Global Water Issues

by Robert W. Rangeley, Consultant; The World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1986, Vol. 56, Issue 12, Pg. 60-62

Document Type: Feature article


Five critical global water-related issues are discussed. First is the issue of climatic changes and drought. Unfortunately, the opportunities to construct major irrigation projects are very limited in arid Africa (the region of several catastrophic droughts) and their radius of influence is small. Practical solutions are a long way off. A second area is that of soil erosion and sedimentation. Engineers and scientists are making progress, but this is a relatively new area of research. Next, the world's outdated irrigation systems must be modernized. There is so little water remaining to exploit that cultivating new land is possible only through water savings by the existing users. In much of Asia, surface irrigation has an overall efficiency of about 30% compared to about 37% in the U.S. and 60% for well-managed systems. Pollution and water quality has been a concern in industrialized nations for many years. But developing nations are beginning to be worried about their drinking water. Irrigation is causing pollution from salinity. Groundwater pollutions from many sources is also becoming a problem worldwide. Finally, support for the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade is urged, especially from developed nations such as the U.S., which have resources to offer other nations.

Subject Headings: Groundwater pollution | Irrigation systems | Water conservation | Water management | Droughts | Surface irrigation | Water quality | Drinking water | Africa | Asia

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