• Rose Smith

Water Scarcity in the World: What’s Going on and What We’re Doing

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Water is a resource we often take for granted in the United States. While there are countries that have not felt the effects of water stress or water shortages, different countries across the world have been feeling the effects of water shortages. However, researchers and politicians are also hoping to solve this problem or at least slow down current trends. With current efforts, we may be able to see the positive effects scientists and politicians may have on the health and well-being of numerous people.

While the Earth is covered in water, the current water crisis comes from the fact that there is less drinkable water. Of all the water in the world, only 3% of it is fresh water that is usable by humans, and of that 3%, two-thirds of that is currently locked up in glaciers where people can’t readily access it (WWF). It is estimated that 1.1 billion people do not have direct access to drinking water. Water scarcity is often categorized into two categories: physical and economic. Physical water scarcity is often the water scarcity that people think of. This is when a region or country simply doesn’t have enough water physically to sustain the demand of water. This happens most often in desert regions due to natural lack of water, but it also happens when a region puts too much pressure on its own resources. Northern Africa and a part Southeastern Australia is currently suffering from this kind of scarcity (United Nations). Economic scarcity is a bit more complex. During an economic water shortage, there is a sufficient amount of water available, but the majority of the population doesn’t have the monetary means to actually obtain the water. This could be due to political or ethnic conflicts. The Sub-Saharan region of Africa suffers from this type of shortage (The Water Project). Aside from the natural need for water, a lack of clean water also can spread disease due to a lack of ability to sanitize food and other people. In fact, it is estimated that half of all the hospital patients worldwide are suffering from some form of water-borne disease.

Because of the fact that water scarcity is so widespread and its effects can prove to be deadly, researchers and politicians are working to try to find solutions to water scarcity. One way that researchers are trying to lessen the problem is through working on agriculture efficiency. On average, 70% of the world’s water resources are used on agriculture, so if scientists can find a way to use less water, that will create less of a physical pressure on water resources (Circle of Blue). On the political end, local communities are beginning to come together to create international networks to help enact change on a larger national level. For instance, Bolivian indigenous groups have already gotten into talks to cooperate on economic water scarcity.

Water scarcity is an imminent problem that has already claimed the lives of numerous people, young and old. Whether the scarcity is due to physical constraints or economics constraints, people all over the world are trying to help mitigate water scarcity through political cooperation and scientific innovation. With some combined effort, we may be able to save the lives of numerous people in the future and raise the average quality of life for all.