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Course summary

Watch Professor Steve Ormerod summarising the four weeks of the course and giving a quick recap of the lessons learned.
Over the past month, we’ve been exploring one of the most complex, urgent, and challenging issues of the 21st century– that of the world’s water. Establishing greater water security for people and ecosystems is fundamental to the health, welfare, and well-being of people in all our societies, and to the natural or managed ecosystems on which we depend for life support on this increasingly overcrowded planet. We’ve shown you how already across the world we use over 50% of all the available freshwater, and we reveal some of the consequences. We’re already storing five times the total volume of the earth’s rivers behind dams, and we release almost their equivalent volume of wastewater each year to rivers, lakes, and wetlands.
And the array of pollutants released to the environment is changing, becoming more complex, with effects that are less well understood. 3 billion people lack basic sanitation, and we’ve shown you how that can be the basis of significant waterborne disease. In the next 30 years, over 4 billion people probably won’t have enough water to grow the food they need. So the pressure to grow water supplies is clear. But that creates problems for rivers and lakes, where freshwater plants and animals are declining towards extinction faster than in any other ecosystem type. Yet we need and damage freshwater ecosystems for our survival, because of the ecosystem services they provide.
We’ve introduced you to the water cycle as a fundamental feature to understand the distribution of water across the Earth. And there’s a basis for revealing some of the current issues which result in water insecurity. They include extreme climatic events or the biological and chemical contamination of our freshwater ecosystems and resources. We’ve considered just how much water we use as individuals and as societies through the idea of the water footprint. We’ve also thought about who has rights to water, and the ethics not only of how we prioritise who or what has access to water, but also how water itself is conceived of and valued in different cultures.
No matter how challenging is the issue of water security, the problems we face are growing. Urbanisation, our growing numbers, the uncertainties of climate change, the changing cocktail of pollutants we release to lakes and rivers, are all somehow linked and exacerbate what is already a fragile situation. The problems that result are genuinely critical, and yet, response and solutions are within our reach. We can develop the means to reduce net water demand, to increase the amount of fresh water that’s available for use in consumption. We really can find ways of managing river catchment in a better, safer, and more integrated way. And we can strengthen water security through the way we govern our water supplies for people and for ecosystems.
But all of this requires us to put decisions about water higher up the political scientific and environmental management agenda. We all depend on water.
If you’ve enjoyed this course we want to learn more, look into the work of Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, and let us know what you’ve thought of this course. If your feedback is positive, we may run more specific courses. And for those particularly interested in water, we’re launching a master’s degree in 2019 all about different facets of water. And details will follow on the screen. So for me and for now, Steve Ormerod, thanks for following.

In this video, Professor Steve Ormerod summarising the four weeks of the course and provides a quick recap of the lessons learned.

We hope you enjoyed this course on water security and have a better understanding of the water challenges that will have to be addressed in the future.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts on water security now you have finished this course?
  • How have they changed from before you started?

Let us know in the comments.

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The Challenge of Global Water Security

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