4.2 Access to fresh water

Significant ideas:

  • The supplies of freshwater resources are inequitably available and unevenly distributed, which can lead to conflict and concerns over water security.
  • Freshwater resources can be sustainably managed using a variety of different approaches.

Knowledge and understanding:

  1. Access to an adequate freshwater supply varies widely.
  2. Climate change may disrupt rainfall patterns and further affect this access.
  3. As populations, irrigation and industrialization increase, the demand for fresh water increases.
  4. Freshwater supplies may become limited through contamination and unsustainable abstraction.
  5. Water supplies can be enhanced through reservoirs, redistribution, desalination, artificial recharge of aquifers and rainwater harvesting schemes. Water conservation (including grey-water recycling) can help to reduce demand but often requires a change in attitude by the water consumers.
  6. The scarcity of water resources can lead to conflict between human populations, particularly where sources are shared.

Applications and skills:

  • Evaluate the strategies that can be used to meet an increasing demand for fresh water.
  • Discuss, with reference to a case study, how shared freshwater resources have given rise to international conflict.

International-mindedness:

  • Unequal access to fresh water can cause conflict between countries that have an abundance of fresh water and those that do not.

Theory of knowledge:

  • Aid agencies often use emotive advertisements around the water security issue— to what extent can emotion be used to manipulate knowledge and actions?

Connections:

  • Climate change—causes and impacts (7.2)
  • Terrestrial food production systems and food choices (5.2)
  • Aquatic food production systems (4.3)
  • Resource use in society (8.2)
  • Sustainability (1.4)