Human beings and ecological systems depend on water for daily survival (Falkenmark, 1990). Water is the driving engine for the industrialized world, most of our economic and recreational activities depend on this natural resource. In the near future according to the World Bank report it is stated that the wars of the future will be over fresh Water availability (). Majority of the global population believe that water is an infinite resource because the Earth is covered by 71 percent of it however, only 2.5 percent of the Earth’s water is usable for humans (). Scientists in the past would have predicted that a global fresh water crisis would not have been possible however, they did not take into consideration one major factor, the increase in global population levels this in turn has led to a greater stress on fresh water availability as water consumption increases (). The solving of the world water crisis is immanent because if we don’t solve it there will be many more problems than just shortages of drinking water. Some of the problems of water shortage includes the outbreak of various diseases, shortage of food the leads to starvation, and political conflicts, failure to these problems can lead to severe aftermaths. We are currently using 54 percent of available supply of fresh water and experts say that by 2025 we will be using over 70% of the available supply (Rogers 1) if we continue to not respond to the water crisis, then the effects will become much worse and much more expensive, and time consuming to reverse. This paper will discuss the implications and solutions of a global water crisis. Also, the implication a water crisis already has in many communities around the globe and how water crisis in the future will worsen due to the effects of climate change and the direct impacts on global communities.
Global demand for water has tripled since the 1950s, but the supply of fresh water has been declining (Gleick, 2003a). Data on water supply and demand are frightening, half a billion people live in water-stressed or water-scarce countries, and there is will be an increase in demand of water by 20% for food production in 2025 for the additional three billion people (). This number may increase higher if the income growth per person increases because there will be a need for more food and hence more water for irrigation will be needed. In addition, the increase in the global population will lead to increased industrial production to meet the global consumer needs and wants. For example, it takes 1,857 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, 2,900 gallons for a pair of cotton blue jeans, and 766 gallons to produce one T-shirt so with increased population these figures will increase tenfold. There will be an increase in polluted runoff of water from industries and farms and this will render the precious water resources to become unusable.
Water plays a pivotal role in society it is critical for human health and social welfare, especially however, accoding to… in Africa, about 300 million people still lack access to adequate water supplies and to adequate sanitation mainly due to physical water scarcity and economic water scarcity (Fig 1), meaning that many of the communities in these countries cannot afford to purchase clean water due to their economic status or/and because there are physical barriers to accessing this water, for example in Kenya women and children have to travel miles and miles by foot in order to get fresh water.
Figure 1: Map of areas of physical versus economic water scarcity
Source: (International Water Management Institute, 2007)
This lack of access to clean and fresh water in these communities has become a root cause of many diseases and it is estimated that 4% of all deaths in Africa could be attributed to water-related diseases (Pruss, Kay, Fewtrell, & Bartram, 2002). There are several types of diseases that pertain to unsafe water; these include waterborne diseases, diseases that are transmitted through contact with water. Many of these diseases cause problems, such as diarrhea. It is important to note that diarrheal diseases are passed through the fecal-oral route of transmission. Water that is contaminated with human or animal feces can infect someone in several ways. Of course, it is possible for the contaminated water to be ingested as drinking water. Also, food can become contaminated if unsafe water is used to clean it, or if hands that have come into contact with contaminated water touch the food. Due to the economic status it is difficult to improve sanitation facilities increasing the likelihood of contamination. Many locals went to a nearby river in order to get water to bath, cook, and even sometimes drink, but there are risks that come with drinking water directly from the river. Due to the importance of water to human health, water shortages can pose serious obstacles for improving global health.
Another issue surrounding fresh water crisis is the increase in temperature of the planet, the warming of the planet is causing icecaps and glaciers to melt, and this can be good in the short term because that means in the near future there will be more access to fresh water. However, in the long run this source of fresh water supply will sip away into the salty water. As mentioned above global food security will greatly be threatened because Climate change may affect agriculture and food security by altering the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall, and the
availability of water. This will increase insecurities throughout the food chain and the ability to feed nine billion people by 2050.
The impacts of water shortage due to climate change will be felt more in Africa and Asia due to the continents geography being arid and sub humid tropic. Also, these continents are known to have a greater global population that is poor and are unable to adapt well to this crisis (Parry
et al., 2001). African countries will have increased droughts as they are closer to the equator resulting in more food shortages (Droogers and Aerts). Figure 2 below shows a map of the region’s most susceptible to climate change in Africa, according to…it is estimated that the Sahara Desert grows by 600 meters every year due to desertification (climate change) (Our Africa) and with time this will reduce the amount of water input through rain, causing decrease in water supply.
Figure 4: Map of regions most susceptible to climate change
Source: (Drying up and flooding out, 2007)
Another layer to the water crisis is the issue of conflict and its relation to water scarcity. Competition for water resources among sectors, regions and countries, and associated human activities is already occurring. About 40% of the world’s population live in regions that directly
compete for shared transboundary water resources (Yoffe et al., 2004).
For example, the waters of the Nile basin have been a source of conflicts in Africa. This is because throughout history Egypt and Sudan with their political and military power have claimed control of this water to ensure they have a stable supply of water, but this water originates outside their borders. Therefore, counties upstream of the river have rejected the downstream
claim and as a result are using the water from the Nile basin to satisfy their water needs. This is resulting in a decrease in supply of water to the upstream countries and with the effects of climate change this may spark further conflicts between these nations.
The decrease in the supply of water will lead to a higher likelihood of violence breaking out. The reasoning behind these arguments revolves around the idea that water is a necessity and hence when the demand is greater than the supply, only the wealthy will be able to afford this resource and hence the rest of the population will have to scramble for what is available resulting in conflicts. Another reason for increased conflicts is due migration of people from one area to another for water may lead conflict over land. It is also true to say that these conflicts are more likely to occur in sub-Saharan Africa due to the existing water scarcity issue.
With demand growing faster than supply in many areas, we need to provide appropriate
incentives to conserve and protect the resource, and opportunities to allocate supplies
efficiently among competing uses. When water is under priced and its allocation is
restricted by law and tradition, the inevitable results are inefficient water use, lost
development opportunities, interruptions in service, and higher costs for new water users.
On the other hand, when the real costs are borne by users of the resource and there are
opportunities to transfer water voluntarily among alternative uses, then the resource is
used more efficiently, there are increased incentives to develop and adopt waterconserving
technologies, the highest-value uses are assured of an adequate supply, and
society derives greater net benefits from its scarce supplies. Efficient, voluntary water
transfers must include provisions to incorporate third-party effects into trade decisions
(since parties other than the buyer and seller are likely to be impacted by a water
transfer), without imposing high transactions costs. The nature and magnitude of future
water costs will depend importantly on our success in developing such market
There are many different views on how we should end the fresh water crisis. Peter Rodger, author of Facing the Fresh Water Crisis, says the best way to end the fresh water crisis is to limit waste, and the easiest way to do that in his opinion is to make water more expensive. The reason why most people waste water is because they take it for granted, and if you take it for granted then you have no problem about how much you use or if you waste any. This applies mostly to major cities and more economically stable countries where fresh water is abundant (Rodgers 3). If we increase the cost of fresh water then the world will be forced to realize that water is important and that we are running out of it. not only will only this solution cause more people to not waste water, but also it will encourage water agencies to build recycling and reclamation systems along with encourage economic growth.
Another Individual Levitt believes that the best way to solve the fresh water crisis is to focus all our resources on only agriculture. Agriculture consumes over 70% of our fresh water today (Levitt 2). Levitt believes that the fresh water crisis is too big of a problem to solve at once and we should only focus on one thing at a time. What Levitt wants to do is invest in water transport pipelines to prevent leakage and evaporation. He thinks that we should use money as tax incentives for farmers to install water efficient irrigation systems that minimize water losses. He also thinks that we should construct catchment for irrigation return flow, so that waste water is properly collected and recycled (Levitt 1). Although Levitt has a different approach to solving the fresh water crisis than most people, he’s firm in his belief that its best to focus on one thing at a time and the first thing should be agriculture.
On the other hand, others think that the way to end the fresh water crisis is to focus on recycling and filtering water. There are current technologies that can recycle waste water that comes out of sewers. The filter diverts the urine for reuse in agriculture and also converts remaining waste on-site into organic compost that can enrich soil (Rogers 5), but the down side is that it is very costly to perform this process. Another solution that is becoming popular and plausible right now is filtering water. Much of the water on earth is salt water and therefore undrinkable, but we can use something called membrane reverse-osmosis systems, which converts salt water into fresh water (Molden 2).
The fresh water crisis is a real and growing problem throughout the world and if something is not done soon, the problems will escalate. Thankfully, many actions are being taken in order to help prevent it.
Peter Rogers proposed that we should simply increase the price of fresh water. By doing so it would force people to recognize that fresh water is indeed becoming scarcer. I agree with this proposal because I think it will be effective and have mostly good impacts. If prices are increased in bottled water and also other sources of fresh water are increased, not only will people be informed that there is in fact a fresh water crisis, but it will also force them to not waste it. Also raising the price would benefit the economy, which could use all the help it could get. I also agree that putting efforts towards recycling and filtering water would help tremendously. It can help us tap into new sources of water as well as gain new fresh water from sources that normally would not provide it. That being said I do recognize that these plans all have their flaws.
fresh water crisis soon, then we will have to worry about much more than we can handle.
There are many things that we can do to help with the fresh water crisis. If I were to propose a solution, it would have several steps. First, I would try to spread awareness to the everyday people who do not know what the fresh water crisis is. We need to spread awareness that we will run out of fresh water if we are not careful, and put efforts towards stopping it. Also that that many people around the world do not have safe drinking water. I would at first mainly aim for people who live in urban, big cities; places where people seem to think that there is an unlimited supply of water because that’s where they waste the most fresh water and take it for granted. The way I would spread awareness to those people and others is similar to Peter Rogers’s idea, which is to increase the price on fresh water (specifically bottled water). By raising the price of bottled water people will be forced to recognize that water is scarce especially because that fresh water distribution is almost monopolized by bottling companies. So many people buy bottled water that it was undoubtedly become a controversy and an important topic that many will talk about, which is the goal.
Next, I would urge people to take action. It is not enough to just spread awareness to the people; you need to let them know that they can do something that can help solve the problem. There are plenty of organizations around the world that help provide fresh water to places desperately need it. These days there are so many problems that people are trying to prevent, and everyone is asking funds. Unfortunately, not every cause can be funded. In order for people to fund your cause they need to be aware of the problem and be convinced that it’s worth putting time and effort to solve. After spreading awareness I would make sure people know that they can donate money along with bottled water directly to organizations such as Give Clean Water and Charity, which helps distribute fresh water around the world to those who need it.
Debate about global water scarcity and food security has intensified in recent times, and precise estimates of future water and food demand are elusive. Climate change is adding another layer of complexity. The global human population may hit a record 9 billion people by 2050. The much-needed increase in food production is not forthcoming. Crop yields are not increasing fast enough either. Instead, limits are faced due to carrying capacity in some areas of the world. The availability of sufficient water resources is one of the major crises with overarching implications for many other world problems especially poverty, hunger, ecosystem degradation, desertification, climate change, and even world peace and security (Khan and Hanjra, 2009). The fresh water crisis will only get worse in the future, but if we continue to put out efforts into preventing it then the severity of it will be much less. Once we figure out how to solve the fresh water crisis, we can focus on giving fresh water to places that really need them such as Africa because once again there is no point in conserving fresh water and worrying that we won’t have enough when people all over the world do not even have access to it. Once awareness is spread and funds are being raised then we will be able to effectively fight the fresh water crisis. A fundamental shift is needed in water and energy use in food systems policy to avoid a severe food crisis in the future.