For many Europeans it is a commodity that is part of everyday life but nearly one billion people worldwide have little or no access to water.
Resources are set to come under increased pressure over the next few years. The world population is swelling leading to greater demand. Economic growth and climate change will also have an impact on access to water and its quality.
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global water supplies.
But global warming has brought with it drier summers and lower rainfall levels, posing a threat to both food security and economic growth. That makes it ever more important to work on new and efficient ways to manage and store water.
Asia and Africa have been the worst hit. In Asia 66 percent of farming is dependent on rainfall. In subsaharan Africa, that figure is 94 percent.
This shortage means they are forced to look for alternatives. The Stockholm-based International Water Institute estimates a fifth of the world’s population now draws upon ground water sources. Then there is also constant risk of pollution.
Each day, two million tonnes of human waste are discharged into waters, rivers, streams and oceans worldwide.
And in developing countries a full 70 percent of industrial waste is dumped straight into waters without being treated, severely polluting the usable supply.
Climate change has huge implications for water pollution as global warming changes weather patterns, sparking massive flooding in some areas and severe droughts in others.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that within the next 15 years, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with acute water scarcity, and that a full two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants could be facing shortages.
That escalating demand for water to grow food and provide drinking water has already set off political tensions between some countries.