Water is the driving force of nature. Unfortunately, for our planet, fresh water supplies are now running dry at an alarming rate. The world’s population continues to soar but the rise in numbers is not being matched by an increase in supplies of fresh water.

The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than one billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water. In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January, 2015 becoming the driest since meteorological records began.

The global nature of the crisis is underlined in similar reports from other regions. In south Asia, for example, there have been massive losses of groundwater, which has been pumped up recklessly over the past decade. About 600 million people live on the area that extends from eastern Pakistan, across the hot dry plains of northern India and into Bangladesh. This land is the most intensely irrigated in the world. Up to 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater to water their crops, and water use is intensifying. At the same time, satellite images show that water supplies are shrinking at an alarming rate.

In the Middle East, swaths of countryside have been reduced to desert because of overuse of water. Iran is one of the most severely affected. Heavy consumption, coupled with poor rainfall, has ravaged its water resources and devastated its agricultural output.

Similarly, the United Arab Emirates is now investing in desalination plants and wastewater treatment units because it lacks fresh water. The country has admitted “For us, water is [now] more important than oil.”

An international dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s plans to dam the Nile has only recently been resolved. In the future, far more serious conflicts are likely to erupt as the planet dries. Even in high latitudes, the one region on Earth where rainfall is likely to intensify in coming years, climate change will still reduce water quality and pose risks due to a number of factors.

According to the International Desalination Association, 13,080 desalination plants world-wide produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day.