, TASS reports with reference to Nature Communications scientific journal


"We have for the first time analysed how water pollution will affect its availability at the global level by the mid-21st century. Our calculations show that this factor triples the number of problematic aquifers, as a result of which about 48 percent of aquifers, where over 91 percent of the world's population will live, will experience problems with access to clean water," the researchers note.

The conclusion was made by a group of European climatologists led by Assistant Professor Wang Mengru of Wageningen University in a comprehensive study of the state of about 10 thousand aquifers covering all inhabited continents of the Earth. In the past, scientists already tried to assess how the availability of water resources in these basins will change, but their calculations did not take into account water quality and tracked only changes in its volume.

According to climatologists, this greatly overestimates the amount of available drinking water, since these calculations do not take into account the fact that significant reserves of fresh moisture often turn out to be unusable due to pollution of rivers and groundwater with nitrogen fertilisers and other substances dangerous to humans. European researchers have taken this flaw into account in their calculations, for which they studied how much fertilisers and other pollutants get from fields into river waters and other reservoirs.

The scientists combined these estimates with already available data on the state of the largest aquifers, which allowed them to identify current problem regions and predict how their condition will change in the next three decades. The calculations showed that problems with access to clean water are now typical for about a quarter (2,517) of aquifers, and, by 2050, their number will grow to a third (3,061).

According to the research, most of these problematic aquifers are concentrated in the Middle East, South and East Asia, as well as in North Africa and Europe. These regions account for about 48 percent of the total area of all aquifers, while most of the world's population (about 91 percent) will live on their territory, and – as stated by the scientists – this once again underlines the need to strengthen the fight against water pollution.

According to the UN experts, the ultra-rapid depletion of groundwater and near-surface waters is among the biggest threats to humanity is. It is due to the pollution of rivers and the fact that people extract significantly more water from half of the known artesian wells than the latter receive moisture from various natural sources. About 2.4bn people already experience poor access to clean drinking water.