Module 6 – Water

Date and hour of implemented Module: 6.5.2024., 14.00h

Place of implementation: Liceo Salvemini, Sorrento

Facilitator: Olivier Rikir


Water is an essential resource for the sustainability of life on earth as well as the sustainability of human societies. As a vital resource for humans and for the whole web of life, it has been recognized by the United Nation, in 2010, that access to water and sanitation is a fundamental human right. However, water is also a crucial resource for the good functioning of human societies and a majority of the services it relies on. We use water daily to create economic growth through a large variety of activities, from agriculture to tourism, including commercial fishing, energy production, manufacturing or transport. Water also plays a central part in the functioning of natural ecosystems and in climate regulation. And even though, in some parts of the world, we have the impression that water is abundant, to have a seemingly inextinguishable supply of water in our environments and our homes, the truth is that it is an indispensable but very scarce resource that is endangered by climate change and water management practices.


Water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, but only 2.5% of it is the freshwater we need for the vast majority of our uses, and only around 30% of the freshwater is easily accessible (the rest of it being in its solid form). Even considering these scales, this amount of water should theoretically be enough to cover the needs of human societies and to preserve the ecosystems. However, some data regarding water-related challenges are concerning:


  • 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. (WHO/UNICEF 2019)
  • Almost 2 billion people depend on health care facilities without basic water services (WHO/UNICEF 2020)
  • Over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. (WHO/UNICEF 2019)
  • 297,000 children under five years old die every year from diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water. (WHO/UNICEF 2019)
  • 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. (UN 2019)
  • 90 percent of natural disasters are weather-related, including floods and droughts. (UNISDR)
  • 80 percent of wastewater flows back into the ecosystems without being treated or reused. (UNESCO, 2017)
  • Around two-thirds of the world’s transboundary rivers do not have a cooperative management framework. (SIWI)
  • Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of global water withdrawal. (FAO)


There are many water-related challenges that must be addressed to ensure the long-term availability of water supply for human societies. One of them is related to the unequal availability of freshwater in different parts of the world. 

Water is present everywhere under at least one of its three forms (gas, liquid or solid), but its distribution and accessibility throughout the planet is uneven due to hydrological, climatic and infrastructural parameters. Indeed, the different areas of the world are unequal in terms of groundwater availability and rainfall frequency, but mostly in terms of water accessibility due to lack of infrastructure. The lack of access to drinkable water and sanitation and its consequences are the first cause of mortality in the world.


Apart from the availability of freshwater, the management of its uses is also a challenge that needs to be addressed. Most freshwater is used to sustain a wide variety of sectors, the main ones being agriculture and industry, which suppose two main issues. On one hand, the demand for freshwater often surpasses the renewable resources, which puts the area concerned in a situation of water stress that can lead to water shortage. On the other hand, the poor management of urban, industrial and agricultural wastewater can lead to a contamination of (natural) water resources by physical or chemical components.


Finally, the biggest threat to the water resource is anthropogenic climate change. This century will see profound changes in the functioning of the climate that will alter the natural water cycle, cause changes in precipitation distribution, and modifications in agricultural seasons. It is also established, and already visible, that climate change will cause extreme events such as droughts and floods. Knowing that, it is urgent that we become aware of the preciousness of the water resource and that we adapt our individual and collective behaviors to preserve it.


Objectives of the module 


  • Provide an introduction to the different stakes linked to water’s availability and management (importance of water for: ecosystems, (human/animal/vegetal life), but also human activities (agriculture [70%], industry [20%]  and domestic uses [10%])
  • Raise awareness about the scarcity of freshwater resources and the inequality of its distribution
  • Learn the different steps that lead water into our homes, and back to the environment (concepts of blue water, green water and gray water, problem of water contamination)
  • Learn about water’s physical properties and the natural cycle of water, as well as the changes that might disturb this cycle due to human exploitation and climate change
  • Raising awareness about the omnipresence of water in our daily life and all the products we consume that put pressure on the water resource (concept of water print)


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