Water Pollution Tops List of Global Eco Concerns

According to a recent survey, people around the world view water issues as the planet’s top environmental problem, greater than air pollution, depletion of natural resources, loss of habitat and climate change. Photo: Flickr/magnusfranklin

While many of the environmental headlines over the past few years involve climate change, deforestation and air pollution, a recent Circle of Blue/GlobeScan survey found that water is the biggest environmental issue in the world today.

Of the 15,000 adults in 15 countries, more than 70 percent said water pollution and fresh water shortages were “very serious” problems. Other concerns mentioned included the high cost and lack of water for agriculture.

A percentage of those surveyed were residents of countries with extremely high water usage, such as India, which uses the most fresh water per year (645.84 cubic kilometers, or 170 trillion gallons), and 86 percent of that is used for agriculture. In the U.S., 57 percent of respondents were very concerned about water pollution.

Pollution becomes more of an issue when considering the limited supply available. The U.S. Government Accountability Office claims that 36 states are anticipating a water shortage in the next five years, and the two largest reservoirs are at half capacity.

While more than 85 percent of fresh water in America is used for agriculture and industrial purposes, domestic use accounts for 570 liters per day.

Another issue addressed by the survey was accountability for solving the water crisis. Almost 80 percent of those surveyed think that a solution will require significant help from companies.

“People would reluctantly accept higher costs to solve the [water] problems,” said Rob Kerr, vice president of GlobeScan. “And strong majorities see a huge role for government and large companies in solving the fresh water crisis.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, the corporate sponsor of this year’s survey was Molson Coors, which has taken its own steps to cut down on water use. Last year MillerCoors announced that it uses only 4.1 barrels of water to produce a barrel of beer, which is less than the standard 5-to-1 ratio set by the United Nations Environment Program.

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