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Water security: pipe dream or reality? A global perspective from the UK

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In Earth's 45th millionth century, a looming and global crisis of fresh water scarcity is on our doorstep—a crisis that is accelerating through our unbridled development, burgeoning demand for food and energy, and the effects of climate change. Only 0.1% of the total global water volume of the 1.4 billion km3 is accessible fresh water, and we are already withdrawing one third of our accessible renewable water resource, much of which is needed to sustain our ecosystems and biodiversity. Using the lens of virtual water, I argue that the UK faces water security challenges of a scale unseen by most of its population due to its dependence on other nations, many of which are water stressed, for three quarters of its water. Estimates suggest that we would need to invest five times the current global rate in new water supplies if we are to meet the projected demand in 20 years time. With little chance of investment of such scale taking place, there is a compelling need for water professionals to emerge from their comfort zone. Engineers can play a pivotal role in addressing the water sustainability challenges, by engaging with politicians, decision makers, and those with influencing power. New models for integrated water management are needed to address complex multi‐stakeholder demand patterns. While we can and should develop cost‐efficient water technology, water professionals must grasp this moment to put themselves at the center of water science, technology, politics, environment, and economics. WIREs Water 2014, 1:11–18. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1005 This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water Human Water > Water Governance
An indicator of water scarcity: the number of months when water scarcity is >100%.
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The ‘New Water Architecture’.
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The water box. Adapted from: UN Water Development Report 2009.
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The final classification of water stress for water bodies of England and Wales according to the Environment Agency in 2013.
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The Global Virtual Water Trade Network: map of the weighted and directed global virtual water trade network following Konor et al. where ‘Each point indicates a node, or nation, in the network. Bilateral trade between countries is displayed by a line between points, with an arrow indicating the direction of trade. The color and width of each line is scaled on the basis of the weight of the link it is representing. In this network, there are 166 nations that import, 151 nations that export, and 6033 links. Note that the export of virtual water from the United States to Japan is the largest link in the network, with a volume of 29.2 × 109 m3/year, which accounts for approximately 5% of the entire volume in the network. The second largest link is that from the United States to Mexico, with a virtual water trade volume of 20.2 × 109 m3/year, or approximately 3% of the flow volume.’
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Human Water > Water Governance
Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water

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