Water Issues

Recognizing the global nature of safe, reliable water supplies

Roadblocks to securing safe, reliable water represent a serious worldwide threat. More than 1.1 billion people currently lack access to safe drinking water, while 2.6 billion live amidst inadequate environmental and water sanitation standards (including problems associated with inadequate sewage treatment). According to a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, contaminated water kills more than 2 million children annually. Meanwhile, the World Bank reports that inadequate access to irrigation water and other related factors have led to food shortages that are affecting 925 million people around the world.

Securing the agricultural water needed for food production

Today, about 70% of the world's water supply is used for agriculture, 20% for industrial uses, and 10% for consumer use. The water used for food production thus accounts for an extraordinarily high percentage of water use. However, dramatic growth in the world's population has resulted in persistent food shortages. A key factor behind these shortages has been a lack of access to irrigation for agriculture. Unfortunately, ever greater pressure on the food supply and rising prices appear inevitable. Since Japan relies on imports for more than 60% of its food supply, this translates as a massive dependence on water sourced overseas. Water shortages and pollution overseas can thus lead directly to problems with Japan's food supply.

Balancing quality and quantity requirements

Human beings need water to survive, but most of the earth's water, including sea water and glaciers, remains unavailable for geographic reasons or unacceptable for use due to its physical properties. Sources of readily accessible fresh water, like groundwater and river water, account for no more than 10 million cubic kilometers of water, or 0.01% of the earth's total water. In most countries and regions, tap water must meet stringent safety and quality standards, as it is used for drinking and the sustenance of daily life. Even trace levels of toxins or odors in tap water are certain to generate anxiety and complaints. But water is also used intensively for agricultural, industrial, and other purposes - in fact, about 90% of all water use is accounted for by agricultural and industrial applications. This water does not need to meet the same high standards as tap water, which points to the importance of securing the water quantity and quality appropriate for the intended application.