Water: A Precious Resource © Khalyd El Hamoumy
Water droplet © Khalyd El Hamoumy

Water is without doubt one of the most undervalued resources on earth.

Without water life would not exist on the planet - all living things rely on water and without it we die, quite quickly. Humans can survive without food for up to a month, but without drinking water survival is limited to a matter of days.

No Food: 30 Days


No Water: 5-7 Days

No Water: 5-7 Days

It’s not surprising that throughout history, people have settled near to water sources for drinking and to grow crops. From the Seine River in Paris to Lake Texcoco in Mexico City, population growth and distribution have been intimately linked to the availability of fresh water for centuries.

This striking image taken by the astronaut Doug Wheelock, shows how important a water supply is for human settlement:


Earth from space © NASA
Earth from space © NASA


Q. Can you identify the river shown above, and name the city it provides water for?

Q. How many major cities can you think of that developed alongside significant waterbodies?
(You may find some clues in the famous rivers of the world link below.)

Water is not only essential for human survival. There is also an ecological water requirement, below which our natural world cannot function. Water has a number of competing uses:

  • as an element of ecosystems.

  • a foundation of livelihoods.

  • a resource of value.

  • an anchor of cultural meaning.

Globally, there are increasing pressures on water supply. In particular, population growth and economic development are putting pressure on available freshwater resources. Water quality is inextricably linked to human health in many ways and poor water quality can lead to disease, reduced food availability and malnutrition. Improved access to fresh water has a direct positive impact on people and communities leading to significant social, economic and environmental benefits.


Further Reading


Next > Ecosystem Services