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The Challenge of Global Water Security

An introduction to the challenges of water security on a local and global scale.

The Challenge of Global Water Security
  • Duration4 weeks
  • Weekly study3 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $54Find out more

How do we achieve water security for everyone?

Over the next 30 years it is estimated that 80% of the world’s population will live in areas with high levels of water scarcity.

How do we manage this so that we can ensure global water security for both people and ecosystems?

On this course, you’ll have an introduction to the challenges of water security and find out why human activity and environmental issues are putting increasing pressure on our water resources.

You’ll explore the physical, biological and social facets connecting to water security around the globe, where you live, and what can be done to achieve water security for all.

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 secondsSecuring water globally for human well being, while sustaining the Earth's natural ecosystems for future generations is among the most complex and urgent challenges of the 21st century. Across the world we use over 50% Across the world we use over 50% of all of the freshwater resources that are accessible and renewable. We store more than five times the total volume of all the Earth's rivers behind dams and we release their equivalent volume of wastewater each year.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsOver two billion people lack basic sanitation and by 2050 it's likely that more than four billion people won't have enough water to grow the food they need. The resulting pressure on rivers and lakes means that freshwater plants and animals are declining, even become an extinct faster than anywhere else. Yet we need undamaged freshwater ecosystems for survival. Whether it is flooding that leads to too much water in the wrong place, or droughts leading to too little water where it is needed most, water insecurity makes the news. More often though water insecurity is less visible, experienced daily by individual households as they seek water for their daily lives or by farmers who need water for irrigation and livestock.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 secondsIt's not just about the amount of water of course the quality of the water available can also affect people lives and health, whilst causing serious damage to ecosystems. But do you ever wonder what lies behind the pictures what water security means in different contexts, and how our changing world might influence this in the future. About how you might be affected or what you might do yourself. If you do then this course is for you. Over four weeks we will introduce the concept and different dimensions of water security and the forces driving the insecurities we witness. We will examine issues around the amount and quality of water available to people and ecosystems in a changing and more risky world.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 secondsUsing case studies and examples we will explore the complex trade-offs that can occur and the stories of the people and the ecosystems affected. In the final week we'll then consider the thorny question of how the world's scarce water resources are governed and the challenges to be addressed if we are to create a more water secure future. By the end of the course you'll have a new appreciation of the water security challenge across the globe and we hope a willingness to contribute to solving this most intractable of problems.

What topics will you cover?

What is water security?

  • Concepts in water security
  • The water cycle

Current issues affecting water security

  • Water quality
  • Extreme events
  • Water footprint
  • Water access and ethics

Emerging problems

  • Water infrastructure
  • Freshwater ecosystem decline
  • Global climatic change
  • Urbanisation / demographic change


  • Reducing water demand
  • Increasing water supply
  • Catchment management
  • Water governance

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Reflect on the concept of water security
  • Explore current challenges in water security across the globe
  • Assess the physical, biological and social facets pertaining to water security in your area or region
  • Develop the broader knowledge to place your local water challenges within wider regional and global contexts
  • Identify those areas where you would like to find out more

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone interested in global water security, but it may be of particular interest to water research professionals and students studying science.

Who will you learn with?

Isabelle Durance

Isabelle Durance

Director of the Cardiff University Water Research Institute that brings together researchers across the natural and social sciences to address the challenge of water for people and ecosystems.

Steve Ormerod

Steve Ormerod

Prof Steve Ormerod is among the world's leading applied freshwater ecologists. He researches global change effects on rivers, lakes and wetlands, and is involved heavily in environmental policy.

Adrian Healy

Adrian Healy

I am a Research Associate at Cardiff University working at the interface of cities, water and resilience. My research explores how individual choices can shape the resilience of cities and society.

Who developed the course?

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and is ranked within the top 150 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings.

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