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Water scarcity across the globe

Water scarcity across the globe

Growing populations and climate change are putting pressure on the world’s water supply with catastrophic effects across the world.

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 organizations around the world are turning their attention to how to solve this problem to ensure a healthy future.

Find out more about water scarcity in the world and how you can help combat water shortages in the world below.


Which countries are most effected?

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.

Water scarcity isn't just a problem in the developing world. Many areas in Australia and the USA experience wildfires and water shortages due to dry weather and climate change.

Countries most effected by water stress include:

  • Bahrain
  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • San Marino
  • Singapore


What is water scarcity?

Water scarcity occurs when the demand for water becomes more than the supply, and is a growing problem across the world with every continent feeling its effects. Water scarcity is made worse when either demand for water goes up or supply of water goes down, leading to droughts and water shortages as we put stress on our water supply.

The biggest drain on Australia’s water supply is farming, accounting for nearly 70% of Australia’s water footprint.

What are the main causes of water scarcity?

To improve the world’s water supply, we must take swift steps in reducing the causes of water stress. These include:

1. Climate Change

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.

2. 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.

3. 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 shortages. 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 the effects of water shortages?

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.

1. Diseases

A lack of water directly contributes to unsanitary living conditions which cause diseases like diarrhoea, 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 diarrhoea trace back to contaminated water.

2. Food shortages

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.

3. Health and hydration

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 shortages is dehydration. Dehydration can cause both constipation and diarrhoea. Constipation occurs from a lack of water in the system, while diarrhoea is often caused by diseases that run rampant in areas where water is scarce. Both constipation and diarrhoea 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.

Water stress can also have a negative impact on industries and business around the world.

Water coming out of a pipe

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 Shortages?

You can do your own part by following environmentally friendly practices to reduce your carbon footprint and slow climate change.

  • Use rainwater and drip irrigation to water your garden instead of your hose.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic production emissions.
  • Conserve resources and reduce costs by installing a plumbed-in water cooler at your home or place of work.
  • Check your toilet, faucets and shower fixtures for leaks. A leaking toilet alone can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.
    • Perform a toilet check by placing food coloring in your toilet tank to color the water. The colored water can direct you towards the leak point.

Remember that every single person makes a difference and awareness is the first step to solving the global problem of water scarcity. Find out more about water stress solutions in our article on how people are resolving to reduce water scarcity.