Which continent has great water resources?

The unequal distribution of drinking water

Turn on the tap and fill up with clean drinking water: it's not as easy everywhere on earth as it is here. Because although most of our planet is covered by water, there is a lack of water in many regions of the world. Today, over a billion people already have no access to clean drinking water.

So far, the water shortage has been particularly severe in the dry areas of Africa, where it hardly rains. Here people often have to walk for kilometers to the nearest river or well. But there is also a lack of water where fresh water is contaminated by bacteria. The affected countries often lack the money to purify the water in sewage treatment plants, as we do in our country, or to desalinate seawater.

The water consumption is very different in the individual regions of the world. The industrialized nations consume much more water than the developing nations. When it comes to water consumption, it's not just the water used for drinking and washing that matters. Wherever a lot is consumed, “virtual water consumption” is also highest. Because much more water is used to manufacture the products than meets the eye. This invisible water that is used in production is also called “virtual water”.

Experts suspect that more and more people will suffer from water shortages in the future. The growing world population and the pollution of the water are decisive reasons for the increasingly scarce supplies. But global warming is also likely to worsen the uneven distribution of water. In regions that are already flooded regularly, rainfall will increase. And very dry areas are likely to get even less rain.


Long lines of people crowd in front of the fountain in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Water is scarce, especially in the townships of the megacity. Again and again there are fierce battles over the scarce resource.

The nearly three million inhabitants of Harare need twice as much water as there is. Only wealthy citizens have access to their own wells; the poor are often dependent on supplies from aid organizations. A major problem is water pollution. One of the city's two reservoirs is so dirty that it can no longer provide drinking water. Because of the contaminated water, thousands of people died of cholera in 2009. Harares residents fear another outbreak of the epidemic. Because of the poor water supply, the violence in Harare is increasing.

The situation in Harare is not unique. Many developing countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America have the same problems. Overall, more than a billion people on earth have too little or no clean drinking water. The growing world population and climate change are likely to exacerbate the situation further.

Milking to the mist!

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on earth. The northern Chilean city of Iquique lies on its edge - an Eldorado for fog experts. Because here there are fantastic conditions for "milking" fog: high humidity and a lot of wind.

In order to collect the fine mist droplets, climatologists have stretched fine-meshed nets. Small drops collect on them and fall into a collecting channel. In this way, the moisture can be easily collected from the fog - a total of five liters per day in favorable places per square meter. Drinking water can be obtained from this - and that is extremely scarce in this dry region. Other rain-poor regions with mountains near the coast could also collect drinking water in this way. However, it is questionable whether the method is suitable for combating future water emergencies. In such a case, “fog milking” would be more of a drop in the ocean.


East Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. Hardly a drop of rain has fallen in seven months - with catastrophic consequences: the harvest has dried up, water is scarce, and millions of people are hungry and thirsty. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are fleeing across the border into Kenya and Ethiopia. But the refugee camps there have long been overcrowded.

Due to the lack of water, neither fields can be watered nor cattle supplied. Poor harvests mean that food prices continue to skyrocket. Political conflicts in Somalia, a country of civil war, make the situation even worse. And the drought continues.

The United Nations has already declared famine in five areas of Somalia. More than twelve million people are dependent on outside help, hundreds of thousands are on the run. In July, 40,000 starving people arrived in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in northern Kenya, and more than a thousand more every day. But even when they reach the camps - for many refugees from hunger, any help comes too late: More and more people are dying of malnutrition.

Because the onslaught of refugees continues, more emergency shelters have to be set up quickly. Drinking water and hygienic supplies in the camps are becoming scarce, and living conditions are deteriorating every day. Aid organizations call for donations worldwide.

When the rain stops

Somalia once had two reliable rainy seasons, they were called Gu and Deyr. If they failed, it was a rare disaster. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren were also told about it. But for a few decades now, droughts have been increasing in Somalia and East Africa. In the last five years there has only been one with the usual rainy seasons. It is probably not a coincidence. Climate experts have long predicted that climate change will spread the earth's arid zones. Africa will therefore be plagued by droughts even more in the future. In East Africa this suspicion is being confirmed in a shocking way.


Singapore is not poor in water. On the contrary: it is surrounded by the sea. But what the city of 5 million does not need salty sea water. Drinkable fresh water is in demand. That is why the city-state built a huge dam for its water supplies: "Marina Barrage"!

So far, Singapore has bought almost all of its drinking water from neighboring Malaysia. From there, millions of liters flowed into the city every day. But Singapore wants to make itself independent from Malaysia, because the relationship is tense. For this reason, the city began building a gigantic dam wall in 2005. A 350 meter long reinforced concrete dam now shields the Singapore River from the open sea. Nine movable gates control the water level. Huge pumps can transport the water masses into the sea in the event of a storm surge or tropical precipitation. Behind the huge “Marina Barrage” wall, a freshwater lake has arisen in the middle of the city. Even if the water is still brackish and salty at the moment: From 2015 the “Marina Reservoir” reservoir will provide clean drinking water.

Marina Reservoir and the accessible Marina Barrage dam have become a tourist attraction. The residents of Singapore also use the site in their free time. But only electrically powered boats are allowed to travel on the lake. After all, in the future it should help to quench the tremendous thirst of an entire city.

No land in sight

Nowhere in the world are you further from the mainland than at Point Nemo. That is why it is also called the pole of water or the pole of inaccessibility. Point Nemo is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Chile and New Zealand. It is exactly 2,688.22 kilometers away from Easter Island, Ducie Island and Maher Island. If you want to visit Point Nemo, you should remember its coordinates: 48 ° 52.6 'South and 123 ° 23.6' West. However, if you approach it, you will find nothing but water!


A bathtub full of water to make a cup of coffee - that's 140 liters! Almost as much water is needed for a breakfast egg. Nonsense? The British geographer Anthony Allan has stated otherwise. At the Stockholm World Water Week, he and the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) drew up an astonishing calculation for water consumption.

Your calculation is not just about the one cup of water that is poured into the coffee machine, but the total amount of water that is needed to make one cup of coffee. And that begins with the cultivation of the coffee plant, which has to be watered intensively. Water is also used during transport and packaging of the coffee. If you add everything up, you get an initially unbelievable 140 liters of water for a single cup.

But the calculation goes even further. A T-shirt contains 4,100 liters of water, a new car swallows around 400,000 liters. In this way, every German consumes around 4,000 liters of water per day. This includes water consumption such as drinking or washing as well as consumption in the manufacture of products. Each of us leaves such a water “footprint”, depending on how much water we personally use. Because a large part of this consumed water is not visible, it is also called "virtual water". According to this calculation, we take almost 30 full baths per day - purely virtual!

Aral Sea dried up

It was once the fourth largest lake on earth. But compared to its former size, the Aral Sea in Central Asia is now just a puddle, surrounded by a barren desert landscape. The reason: huge cotton fields in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Artificial irrigation is needed to grow cotton in this dry area. The farmers have therefore tapped the two large tributaries Amu-Darja and Syr-Darja of the Aral Sea since the 1930s and diverted the water to their fields. The result: the Aral Sea continued to dry up. As the amount of water decreased, the lake also became increasingly salty. This also had an impact on the animal world: Of the more than 30 species of fish that were once, only six are now found in the salty lake.

Drinking water

Colorless, pure and cool, without odor and without taste - this is how drinking water should be. It must not contain any pathogens, but certain minerals such as calcium, magnesium and fluoride. To ensure that the quality of the drinking water is right, it is constantly examined in the waterworks laboratory. In Germany, drinking water is the best controlled food.

Drinking water does not bubble out of the tap by itself. It must first be processed so that it meets the high quality requirements. Groundwater is best suited for the production of drinking water. Because the rainwater seeps into the ground, as if through a filter, is pre-cleaned. Pollutants and turbidity that are still in the water afterwards get caught in the filters of the waterworks. The clean water can then be sent on its way to the individual households via pumping systems.

Drinking water can also be obtained from rivers and lakes or from the sea. However, the water from these bodies of water is usually not as clean as the groundwater. In addition, seawater has to be desalinated before it can be drunk.

How sweet is fresh water?

It doesn't taste sweet at all, but it's called fresh water. In contrast to salt water, it contains no or only very small amounts of salt and therefore has hardly any taste. For this reason it is also well suited for the production of drinking water.

Fresh water is rare: only two to three percent of all water on earth is fresh water. Most of it is in the high mountains and at both poles. There it is stored as ice in glaciers. Only a very small fraction of the fresh water on earth flows in streams and rivers or splashes in lakes and groundwater. The water in clouds and precipitation is also "sweet".

Fresh water is vital to us. To stay healthy, a person needs about two liters of fluids per day; without water it can only survive five to seven days. In addition, we need a large amount of fresh water for showering, washing clothes or washing dishes. Plants and animals that we feed on also live from water. Freshwater is even a habitat for many living things: crayfish, pond and river mussels and freshwater fish such as trout, pikeperch and char.