Water has been one of the most essential human resources for more than 2000 years. In most of the societies today, water has been put into many uses domestically, industrially and agriculturally. Unfortunately, in the past centuries, there has been an ominous consistent downward trend in the supply of this precious resource. Most of the countries have been seriously hit by a hydrological poverty as a result of the changing trends all over the world. The water crisis has in turn led to a myriad of problems some of which could be prevented. This paper evaluates the causes of the crisis, the effects of it and some of the steps that may be taken to curb further worsening of the crisis.
Causes of Water Crisis. Increase in population is the prime cause of global water crisis. As the global population is growing, there is an increase in the demand for water to meet the daily requirements both in agricultural sectors and industrial or even personal levels. According to the World Water Council (1), the global population tripled in the 20th century leading to a six-fold increase in the use of renewable water sources. Due to the rise in the population in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger, Lake Chad shrunk by 96 per cent in forty years (Brown 27).
The climatic changes and desertification have contributed significantly to water crisis. The government, hydrologists and the limnologists report that there is a change in the weather and climatic patterns, which, in turn, altered the hydrological cycles. There are longer dry seasons, earlier melting of the spring snows and glaciers, and less formation of the snow due to the rather higher temperatures (Macdonald 44). The changes in climatic system results have posted difficulty in the harvesting and management of water to satisfy its increasing demand.
Water crisis is also remotely caused by the depletion of the aquifers and the falling of water table. Not all aquifers can be replenished. Studies have revealed that the fossil aquifers can never be replenished. Due to over-pumping of the aquifers in most parts of the world, the shallow aquifers have been depleted, and thus it forces the well drillers to dig deeper into those that cannot be replenished. This contributes to the crisis as seen in China and India (Brown 28). The water table in the agricultural state of Guanajuato, for example, falls by two or more meters annually (Brown 29).
Pollution of the existing water bodies has also contributed to water crisis in some countries, especially the developing countries. According to Macdonald (45), the rate of water pollution is higher than the rate at which nature replenishes it. 95 per cent of all sewage and 70 per cent of industrial waste are dumped untreated into the water bodies. Such practices have led to the eutrophication that endangers the aquatic life. There is concern that 75 per cent of the river waters flowing through China’s cities are not suitable for drinking or fishing (Macdonald 45).
To some extent, water crisis has been caused by rise in the living standards. According to the University of Arizona Water Resource Research Centre (2), greater usage is also associated with the changes in living standards. People tend to take diets containing less grains and more meat. Growing of 1 kg of potato requires 100 liters of water, only while 1 kg of beef requires 13000 liters (World Water Council 2), just to show how living standard is related to the water crisis. Some of the water crises witnessed in some areas is as a result of distribution of water in the nation. A good example is Canada where most of the waters are held in the North. 80 per cent of the water resources are locked in the North leaving only 20 per cent in the South that has 80 per cent of the population (Macdonald 45).
Effects of Water Crisis. Water crisis has had devastating effects on people’s lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNICEF reports indicate that 1.1 billion people lacks access to safe drinking water, 2.6 billion lacks proper sanitation, and 3900 children die every day out of the water born diseases (World Water Council 1).
As a result of water shortage, there has been a significant decline in food supply. India, for example, became the leading importer of grains in 2006. Only 15 per cent of her food supply could be produced by mining the underground water which soon shall dry up. Saudi Arabia, being as water poor as it is oil rich, had a 34 per cent drop between 1992 and 2007 (Brown 29). This led to the establishment of water markets, placing some values on water in order to employ the invisible hand of demand and supply to harmonize the excesses in demand. According to World Bank report of 2009, the private investment in water industry was set to double in five years that followed (Interlandi and Tracy 41).
Economic impact of the water scarcity cannot be ignored as well. Inadequate water supply has led to the cancellation of many commercial and residential development projects in California. 30,000 workers would be laid off as the drought approached the fourth year (Macdonald 45). Other grim impacts may be in terms of the livestock deaths due to the draught.
Water crisis has also led to disturbance in the environmental balance. It has led to the deterioration of fresh water resources through the eutrophication and organic matter pollution. This has profound effects on the aquatic ecosystem (World Water Council 1). Water crisis has also created tension and political stress between neighboring nations, or even tribes within a country. In some cases, local water conflicts have resulted into death such as in Kenya, Pakistan and China (Brown 31). Notably, peace between the Israeli and Palestinian border depends majorly on the equitable water distribution, according to Brown (31).
Responding to Water Crisis and Mitigation Measures. Unlike other substitutable commodity, water does not even have a close substitute. Therefore, there is the need to solve the crisis and maintain both water quantity and quality. People should be enlightened on the better practices to conserve environment so as to avoid such problems like eutrophication. There should be better methods of dumping wastes rather than releasing them into water bodies and thereby contaminating the scarce waters available.
There should be an improved water management both domestically, industrially and in the agricultural sector. The changes in the lifestyles pose a threat of increased water demand. People should be enlightened on best methods of farming or even food habits (World Water Council 2). There should be improved transboundary cooperation. States should cooperate on water instead of the trending towards war. In 2001, UNESCO and Grenn Cross International joined forces in response of the growing threat of conflict linked to water (World Water Council 3). In areas such as Canada, in which the crisis was merely as a result of poor distribution, a good piping system could be developed so as to have equitable distribution of the water even to the southern part of the country, which had 80 per cent of the population.
In conclusion, there is great water crisis all over the world in terms of the adequacy to satisfy the needs. The greatest crisis, however, is that of poor management of the available water. If people could be able to effectively manage the scarce water, the world would be a better place.