What is Water Scarcity?
There are millions of people all over the world who don’t have access to water, or, if they have access, that water is unable to be used. About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and 3% of it is actually freshwater that is fit for human consumption. Around two-thirds of that is tucked in frozen glaciers and unavailable for our use. According to WWF, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.
Clean drinking water is scarce and there are millions of people across this globe who spend their entire day searching for it. Yet, people who have access to safe, clean drinking water take it for granted and don’t use it wisely.
Water scarcity involves water crisis, water shortage, water deficit or water stress. Water scarcity can be due to physical water scarcity and economic water scarcity. Physical water scarcity refers to a situation where natural water resources are unable to meet a region’s demand and economic water scarcity is a result of poor water management resources.
That being said, what are the causes of water scarcity, what are the effects of water scarcity, and are there any solutions that we can start to explore? Here’s a quick look at all of those things in a bit more detail.
Children of a culture born in a water-rich environment, we have never really learned how important water is to us. We understand it, but we do not respect it.
According to Wikipedia, “Water scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region. It already affects every continent and around 2.8 billion people around the world at least one month out of every year. More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.”
Causes of Water Scarcity
- Overuse of Water: Water overuse is a huge issue that a lot of people are dealing with. It may be overused on people, animals, land, or any other number of things. It may also be used for recreational activities without any care about the effects that it may have on the world around them.
- Pollution of Water: Water pollution is a huge problem, especially when you’re looking at areas that don’t necessarily have a good sewage system. Pollution can be anything from oil, to carcasses, to chemicals, and to fecal matter. No matter what it is; it makes a lot of issues for the people who may need to use it.
- Conflict: If there is conflict over an area of land, it may be difficult to access the water that is located there. In the worst case scenarios, people could end up dying if they try to access the water in these areas (due to violence). This can result in a variety of other issues, including pollution, which we discussed in the previous point.
- Distance: There are a number of areas throughout the entire world that deal with water scarcity because they just aren’t close to anywhere that has water. Areas that are considered to be desert, or areas that are secluded, may not have somewhere that the people can get water effectively.
- Drought: A drought is, in short, an area which is not getting enough rainfall to be able to sustain the life that is residing there. Some areas are in perpetual drought, whereas other areas may be dealing with a drought on occasion. Droughts are common all over the world, and there is little that can be done to prevent such things from happening.
- Governmental Access. In some countries, specifically those with dictatorships, the use of water may be strictly controlled by those in power, causing a scarcity for those who may be located in those areas of the world. These governments use it as a source of control over those that they are governing, which can be a huge problem.
Effects of Water Scarcity
- Lack of Access to Drinking Water: The biggest problem that happens when you have water scarcity is that people are not able to get fresh, clean drinking water. The human body can only go so long without water, and a lack of drinking water can result in a number of other problems, which we discuss below.
- Hunger: If there is no water that can be used in order to help water the crops, then you are going to have people that are going hungry. Animals will also die, which will result in a lack of meat as well. Water scarcity, in short, causes starvation to occur en masse for both people and animals that are located in the area.
- Lack of Education: Water scarcity makes it difficult for people to get the education that they need or that they deserve. Why? Mainly, because those children are either too sick to go to school (which we will discuss below), or they are working to help get water to the home and the family.
- Diseases: If you don’t have clean water access, then you will be more likely to get diseases from the water that you do have. Whether you’re drinking the water or using it for bathing, those diseases will get into the body and, in a number of cases, the people carrying those diseases will pass away.
- Sanitation Issues: Without access to clean water, there is no way to clean food, dishes, or people. When people are not given access to proper sanitation, disease (which we talked about above) ends up becoming much more of an issue than it would have been otherwise. It also causes mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
- Poverty: All in all, people who are dealing with water scarcity are often stuck in poverty as well. These people are not able to get the resources that they need in order to be able to thrive, and instead are just barely surviving through these difficult times.
Solutions for Water Scarcity
- Education: There are plenty of opportunities out there that people can use in order to learn more about the world around them. By educating those who are not dealing with water scarcity, they can be in a position to help. Those who are dealing with it can get educated on how they can prevent the problem from becoming even worse in the future.
- Recycle Water: There are plenty of technologies out there that allow you to recycle rainwater and other water that you may be using in your home. Consider learning about how you can recycle water. Not only does it help to prevent scarcity, but it can save you some money as well.
- Advance Technology Related to Water Conservation: There has been a lot of work in the world of water conservation, but there is also a lot that needs to be done in order to ensure that the rest of the world is able to conserve water. Putting money and effort into conservation could be life saving.
- Improve Practices Related to Farming: Farming and irrigation are often a huge culprit when it comes to water scarcity. Because of that, we need to improve practices so that we don’t use as much water and those who are using water are using it to its fullest potential. Technology also needs to advance in this manner.
- Improve Sewage Systems: Clean drinking water starts with a good sewage system. Without proper sanitation, the water in an area becomes ridden with disease and any number of other problems. By improving the sewage systems in these areas, we can prevent water scarcity from becoming any worse.
- Support Clean Water Initiatives: There are organizations located all over the world that are looking to bring clean water to areas that don’t have it. Consider donating to these organizations, either with your time, your skills, or your finances (whichever you can afford to give to them).
So, as you can see, there are a lot of things that we need to consider when we’re looking at water scarcity and how we can deal with it. If we start to look at this issue as a whole, and we work hard to make sure that we are able to make a difference when it comes to this widespread issue, we’re going to be in a much better place to help people all over the world in preventing this issue from getting worse.
Image credit: Vinoth Chandar , World Bank Photo
Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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We take a look at the causes, effects and solutions of water shortages worldwide. We also look closely at the problems facing California.
70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, yet only 3% is fit for human consumption. The rest is salty or frozen.
According to a report released by WWF, about 1.1 billion people face water shortage in the world. The report also indicates that 2.7 billion people experience the problem of water shortage in at least one month every year. This implies that the water shortage problem is a real one, which affects around 27% of the world’s population.
With worldwide population increasing at a rate of 1.13% or 80 million people every year, nations need to take action to solve a problem which will only worsen.
Today, we are going to look at the causes, solutions and effects of water shortage. We will also pay special attention to the problems faced closer to home, and more specifically, California. We shall discuss the drought that is currently being experienced there, the effects of this, and what is being done to solve the problem.
So what are the causes of water shortage?
Pollution is a major cause of water shortage. Water is polluted when industrial wastes are deposited into water bodies thus making it unfit for human consumption. Oil spillage and fecal matter also makes the water contaminated. It cannot be used for drinking. This makes it scarce.
2. Overuse of Water
When water is overused, shortage occurs. Some people use too much water especially for irrigation purposes. It therefore becomes inadequate for other equally important uses.
3. Water Wastage
Wastage of water is also a major cause of water shortage. Some people leave their taps running even when they are not fetching water. All this is lost to the ground. The resultant problem is lack of enough water.
When drought strikes an area, there is usually no rain for a long period of time. This makes rivers to dry. Other water sources such as streams, ponds, e.t.c also dry up. People therefore do not have enough water for domestic and industrial use.
Conflict contributes to water shortages in areas. When people are fighting over control of water sources like rivers, some will not have access to it.
In some areas especially arid regions, people stay far away from oasis and other sources of water like boreholes. Traveling there takes a lot of time. It is also a burden to carry water from such distant places to homes. This discourages them from going to fetch water. The result is water shortage.
7. Restriction by Governments
Some governments especially those that govern by dictatorship may restrict citizens from accessing certain water sources.
8. Destruction of Water Catchment Areas
Water catchment areas such as forests are continually being destroyed through deforestation to pave way for human settlement. This problem has been brought about by rapid population increase. As a result, there is not enough rain thus causing water shortage.
What Are the Effects of Water Shortage?
A lack of water affects more than just physical health. Let’s see how drought can affect us in other ways.
– Lack of adequate drinking water
Water is important to our health. When there is shortage, people lack enough clean water to drink.
– Lack of education
When there is water shortage in an area, children often abandon school to help their parents look for water. Some of them grow too weak to go to school.
Water shortage makes it difficult to grow crops especially in dry areas that depend on irrigation. When crops are not planted, there won’t be enough food for people.
– Diseases and Parasites
Water is used for different domestic purposes including bathing. When there is shortage, people may not bath. Their bodies will be dirty hence susceptible to infection by diseases and attack by parasites.
– Sanitation Problems
Lack of enough water makes cleaning of dishes, clothes and other household items difficult. They will remain dirty and unhygienic. This will have a negative effect on the health of an individual.
What About the Solutions?
We’ve discussed the causes, and mentioned some of the effects. But more importantly, how can we act to prevent water shortages? The solutions are simple, but often affected by bureaucracy and vested interests of big business and government.
– People should be educated on the benefits of conserving water.
– Laws should be enacted to prevent water pollution. Those found polluting water should pay a fine or face imprisonment.
– People should be encouraged to recycle rain water.
– Farmers should be encouraged to adopt farming practices that use less water.
– Water catchment areas should be preserved.
– People should contribute funds to support clean water initiatives especially in areas that face water shortage.
The Drought in California
California has been experiencing a long period of drought. Experts say that the situation is expected to continue. This condition has cost the economy of California close to $2.7 billion.
The drought has been caused by lack of rain and snowfall for more than 3 years. This has led to the drying up of Colorado River that supplies water to California and 7 other states.
The California drought has caused destruction of flora and fauna life. It has also led to spread of West Nile virus that has negatively affected the health of local population. Furthermore, wild fires have been on increase thus destroying forests and other plants. This has made the situation worse. On top of that, the population of ducks and gees has reduced due to River Colorado drying up.
In an attempt to control water scarcity which has been caused by drought, the state government of California has ordered towns and cities to cut on their water use by 36%. Those who defy the order will pay a fine.
Luckily, the are has been blessed by recent El Nino storms which have acted to restore Golden State reservoirs to more acceptable levels. Water restrictions are being loosened, but for how long? Though rainfall was lower than what meteorologists predicted, the El Nino storms did produce above average rain and snow for the first time in five years.
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