Water Scarcity: A Global Problem That’s Getting Worse

Water covers 70% of our planet, and it's simple to assume that it will always be available. Freshwater, on the other hand, is pretty scarce. We drink it, bathe in it, and use it to irrigate our farm areas. Fresh water makes up only 3% of the world's water, and two-thirds of that is frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for human consumption. As a result, 1.1 billion people around the world lack access to water, while 2.7 billion face water scarcity for at least one month of the year. For 2.4 billion people, poor sanitation is an issue, exposing them to diseases like cholera and typhoid fever, as well as other water-borne disorders. Each year, two million people, mostly children, die from diarrheal illnesses.


Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems alive and sustain an ever-increasing human population are under strain. Rivers, lakes, and aquifers are drying out or polluted to the point of being unusable. Over half of the world's wetlands have vanished. Agriculture uses the most water of any source, and most of it is wasted due to inefficiencies. Climate change is changing weather and water patterns all throughout the world, resulting in water shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others. This issue will only get worse if consumption continues at its current rate. Water shortages may affect two-thirds of the world's population by 2025. And ecosystems all throughout the planet will be far more harmed.


Many of the world's natural streams have been effectively tamed by humans, who have built dams, water wells, extensive irrigation systems, and other constructions that have allowed civilizations to expand and thrive. Water systems, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly stressed, with some rivers, lakes, and aquifers drying out. Some of the causes are; agriculture, climate change, pollution, and population growth.


AGRICULTURE

Agriculture consumes 70% of all available freshwater on the planet, but 60% of it is squandered due to leaky irrigation systems, poor application methods, and the growth of crops that are too thirsty for the environment in which they are cultivated. Rivers, lakes, and subterranean aquifers are drying up as a result of this inefficient use of water. Many food-producing countries, such as India, China, Australia, Spain, and the United States, have reached or are on the verge of surpassing their water resource limits. In addition to these thirsty crops, agriculture produces significant freshwater pollution - both through fertilisers and pesticides – both of which have an impact on humans and other creatures.


CHANGE CLIMATE

Weather and water patterns will alter around the planet as people continue to pump more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Droughts will grow more common in some areas, while floods will become more common in others. In some locations, glaciers and snowpacks will melt, hurting downstream communities' freshwater supply. As a result of these changes, less water will be available for agriculture, energy production, cities, and ecosystems around the planet.


POLLUTION

Pesticides and fertilisers that wash away from fields, untreated human wastewater, and industrial waste are all sources of pollution. Many contaminants can leak into subsurface aquifers, making even groundwater vulnerable to pollution. Some consequences are immediate, such as when hazardous bacteria from human waste pollute water, rendering it unsafe to drink or swim in. In some cases, such as harmful compounds from industrial operations, it may take years for their impacts to be completely recognized in the environment and food chain.


GROWTH OF THE POPULATION

The human population has more than doubled in the last 50 years. Rapid growth, along with economic development and industrialisation, has radically altered water environments around the world, resulting in a tremendous loss of species. Currently, 41% of the world's population lives in river basins that are experiencing water scarcity. As freshwater use continues at unsustainable levels, there is growing concern about water availability. Furthermore, these new faces require food, shelter, and clothing, putting extra strain on freshwater resources as a result of commodity and energy production.


Its impacts on our planet:


DISAPPEARING WETLANDS

Since 1900, around half of the world's wetlands have been lost. Wetlands host high densities of creatures, including mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates, and act as nurseries for many of these species, making them some of the most productive environments on the world. Rice, a mainstay in the nutrition of half the world's population, is also grown in wetlands. They also provide a variety of human-beneficial ecosystem services, such as water filtering, storm protection, flood control, and recreation.


DAMAGED ECOSYSTEMS

Natural landscapes can suffer when water is scarce. Central Asia's Aral Sea used to be the world's fourth largest freshwater lake. However, the sea has lost an area the size of Lake Michigan in just three decades. Due to extensive pollution and water diversion for irrigation and power generation, it has become as salty as an ocean. The sea has receded, leaving filthy land behind. Food shortages have resulted from this ecological disaster, which has led to an increase in neonatal mortality and a fall in life expectancy among the local population.


BILLIONS OF PEOPLE LACK WATER

A healthy human existence requires clean freshwater, but 1.1 billion people lack access to it, and 2.7 billion face water scarcity for at least one month each year. Two-thirds of the world's population may face water scarcity by 2025. When water runs out, people won't be able to drink, wash, or feed their crops, and the economy will suffer. Furthermore, poor sanitation, which affects 2.4 billion people, can lead to severe diarrheal diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever, as well as other water-borne ailments.



Image Credit: Youth Ki Awaaz by Kishor Sarmah

 

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