Clean freshwater resources are essential for drinking, bathing, cooking, irrigation, industry, and for plant and animal survival. Unfortunately, the global supply of freshwater is distributed unevenly. Chronic water shortages exist in most of Africa and drought is common over much of the globe. The sources of most freshwater supplies¡X groundwater (water located below the soil surface), reservoirs, and rivers¡Xare under severe and increasing environmental stress because of overuse, water pollution, and ecosystem degradation. Over 95 percent of urban sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated into surface waters such as rivers and harbors.
Industrial Water Pollution
About 65 percent of the global freshwater supply is used in agriculture and 25 percent is used in industry. Freshwater conservation therefore requires a reduction in wasteful practices like inefficient irrigation, reforms in agriculture and industry, and strict pollution controls worldwide.
In addition, water supplies can be increased through effective management of watersheds (areas that drain into one shared waterway). By restoring natural vegetation to forests or fields, communities can increase the storage and filtering capacity of these watersheds and minimize wasteful flooding and erosion. Restoration and protection of wetlands is crucial to water conservation. Like giant sponges, wetlands stabilize groundwater supplies by holding rainfall and discharging the water slowly, acting as natural flood-control reservoirs.