Any source of water that is useful to people (for example, for drinking, recreation, irrigation, livestock production, industry). Only 3% of the water within the water cycle is freshwater, and 99% of that is frozen in ice caps and glaciers, or is stored as groundwater. As a result, only 1% is readily available for use. Water shortage is a major and recurrent problem in many regions, including most of Africa, the Middle East, much of South Asia, a large proportion of the western USA and northwest Mexico, parts of South America, and nearly all of Australia. Less than 20% of the population in many developing countries has access to clean drinking water. Water supplies to an area can be increased in various ways (including building dams, canals and pipelines, and building desalination plants), but these engineering solutions are expensive. Access to and shared use of water are major issues for many neighbouring countries, and hydropolitics can led to major confrontation between countries. World‐wide, irrigation agriculture consumes over 70% of all the water used by people, industry accounts for a further 20%, and domestic and municipal uses account for most of the remaining 8%.
Subjects: Environmental Science.