The Effects of Water Scarcity on Population and Earth

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Our entire world is made up almost entirely of water; there are faucets and fountains at our disposal, and a surplus of packaged bottled water at our grocery stores, yet the world is going through a water crisis. 70% of the earth is made up of water, and from that large amount of water only about 3% being fresh water, but not everyone in the world has access to this usable water (“Water Scarcity,” n.d.). About 25% of the people in the world don’t have water at their disposal (Cassela). This has mostly been an issue in lesser developed countries, but recently has also become a problem here in the United States (Snyder). There are 17 countries going through water stress, meaning they either run short to meet demand or run out all together (Hofste, Reig, schleifer). People should be made aware of the problem at hand, given that people need water to sustain living as well as many people and regions will become affected by it, and it will likely be more prominent in the coming years if nothing is done to further prevent it.

Water scarcity, to put it simply, is not having water. Either there’s an absence of water all together, or the water in the area isn’t safe to use (“What Is Water Scarcity?,” 2017). As said before, out of all the water that makes up the earth, only about 3% of it is fresh water, but from that two thirds aren’t usable, put away in frozen glaciers and snowpacks, making the amount of actual usable water much smaller(“Water Scarcity,” n.d.). In actuality the amount of clean water people use daily is around .03%, stemming from lakes, rivers, and aquifers (Mullen).

One of the most impactful reasons for water scarcity is due to climate change. The carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are released out into the world’s atmosphere result in the weather changing its usual patterns (“Water Scarcity,” n.d.). In 2017, carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.6 percent to create 36.2 gigatons of CO2, 2018 saw a 2.7 percent increase making 37.1 gigatons of CO2, those numbers are likely to increase for 2019, there was as well said to be no sign of emissions like these to stabilize or decrease anytime soon (Levin). The causes are becoming more prominent with certain areas becoming flooded, others experiencing droughts, and the main concern of glaciers and snowpacks melting away, likely decreasing the water supply significantly (“Water Scarcity,” n.d.).

Another one of the main reasons for water scarcity is due to chemicals, toxins and other harmful contaminants polluting the lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater storehouses (Denchak). A majority of pollution being done to these bodies of water are mainly due to human activities, one of them being domestic sewage, which is mainly, urine, faeces and laundry waste, pollution like this may cause an array of harmful waterborne diseases, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery are some of the few that may occur. Furthermore, industrial wastewater is another one of the other causes of water pollution, waste from iron, chemical, food, and steel industries pollute the water leaving behind toxic materials like heavy metals, that will mix in with bodies of water, causing them to be harmful for human consumption (Johnson). About 180 million tons of waste are dumped each year, a majority of it coming from all these different types of factories, such as the ones mentioned before, all that waste leaving behind arsenic, lead, mercury, cyanide and over thirty other dangerous chemicals (Sampat). All this that is being done decreases the water supply that there is left, the water is being left untreated, the water is unusable, and many people are left without little to no water at all. As many as 1.1 billion people around the world are without water, and around 2.7 billion people experience this crisis about one month out of the year (“Water Scarcity,” n.d.).

Although, there are many organizations around the world fighting to further prevent water scarcity from happening and getting the word out about this water crisis, there are still many people who don’t believe there is an issue at hand, like for example author Benjamin Radford, who wrote an article titled The Water Shortage Myth, going on to say that there isn’t actually a problem and there is a bountiful amount of water and it’ll never waste away. Furthermore, stating that the ocean was filled with a surplus of water that just needed to be desalinated, meaning that they could purify it and make it usable, however it’s very expensive to do so. Radford later stating:

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There's plenty of freshwater on our blue globe; it is not raining any less these days than it did millennia ago. As with any other resource, there are of course regional shortages, and they are getting worse. But the real problems are availability and transport…Water is heavy and costly to transport, and those who can afford it will always have water (Radford). Overall, just going on to say there is no problem with our water supply, there’s more than enough water for everyone, and the real concern being conservation, so they won’t have to resort to expensive purification of ocean water(Radford). Although Radford makes a good argument, stating that ocean water could be desalinated and become useful, there’s still the fact of the matter that not everyone around the world is able to attain this type of water supply.

Bringing attention to the next topic, which is the millions of people who are without water, or could likely be brought towards that through water stress. Right now there are 17 countries around the world facing water stress. About 80 percent of their water supplies are withdrawn to be used towards irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities, leaving the rest for the people to use, this method of distribution of water causing these countries vulnerable to become without water all-together. From the 17 countries that are facing water stress, a majority of them, 12 to be exact, are either in the middle east or africa, their water supplies already low from the start, then adding to the pile climate change likely to only worsen the matter at hand (Hofste, Reig, schleifer).

A majority of the countries that were mentioned before were all mainly third world countries, being lesser developed and much poorer, despite that fact, water scarcity could happen anywhere in the world, even somewhere like here in the United States, one incident already occurring in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the mayor of flint switched their water supply from Detroit city system to Flint river, the water later became unsafe for people to use, the use of old and corrosive water pipes playing a big role in all of this, causing the lead to leach into the water and become unsafe (“Flint Water Crisis,” 2019). Even after switching back to their original water system the people of flint were still unsafe, for the damage had already been done, and all the water already being contaminated, causing many people to become exposed to it, eventually to fall ill, and even some ended up dying (Carmody). An array of different things could result in the absence of water, such as the lack of sanitation and the diseases that follow, possible health issues arising, and even people going hungry(Rinkesh).

Due to water scarcity many people end up not bathing regularly or keeping up with their hygiene as needed, usually ending with them obtaining illnesses and sometimes leading to death. Moreover, the most affected are usually children, mostly younger than five years old, over 800,000 children in the world, a large amount being from poorer countries, perish from diseases and illnesses each year, the main one being diarrheal diseases, over 2,000 children dying a day due to lack of a proper water source (“Global WASH Fast Facts,” 2016 ). When water is left untreated, such as it was in Flint, Michigan, many people are left unaware of this outbreak of contaminated water, using it for their everyday necessities without knowledge of its possible outcomes. In Flint, many people used this untreated water and it lead to skin rashes, loss of hair, and the lead in their blood to become higher than it should normally be (“Flint Water Crisis,” 2019). Around the world there are millions who are infected with untreated tropical illnesses, many being due to water or hygiene reasons, often times they’re due to the places they are living in having unsafe water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices (“Global WASH Fast Facts,” 2016 ).

If underdeveloped countries were to gain proper water sources the amount of deaths due to diarrhea would lessen by 21%. Regular sanitation would lessen deaths by diarrhea by 37.5%, and just the washing of one’s hands regularly could decrease by 35%. Proper water sanitation could potentially prevent 9.1% of diseases world wide and 6.3% of deaths (“Global WASH Fast Facts,” 2016 ).

A large percentage of water goes towards irrigation and farming, in the United States 80% of that water is used solely for that, while in western countries about 90% is used (“Irrigation & Water Use,” 2019). Without a proper water source at hand people won’t be able to water their crops and without those crops many animals would go hungry as well, meaning less meat for people to eat, resulting in the hunger of many people (Rinkesh). If the world were to continue on the same track they are currently on, continuously polluting bodies of water, polluting our air quality, and carelessly letting water supplies be contaminated our entire water sources will be gone before we know it. This path will only lead to the increase of water demands. Each year the demand for water increases by 1% due to the population increasing, the economy rising, and changing consumption patterns. Right now there are over 3 billion people in the world without sufficient means of water, this number is likely to increase to over 5 billion people by the year 2050 if nothing continues to get done. Due to the possible increase in water demands it was also predicted that there could likely be numerous problems arising, such as threats to the human civilization (Mandel).

There are already numerous organizations at work to find solutions to the problem at hand, one example being, the world wide fund for nature. This organization works alongside governments, businesses and local communities, making sure that people and other living things have good water sources at their disposal as well as promoting methods for sustainable water usage. This organization also helps protect wetlands from becoming polluted, any sort of project development to happen, and drainage from occurring (“Water Scarcity,” n.d.). Our planet Earth is very precious, already so much has been done that has damaged ecosystems, habitats, and many wet-lands. If nothing were to be resolved people and regions will continue to become affected by it, and it will likely be more prominent in the coming years if nothing is done to further prevent it. It’s important that people be made aware of what’s going on, the risks that are being made, the potential problems that could occur, and the tragedies that have already happened.

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