Water Crisis

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If samples of all the waters of the world are contained in a one-gallon jug, we will only get a teaspoon full of drinking water out of it. Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers. Twenty percent of the remaining is in the remote areas and a great part of it arrives at the wrong time, by way of monsoons and floods. In effect humans are left with 0.08% of all the Earth's water. But even if this remaining water is uniformly distributed there would be enough for a human population much larger than the present one.


Why should I be aware of this?

While in developed countries water is always readily available, in Sub-Saharan Africa and many developing countries women and young girls have to trek almost 6 kilometers each day to fetch water for their families. The time and physical labor wasted in such efforts prevent young girls from pursuing their education and women from earning extra income.

Asia has 60 percent of the world’s population but 36 percent of the world’s lakes and rivers. The Amazon River, on the other hand, detains 15 percent of the water contained by the world’s rivers, but this water is used by only 0.4 percent of the world’s population.

The developed countries have many solutions to the water crisis like desalinization of sea water and expensive technologies to recycle water. But the poorer countries have to choose between rationalizing water and reusing untreated water. The former impedes economic development and lessens food production. The latter increases spread of disease.

All about water crisis

In a UNESCO sponsored document entitled World Water Development Report it is calculated that by 2050, between two billion people in 48 countries and up to seven billion people in 60 countries will be faced with scarcity of fresh water.

Internationally there is continuous bickering and wrangling over water. Syrians, Jordanians, and Palestinians condemn Israel’s manipulation of water resources. Syria and Iraq object to Turkey’s plans to dam the Euphrates River. Kurdish independence is opposed by Turkey because of their control over the snow-covered mountains which solve their water supply problems. Egypt stands in the way of Ethiopia taking more Nile water. Bangladesh accuses India of re-routing water and drying up their country

We have limited water resources. As we continue to grow our need for water too grows. One-third of the population lives in water stressed countries and this is expected to rise to two-thirds by 2050. There is also a decline in usable water in some areas due to pollution.

Global warming causing crisis

Even a small 2 degree temperature rise will cause disappearance of glaciers which are the main water resources for most of the big rivers around the world. This will not only affect drinking water supply but even irrigation will suffer.

There are fears of another form of water crisis caused by climate change. A study by the US Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that sea level could rise as much as 23 inches within the next 100 years. This will result in flooding of worldwide coasts with the United States, the Gulf of Mexico, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and northern Europe likely to be the most vulnerable areas. This will force intrusion of salt water into ground water affecting 40 percent of the population which lives in coastal areas.

Demand Increasing

More than one out of five people lack access to safe drinking water, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation. Demand for water is increasing at twice the population growth rate because of people’s desire for a better standard of living and increased food production.

Imbalance between use and resources

An important reason for water crisis is the imbalance between water use and water resources. Water withdrawals for irrigation represent 70 % of the total withdrawals and up to 90 % in arid regions. It is expected to rise even further with the population growing to 8.9 billion by 2050. The other 34 % is shared by domestic households (10 %), industry (20 %), or evaporated from reservoirs (4 %).

The poor are the worst sufferers. They are forced to buy water at high prices, face insecurity and disease from drinking dirty water. Their plight can be improved with economic development but to bring about economic development too funds are required.

With major industrial centers located on the banks of the rivers, over 50% of the world's rivers have been polluted by wastewater. Many rivers are contaminated from springs to mouth. In developing countries, untreated waste waters are drained into rivers spreading contamination. In developed countries toxic chemicals coming from farm fertilizers also pollute the waters.

How bad is the water crisis

  • water-related disease causes one child death every 8 seconds
  • In developing countries 50 percent of the people suffer from one or more water-related diseases
  • Contaminated water is the cause of 80 percent of diseases in the developing world
  • 50 percent of people on earth lack adequate sanitation
  • Contaminated water has pushed 20 percent of freshwater fish species to the edge of extinction.

What can I do?

It is estimated that an investment of over $1 trillion over the next 29 years will be needed towards desalination, purification, pipes, pumps, to help supply of fresh water for the world's growing population.

Especially in those parts of the world where the poor are looking for a way to lift themselves out of poverty, they must be shown ways to conserve water such as rain catchment, rain agriculture, and effective [[conservation].

Technical solutions

  • One way of creating new freshwater resources is by desalinating saltwater. This would require massive amount of energy, leading to another energy crisis in the future
  • By cleaning up pollution more water can be made useable, and used more efficiently in agriculture. Drought-resistant plants can also help.
  • Treatment of waste water is undertaken in many countries to make them fit for drinking.
  • Drip irrigation drastically cuts the amount of water needed, low-pressure sprinklers are an improvement, and even building simple earth walls to trap rainfall is helpful.

The overall need is to manage current supplies better

Rainwater harvesting

Rains are one of the major sources of water yet these are wasted while millions suffer from the droughts and water shortage.

The UN with the World Agro Forestry Centre in a study found that rainwater harvesting is capable of entirely resolving the shortage of clean water. Rain water harvesting, the report said, could supply six or seven times the current need, of water in some countries. It could also provide security against future droughts.

Rain water harvesting captures water from a rooftop or a surface catchment and then stores it for later use. This is mostly used in those parts of the world, such as Britain, China, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany and Australia, .where there is adequate rainfall and conventional water resources are either in short supply or are being overused.

Community’s role

Self help is the best help, each and every being of the community has to take a step to solve its own problem and the best step to solve water problem is to catch and store water where it falls through rain water harvesting. Rain will usher local food security. From rain will come biomass-wealth which can eradicate ecological poverty. From rain will come social harmony.

Use of local knowledge and skill

Of late there have been widespread efforts to use local knowledge and skill, along with local administration and finance to improve rural water supplies. Such grassroots initiatives as rainwater harvesting and well recharging using low-cost technologies have been particularly successful in Indian province of Rajasthan.

Aquifer formations

Aquifer storage and recovery is another effective technology for storing water This method uses aquifer formations to collect water when it is plentiful. The water is stored in an environmentally safe manner for use when there is shortage of freshwater supply or during drought.


  • World Water Council
  • Water scarcity: A looming crisis?
  • The World Water Crisis:
  • New Design for the Rain Water Catch
  • dg communities