Why is water scarcity a legitimate concern?
It is true that the hydrologic cycle, the process in which the earth circulates water throughout its ecosystems, is a closed-loop cycle which neither adds nor takes away water. In theory, the amount of water on earth will always remain the same.
The problem therein is when the hydrologic cycle is disrupted, and water which normally gets distributed to a certain area no longer does so. This is precisely why some regions are becoming more arid, while others are experiencing flooding and other natural disasters.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role that humans play in the global water crisis, and we’ll cover the 7 most alarming water scarcity facts that we shouldn’t ignore.
The Alarming Human Factor in Water Management
Humans play an important role in the disruption of the water cycle.
- Excessive damming prevent river water rich in minerals distribution in areas that depend on nutrients for plant growth.
- The pollution caused by large plants can make freshwater sources such as lakes and rivers unusable. Constant
- The road paving seal the surface, preventing them from enjoying precipitation and reconstitution of groundwater, a vital part of the water cycle.
- Excessive drilling in the soil can disturb the rock structure, potentially allowing fresh groundwater from being contaminated by seawater.
- Privatization of bottled water creates a monopoly over a resource that would otherwise be available for people who live in the area where the water is.
As the world’s population increases the demand for the required amount of water necessary to sustain large communities does as well. And to produce enough food required for each person’s daily caloric intake, 2000-3000 Liters of water is required (FAO).
While there are organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization that are addressing the water crisis on a global scale, there are still regional problems that vary from region to region. The average American family uses about 500 gallons of water per day, while the average African family uses 5 gallons per day.
Let us look at the 7 most alarming water scarcity facts that the world is currently facing.
1. By 2025, Half of the World’s Population will be Living in Water-Stressed Areas
With the increasing demand for clean water and the steady growth of the world’s population, areas which are already water-stressed will get worse, and the amount of the water-stressed regions around the world will increase. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, some experts in the field have made a distinction between water scarcity and water stress for the sake of accuracy.
According to the CEO Water Mandate, water scarcity can be defined as the shortage in the physical volume of water in a given region, whereas water stress can is defined as the ability, or lack thereof, to access and meet the necessary human demand for water.
2) The World’s Population Will Raise to 9.7 Billion by 2050, Leaving Much in Water-Stressed Conditions
With the steady increase in the global population, the demand for water increases. 60% of all surface water on earth comes from river basin shared by separate nations, and almost 600 aquifers cross national boundaries.
In addition to an increase in population, excessive water use increases the demand for water. As incomes increase and urbanization develops, food choices shift toward richer, more water-dependent means of production (FAO).
There will be a 40% gap between the demand for water and the availability of water by the year 2030.
The global population is expected to raise to 9.7 billion by the year 2050, and the number of people who live in urban areas is expected to double (INWEH).
3) Three in Ten People on Earth Currently do not Have Access to Safe and Clean Water
The World Health Organization, a leader in global water data and planning, has categorized water accessibility into five groups, safely managed water sources, primary water sources, limited water sources, unimproved water sources, and surface water.
- Safely Managed water sources can be defined as a managed drinking water service that is located on the premises of a home or residence, is accessible whenever needed, and is free from contamination.
- Basic water sources are defined as improved water sources which are no further than 30 minutes for round trip access, but are not necessarily always free from contamination or accessible when needed.
- Limited water sources fit the description of a basic water source but are further than a 30-minute round trip
- Unimproved water sources include unprotected wells or springs
- Surface Water includes water collected directly from a river, dam, lake, or stream.
According to the WHO, 2.1 billion people, which is 3 in 10 worldwide, do not have access to a safely managed water source.
4) 1.6 Million People Die Every Year From Waterborne Diseases
One of the most devastating effects of the global water crisis is the numerous waterborne diseases that come as a result of poor sanitation and water quality. In developing countries, almost half of the population can link health problems to waterborne diseases (Global Water Institute). Annually, about 5 million people contract diseases related to waterborne pathogens around the world, most of them children. Of the 5 million reported cases, 1.6 are fatal.
Diseases such as Typhoid Fever, Shigellosis, Hepatitis A, and Legionnaire’s Disease can be fatal if left untreated but are preventable with proper water purification practices, improved sanitation systems, and proper education. Reducing exposure to contaminated water can greatly reduce the risk of disease.
5) Women Walk an Average Distance of 4 Miles Every Day Just to Fetch Water that is Likely Contaminated
Gender roles as they relate to water scarcity in developing countries differ from those in the West. Women and young girls are expected to take the responsibility of gathering the needed amount of water to sustain their family daily.
In Africa, 90% of work involved in gathering water and preparing food is done by women. In both Africa and Asia, women walk an average distance of 4 miles every day, which takes about 6 hours, to carry a 44-pound container of water for their household, from a water source which has the potential to make them sick (Global Water Institute). It is estimated that women and children spend around 40 billion hours a year gathering water in sub-Saharan African countries.
6) One-Third of the World’s Largest Aquifers are Water-Stressed
While surface water has been the primary means of collection for human use, groundwater continues to be an important clean water source for regions where surface water isn’t as available. It isn’t very easy to determine the exact amount of groundwater contained in the aquifers underneath the earth’s surface. Still, with satellite technology, scientists can make rough estimates as to the volume of water that remains.
Water Resources Research categorizes the stress levels of groundwater into 4 categories: unstressed, human-dominated variable stress, variable stress, and overstressed.
- An unstressed groundwater source has a water table that hasn’t dropped below its normal height and is replenishing naturally.
- A human-dominated variable stressed groundwater source is being extracted of water at a low rate, but is still at an adequate water level and is replenishing naturally as expected.
- A variable stressed groundwater source is still being recharged either naturally or artificially but has a water table that has lowered beyond its normal height due to excessive extraction of water.
- An overstressed groundwater source is not being recharged and has a water table that continues to drop due to excessive extraction.
According to the WRR, 37 of the world’s largest aquifers are variably stressed to overstressed.
7) Meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the Water Crisis will Cost $114 Billion per year
While implementing reasonable plans for providing clean water and rebuilding infrastructure are necessary for addressing the world’s concerns, it certainly won’t be cheap. It is estimated that in order to reach these goals, it will cost $114 Billion dollars every year until 2030.
The truth is that maintaining clean water sources are very expensive. Even large corporations, whilst motives are mostly internally focused, spend millions of dollars a year maintaining clean water sources for their production. Rio Tinto spent $3 Billion for a desalination plant in Chile.
As costly as maintaining the proper sources for clean water may be, the cost of not doing so is also high.
Water scarcity is real. We in the Western world waste more water in a day than some families around the world would see in months. Much of what we use water for is to sustain a lifestyle that we largely take for granted. Sooner or later, even we in the West will feel the effects of water scarcity in one way or another.
What we can start to do is to limit our water intake. Excessive water consumption and poor water management are factors that we can control immediately. Supporting clean water initiatives will certainly help the movement against the global water crisis.
Sourced from : worldwaterreserve.com