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Exploitation and management of resources

Free essay example:

Lauren Metalle 12FO

Exploitation and management of resources

A resource is defined as a naturally occurring deposit that is useful to humans, or that may become available for human exploitation.  Resources can be put into two different groups, renewable resources and non-renewable resources (stocks).  Renewable resources are those that are not in limited supply, or are not ‘finite’ resources.  Examples of such resources are wind and sunlight that can both be ‘harvested’ and turned into power.  There is no shortage of either of them.  Non-renewable resources are those in finite supply, such as oil, coal and natural gas. These resources are being used up faster than they can naturally regenerate, meaning that there is a shortage of them, and they will therefore have to be managed properly to conserve them for future generations.  

In this project I will explore the exploitation and management of both oil and water worldwide, how both of these resources are being managed currently, and what is being done to make sure that our future generations can reap the benefits of both these resources in years to come.

Uses, exploitation and management of water;

Water is considered a renewable resource, as precipitation restores water to lakes, river, reservoirs and replenishes groundwater and aquifers.  The Ecological society of America state that “More then 3/4ths of underground water is non-renewable, as replenishing it would take centuries or more[1]”. This startling statistic would suggest that the increase in world population, and therefore the stress put on water supplies has turned what was once a resource that could support the world’s population without much worry, into a resource that could run out in years to come.  It is the freshwater that we rely on for industry, agriculture and domestic use that we are using faster than it can naturally replenish.

The diagram below shows the Average national water footprint per capita.  The areas shaded green means that the nation's water footprint is equal to or smaller than the global average.  The red areas have a water footprint beyond the national average.


Exploitation case study; Lake Kinneret, Israel, the only major natural freshwater lake in the Middle East, has been transformed functionally into a reservoir over the course of less than 70 years of hydrological alterations aimed mostly at producing electrical power and increasing domestic and agricultural water supply.

This transformation has been accompanied by acceleration in the rate of eutrophication.  This shows the effects that a high demand for freshwater has on lakes around the world, especially in arid regions such as Israel.[3]

The ‘water footprint’ of a country is defined as the volume of water needed for the production of goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the country. It is the areas shaded in pink/red that have a high volume of water per capita to sustain the production of goods and services in that country.  It is these areas that are unsustainable.  Their use of water is higher than the rate at which it can naturally replenish, meaning that they will use water faster than nature can contend with.

Water is used for 3 main areas of human life; Agriculture, industry and domestic use. The next section of this project will explore the uses of water, and how this is effecting the environment.

Agriculture;  accounts for nearly 70% of all water withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers for human use.[4] This means that one of the best ways to conserve and protect water supplies would be to increase the efficiency of agricultural uses of water, such as irrigation.  On average only 35-50% of water withdrawn for the use of irrigation ever reaches the crops it is being drawn for[5]. Most of the water that runs through these irrigation systems either evaporates (11% of water loss), seeps into the ground below (6% of water loss), or leaks out of faulty pipes (9% of water loss)- statistics from Victoria, Australia.  This is due to farmers and agricultural workers not being able to look after irrigation systems properly.  In order to increase the efficiency of irrigation systems, the methods themselves have to be changed to decrease evaporation and leakages, and those using them must be educated and given the skills in order to manage them properly.  

Many countries are aiming to improve their irrigation systems to stop water being wasted in agriculture.

One method of improved irrigation is ‘Drip Irrigation’.  Drip irrigation systems are a more efficient way of irrigation, delivering water directly to the roots of the crops through porous piping.  This method is 95% efficient in preventing evaporation and cuts water use by up to 60%.

The picture below illustrates a drip irrigation system.  It shows why drip irrigation is a more effective way of getting water to crops, and reducing the amount of water wasted in evaporation and in leaks within the system.


Industry; water is used in industry for many processes, for example cooling, transporting and diluting, and which process it is needed for is dependant on the type of industry it is being used in.  An example of water used in industry is the paper industry.  “Water is a key element and much used in the production of paper.  It is used in nearly every stage of the pulping and papermaking process.  Pulp and paper mills consume 75-225 m3  ofwater per tonne of paper manufactured[7].”This use of water is typical of industry, and it is needed as industry is the staple element of a countries economy.  Power plants that create energy for entire countries rely on water as a cooling agent for over heated engines and turbines. Industrial water use already accounts for as much as 59 per cent of the total fresh water consumption, and this looks to increase as more countries, such as China, continue to develop.  This is because many countries will choose industry over agriculture as a means of economic growth.  “Presently, industry accounts for 22 per cent of the global freshwater consumption. It is expected that the figure will double over the next two decades”. “According to the WWDR 2003, in developing countries, 70 per cent of industrial wastes are dumped without treatment, thereby polluting the usable water supply”.

The pie charts below show the use of water in high, low, and middle income countries.


A way of managing our freshwater reserves is by, instead of abstracting more freshwater and groundwater to be used in agriculture/the household/industry, we re-use our wastewater (brown water).  This method is being used in the Tel Aviv Conurbation, Israel;

Case Study;

At least half a million hectares in 15 countries are being irrigated with treated urban wastewater. Most of Israel's sewage is purified and reused to irrigate 20,000 hectares of farm land.  The Dan Region wastewater project is planned to help Israel face the water shortage issue.  This reclamation project reclaims sewage from the Tel Aviv conurbation and treats it so that it is safe for agricultural use, meaning freshwater that would’ve been used for agriculture can now be diverted to urban areas.[9]

Other developing countries that have used this technique are;

  • In Mexico City treated urban wastewater irrigates and fertilizes alfalfa fields. The alfalfa in turn is sold as feed to small-scale farmers who raise guinea pigs and rabbits.
  • One-third of the vegetables grown in Asmara, Eritrea, are irrigated with treated urban wastewater.
  • In Lusaka, Zambia, one of the city's biggest squatter settlements irrigates its vegetable crops with sewage water from nearby settling ponds.[10]

This technique cuts the costs of abstracting water fro developing country, as well as reducing the amount of water abstracted.  This is water management at its best, as it is reducing the environmental impact that water abstraction is having on the world.

Uses, exploitation and management of oil;

Oil is used for a number of different things in every day life.  Kerosene is used to fuel aeroplanes, plastic and paint that we use to decorate, or create every day things such as tables and chairs, are made of oil.  Petrol is used in cars, and materials such as polyester and nylon that we use for making cloths are also made out of the refined parts of oil.  It is because we use oil for so many different things that we are running out of the world’s natural supply.

“World oil production has already peaked and will fall by half as soon as 2030[11].  It is this prediction, along side the prediction that production of oil will fall by several percent each year, and this is based on the rising price of oil in recent years.  Oil has just reached one of the highest prices it has ever been at £44 per barrel in October 2007.  Although these estimations are valid, and the rise in oil prices would point to a reduction of production of oil, and a decrease in oil reserves being found, other reports state that we are running out of oil but not as rapidly as some may threaten.  It is a well-known estimation that with current oil reserves and supplies, the world’s oil will last another 41 years from 2008 (at current consumption rates).



Britain’s consumption of oil peaked in 1999, and is currently at approximately 1.6million barrels a day.  Although in the last decade the use of oil has grown by a large amount each year, many believe that Britain’s oil reserves are not much lower than they were in 1999[13].  This is a controversial issue, with many believing the worlds oil supplies will run out from 2030-2050, but others saying that this mass hysteria is unnecessary, and even though oil prices have risen significantly, there is still enough to sustain the growing world for longer than predicted.

“In 1991, 1.2 billion tonnes of oil remained in proven and probable reserves. By 2001, this figure was 1.0 billion tonnes, even though 1.2 billion tonnes had been recovered over the same period.”[14]

The map on the previous page shows the tonnes of oil used per capita in each country of the world.  This shows the diverse range of oil uses in the world.  It is because of this rate of oil use that means we can predict the world will run out of reserves in the near future.

The countries with the highest amount of oil used per capita are the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Belgium, the Netherlands and Iceland.

Where is the oil? Areas with the most oil are shown in the pie-chart below.


Saudi Arabia alone possesses 25% of the world's proved reserves.  The North Sea and Canada still have substantial reserves, but they would prove very expensive to extract.[15]

World oil production;

The Middle East is the biggest oil producer as well as the area with the most oil reserves, currently providing nearly one-third of the world's total.  This is used for exports as well as sustaining the country itself, unlike the US or Europe cannot even produce enough to sustain themselves.  Below is a map to show the oil production of the world.

Oil Exploitation;

The exploration and production of oil will have social, economic and environmental impacts on the earth.  Oil spills and leaks have impacted on the environment enormously, killing wildlife, creating water pollution and staining parts of the earth, damaging them beyond repair.  Air pollution is caused by the refining process oil goes through, and many species of birds and other animals have been threatened by the accidents caused by oil.

Many wars are fought over obtaining oil reserves and having the right to use oil from different parts of the world.

Economically, oil has caused a ‘hole in many pockets’ as the prices of oil has risen astronomically, causing people to find more and more money to keep their cars, heat their houses, etc.

Oil wastes that enter the ocean come from many sources, some being accidental spills or leaks, and some being the results of chronic and careless habits in the use of oil and oil products. Most waste oil in the ocean consists of oily stormwater drainage from cities and farms, untreated waste disposal from factories and industrial facilities, and unregulated recreational boating. It is estimated that approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil enter the ocean every year, with over half coming from land drainage and waste disposal; for example, from the improper disposal of used motor oil. Offshore drilling and production operations and spills or leaks from ships or tankers typically contribute less than 8 percent of the total. The remainder comes from routine maintenance of ships (nearly 20 percent), hydrocarbon particles from onshore air pollution (about 13 percent), and natural seepage from the seafloor (over 8 percent)[16]

When oil is spilled in the ocean, it spreads in the water, at first on the surface on the water, and later percolates further into the water.  The oil slick formed may remain cohesive, or may break up (this mainly happens when the seas are rougher, waves are more ‘choppy’ or there are stormy conditions). Waves, water currents, and wind force the oil slick to drift over large areas, having a huge impact on the open ocean, coastal areas, and marine and offshore habitats.  When oil hits the shore, it reacts with shingle, sand etc and causes pollution, contamination and erosion of the area, all damaging environmental impacts.  This can lead to vegetation being killed, and the contamination of the area means it will not grow back.  This affects the ecosystem in that area, as it unbalances the food chain and impacts on the wildlife surviving on that vegetation.  

“The number of large spills (over 206,500 gallons) averaged 24.1 per year from 1970 to 1979, but decreased to 6.9 per year from 1990 through 2000.”[17]image04.png

Oil spills that cause contamination of the sea can results in the mortality and contamination of the fish in that area.  This has a direct impact on the ecosystem of the area, and the local fishing industries, meaning it has both an environmental and economical impact on an area.  Birds can also be affected by oil spills as the oil covers their bodies.  When trying to remove this oil from themselves, they can ingest it (meaning they poison themselves) or the oil will affect the insulation of their feathers and cause them to die because their layer of thermal insulation has been damaged.  image05.png

Cleaning and recovery;

“Pollution-control measures include containment and removal of the oil (either by skimming, filtering, or in situ combustion), dispersing it into smaller droplets to limit immediate surficial and wildlife damage, biodegradation (either natural or assisted), and normal weathering processes. Individuals of large-sized wildlife species are sometimes rescued and cleaned, but micro-sized species are usually ignored.”[18]

Oil spills have an effect on the economy of the area (cost of the oil wasted, cost of the clean-up projects, and destruction of tourist and recreational areas).  They also have environmental impacts (destruction of ecosystems, loss of habitats, decrease in biodiversity and human and wildlife health deterioration due to water, soil and air pollution).

Because of these factors, preventing oil spills has become a major priority for many oil companies.  The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was enacted by the U.S. Congress to improve oil spill prevention, planning, response, and restoration efforts. Under this, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund provides cleanup funds for oil pollution incidents.


The exploitation of resources such as oil and water is resulting in economical and environmental changes around the world. Oil spills from oil refineries, and the waste water leaking from sewages and leaking through irrigation systems, are all examples of the wasted resources and careless maintenance of these resources in different countries.  Management of these resources must be improved to ensure they will be sustained for future generations.







[7] http://www.sustainpack.com/aap_water.html






[13] and

[14] http://www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=6492


[16] and


[18] http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Oc-Po/Oil-Spills-Impact-on-the-Ocean.html

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