The World Resources Institute estimates that 33 countries will face a water crisis by 2040. These at-risk countries are largely clustered in Africa and the Middle East. In fact, UNICEF projects over 9 million people in Ethiopia will lack access to safe drinking water by as soon as end of 2017.
Among the world’s most affected areas are:
- San Marino
Due to factors such as pollution, overpopulation, and misuse of resources, almost 40% of people are left without water to sustain life. As the problems get more severe, environmentally conscious individuals and organisations around the world are turning their attention to how to solve this problem to ensure a healthy future.
Where is Water Most Scarce in the World?
Water scarcity isn't just a problem in the developing world. The UK recently experienced the driest winter in 20 years, which has had negative effects on reservoirs and ground waters.
The Effects of Water Scarcity
The importance of a clean supply of water cannot be over stressed. UNICEF estimates that by 2040 as many as 600 million children could be affected by a lack of water.
A lack of water directly contributes to unsanitary living conditions which cause diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. According to the WHO, 1.8 billion people drink water that is contaminated by human or animal waste. Globally, approximately 502 000 deaths related to diarrhea trace back to contaminated water.
Water is also used to cultivate the food we eat. Without sufficient water, a food shortage is almost unavoidable. This will impact children in a dangerous way, causing negative effects from illnesses to lack of performance and attendance in school. While nutrition plays a role in education, children in drought areas face other threats to their schooling that trace back to the availability of clean water. They often spend time gathering water for their families instead of attending school, leaving them without the skills they need to change their economic position later in life.
Water is essential for proper hydration which supports the electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes in turn support many bodily functions from the muscles to the blood.
One of the risks of water scarcity is dehydration. Dehydration can cause both constipation and diarrhea. Constipation occurs from a lack of water in the system, while diarrhea is often caused by diseases that run rampant in areas where water is scarce. Both constipation and diarrhea relate to problems with vitamin and mineral absorption.
Insufficient hydration can also cause a sluggish lack of focus. In hot weather, dehydration can decrease your capacity as much as 25% which is quite significant.
The Causes of Water Scarcity
To improve the world’s water supply, we must take swift steps in reducing the causes of water scarcity. These include:
Climate change caused by natural and man-made emissions contaminate water runoff and cause droughts. Water runoff commonly includes rain and snowfall, both of which contribute to keeping lakes and rivers filled with water. Any changes to water runoff can further affect water availability and disable the preparation for water resource management. The cyclical drought conditions in California from 2014 to early 2017 resulted in harsh water restrictions to preserve resources which put citizens at risk of some of the health concerns raised earlier.
Air and Water Pollution
Pollution also plays a role in both climate change and water scarcity. If a water source is contaminated by any hazardous substance or material, it becomes undrinkable. This includes an oil spills, chemical spills, airborne pollutions and sewage leaks to name a few. A large-scale pollution can affect, animal habitats and ecosystems, land and miles of water.
Economics and Increased Demands
As found by The Guardian, “approximately 70% of all usable water on Earth is now used for food production.” Economics and overpopulation in areas within South Asia and the Middle East further complicate water scarcity. With a rapid growth in human population, the increased demand for freshwater sources work towards reducing the available supply. This is especially problematic since we face other challenges to our water supply as well.
What Are We Doing To Help?
Thankfully it isn’t all doom and gloom. Some statistics show improvement.
For instance, the world’s population had access to better water in 2015 than in 1990. The WHO plays a large role in reducing water scarcity by testing water treatment agents and rating their performance to foster better protection from illnesses. They also work to implement clean water regulations, foster policies that focus on access to clean water, and monitor the use of water treatment products.
How Can I Help To Reduce Water Scarcity?
You can do your own part by following environmentally friendly practices to reduce your carbon footprint and slow climate change. Use smart irrigation techniques in your own garden to further reduce your water consumption and bill, using rainwater and drip irrigation to water your landscaping.
Reduce emissions related to manufacturing plastics by carrying a reusable water bottle. Discarded bottles can also leak harmful chemicals into the ground, which can increase the likelihood of contaminated water sources. Conserve resources and reduce costs by installing a plumbed-in water cooler at your home or place of work. Plumbed-in units are connected to your mains supply and offer an unlimited supply of freshly filtered drinking water.
Check your toilet, faucets and shower fixtures for leaks, as a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day. If they are leaking, replace them yourself or call a certified plumber. You can also perform a toilet check yourself. To do this, place enough food colouring in your toilet tank to colour the water. If your toilet is leaking, the coloured water can direct you towards the leak point. Make these checks a part of your seasonal home maintenance. If required, you can also request a detailed report of your water usage from your local water supplier.
Remember that every single person makes a difference and awareness is the first step to solving the global problem of water scarcity.