Turn on the tap and clean, fresh water rushes out, as much we want whenever we want, so the ongoing global water crisis might not concern most of us. But the arduous search for this precious resource has been a struggle for centuries. Civilizations who got a hand over it survived those failed, fell.
Today 7 out of 10 have access to clean and safe drinking water. But yet 1 out of 7 squander days searching for a stomach full of it. Global water crisis needs serious concern before it goes out of hand.
Cape Town, Day 0
Cape Town, South Africa; because of a server drought became the first city at risk of completely running out of clean water supply. The town was about to reach ‘day zero‘; leaving 4 million people without running water. People now get water ration by queuing up at the city’s water station.
Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Jakarta, London, Beijing, Istanbul, Tokyo, Chennai, Barcelona, and Mexico City will witness their own day zero in less than a decade; unless they start using their water resources wisely.
Huge Awaiting Challenges
According to the UN over one-fourth of the world’s population i.e. 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. 2,97,000 children under 5 die due to diarrhea, caused by poor sanitation and scarcity of safe drinking water.
By 2040 most of the world wouldn’t have enough water to meet demand year-round. We are facing a global water crisis, and every day it is getting worse. We are at an actual inflection point where if we are not careful; then the situation may get out of our ability to manage it.
Earth is a blue planet; here, we have no shortage of water. We have 326 million trillion gallons of water, we always have and always will; it may evaporate into the air, or freeze into ice, but it never leaves earth.
97% of Earth’s water is in the oceans and sea, 2% is frozen; so technically all of mankind relies on just, left 1% of the water for our existence. This 1% is in the form of rivers, lakes, and groundwater. 90% of the population lives no more than 10 km away from a freshwater source.
Water becomes a commodity. People claim it, Haul it, and Treasure it.
Global Water Crisis
In the world, Kuwait is one of the poorest countries in terms of water per capita; it has water about 10 meters per cube. In contrast to Canada, one of the richest have 10,000 meters per cube, i.e. a thousand times more than Kuwait.
But most of the freshwater is easily accessible from the surface water, or groundwater. For decades surface water, in maximum countries have been treated as a public resource that is in abundance, and a key for a developed nation. A new data released by WRI’s adequate tools shows 17 countries on the globe are undergoing a very high-stress baseline.
Mexico City gets enough rain to meet its population’s demand, but since the lakes collecting the water is long dried; leaving no space for rainwater to accumulate. So it floods. But water is still needed to reach the citizen, so the city pumps it from the groundwater.
In the few last decades, we have got a lot better in fetching groundwater. But there’s a catch.
Groundwater and water crisis globally
The deposits of groundwater are known as ‘aquifers’. These aquifers take millennia to fill, and once we use them all up, it would again take millennia to refill. Sucking up the aquifers have another side effect too. It compresses the soil resulting in the sinking of the land.
Mexico takes half of its water from aquifers and is most likely to lose half of the aquifer’s water flexibly by 2030-50. NASA satellite data dictates that aquifers in northern India are decreasing by 29 trillion in just a decade.
With the increasing water consumption, rain, and snow that we rely on for refilling these precious aquifers are getting lesser reliable. Climate change and global warming are making the availability much erratic with areas experiencing more extended dry periods than before.
Where do most of the water go?
The problem ain’t how much water we are using but where are we using our liquid gold?
Our daily usage of water accounts just for 8% of total water usage. 70% of it, used in agriculture, and the rest 22% in industries. For example, Alfalfa is the most basic ingredient in cattle food; for the sake of growing just 1 kg of alfalfa 510 liters of water are being used. Arid California uses over 2 trillion gallons of water a year to grow it which they fetch from Colorado river.
Just a fraction of water used by South Africa’s wine industry would be more than enough for Cape Town’s faucets. India and China grow most of their water extensive crops in some of their driest regions like sugarcane and wheat.
Problems arising due to global water crisis
The Bank Goldman Sachs predicted that water would be petroleum of the 21st century. Private funds; Hedge funds have already started buying water for making a profit in scarcity.
The global water crisis has already driving violent conflicts around the world. It is in the heart of ongoing conflicts in Darfur since 2003. Some analysts even say that the Syrian Civil war was caused in large parts due to the server drought in 2006.
Cutting the Gordian Knot
The government can raise prices for spreading awareness amongst people. Since every person needs about 60 liters of water on average, daily, but above that people have to pay extra. The benefit of valuing water should be sent as a price signal that one should not grow water extensive crops in arid regions.
The government can try decoupling water with economic growth. In 2017 Philadelphia started experimenting with tying water prices to income. In Australia water consumption reduced by 40% while the economy grew by 30% between 2001 and 2009.
Remember Cape Town? After once running out of the water, the town finds what is the cost of water truly is. By early 2018 the town’s water consumption reduced more than half compared to 2014; Pausing the day zero countdown clock indefinitely.
Cherishing the value of an un-valuable resource
Water isn’t like any petroleum or any other commodity on earth; without it, we die. UN recognized access to water as basic human rights; which makes it an exceptionally hard problem, but it also challenges people to solve it in exceptional ways.
Remember our fate is tied to what flows out of our taps. It is very important to recover our historical consciousness with water. There are many actions we can take but also have to be aware that water holds a value.