Module 1: Freshwater Resources - A Global Perspective
While only just beginning this course, you likely already appreciate that water is a precious commodity. For example, a human can survive at least three weeks without food, but can go only about three days without drinking water (or water-based liquid) before dehydration becomes a medical emergency (see the U.S. National Library of Medicines article, Water in Diet. Nonetheless, in the U.S., we commonly take access to quality drinking water for granted, not to mention the availability of water for all other important activities including the production of food and energy. And, this water presently comes to most people in the U.S. at a very low cost—just cents per gallon. We are, of course, privileged relative to other regions of the world, some of which do not have sufficient fresh water resources and where people may not even have access to safe drinking water supplies.
In this module, we will examine the distribution of freshwater resources, the major uses of water, and present and anticipated future demand for water, globally, as the human population increases. We will explore the question as to whether water has a value greater than presently appreciated and whether it will always be readily available to us. For example, you may already know that the western U.S. is experiencing a severe shortage of water as the result of prolonged drought in that region. Is this an anomaly, or might we expect longer-term shortages there and elsewhere in the U.S. and globally as the result of climate change?