“When the well is dry, we know the worth of the water” – Benjamin Franklin.
Water is the most essential thing for all the creatures on the planet. It is the natural resource which is liberally used by many of them. The earth isn’t biased in replenishing it. Undoubtedly, the human kind is overusing (and exploiting) the water resources, and some scientists say that all natural calamities on the earth are only nature’s retaliation to such human attitude on the use and consumption of water.
Throughout the history water has confronted humanity with some of its greatest challenges. Water is a source of life and a natural resource that sustains our environment and supports livelihoods but the water sources and supply lines have become vulnerable. In the early twenty first century, prospects for human development are threatened by a deepening global water crisis.
The United Nations forecasts world population growth of 1 billion in the next decade and 2 billion in the next two decades. This is the growth that will place immense demands when placed against the constraints of time, water and funds and the lack of plans to manage droughts ,assure that the world faces a serious water crisis. When the population was under control, people had abundant resources to be relinquished upon. But when the world’s population tripled in the Twentieth century, the use of the renewable water resources has grown six-fold. Within the next fifty years, the world’s population will increase by another 40% to 50%. The development coupled up with urbanisation, the demand for water has grown multifold.
As known, water scarcity is the lack of freshwater resources to meet water demand. It affects every continent and was listed in 2019 by the World Economic Forum as one of the largest global risks in terms of potential impact over the next decade. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round.
“There is water crisis today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people and the environment- suffer badly”- World water vision report
As a result of the growing population, a water stress has been created. What is this water stress?. It is an imbalance between the water use and water resources. In other words, it measures the proportion of water withdrawal with respect to total renewable resources. It is a criticality ratio, which implies that water stress depends on the variability of the resources. Water stress causes deterioration of fresh water resources in terms of quantity (over exploitation) and quality (eutrophication). The value off this criticality ratio that indicates high water stress is based on expert judgement and experience (Alcamo and others 1999). It ranges between 20% for basins with highly variable run off and 60% for temperate zone basins to indicate high water stress. This situation is heterogeneous all over the world.
Some ‘Milestones’ of the Global Water Crisis
1700s to 1800s – Industrialisation leads to an increased urbanisation highlighting the need for clean water supplies and sanitation
1800s- Water shortages first appear in the records
1854 – Dr. John Snow discovers the link between the water and the spread of cholera in London
1972 – U.S. Clean water act updates 1948 legislation to control water pollution and funds construction of sewage treatment plans
1993 – U. N. General Assembly designates March 22nd every year as World Water Day
Unknown but Global Facts in Water Crisis
-844 million people lack access to clean and sanitised water which means 1 in every 10 people around the world lack access to clean water
-An average woman in Africa walks 6 km to just haul 40 pounds of water.
-Everyday more than 800 children under age 5 die relating to water-borne diseases.
-892 million people practice open defecation due to lack of water.
-Finally, 90% of all natural disasters are water- related.
After a deep scrutiny of the above facts, one can depose that the communities of people are locked in poverty. To everyone’s dismay, women and children are the most affected. The children are the most vulnerable to the dirty water and women around the globe spend 200 million hours each day in carrying water. We cannot spot any village around the world, without a woman in a garbed cloth or a layered pot, carrying gallons of water.
Man is inadvertently using water ensuing a world which is surely devoid of water or water only to asperse. With the current state of affairs, correcting measures still can be taken to avoid the crisis to be worsening. There is an increasing awareness that our fresh water resources are limited and need to be protected both in terms of quantity and quality. This water challenge affects not only the water community, but also decision makers and every human being.
Water markets and increase in irrigation efficiency will do little to meet the needs of growing water demand. Reallocations will have far-reaching social repercussions. The time constraints dictate that the situation be addressed with a greater sense of urgency and that proven measures, although controversial, should be properly implemented, while studies would concentrate on approaches that can realistically offer significant help in the following decades.
“Clean water and access to food are some of the simplest things that we can take for granted each and everyday. In places like Africa, these can be some of the hardest resources to attain if you live in a rural area” – Marcus Samuelson
Strategies for Better Adoption of Water
Saving water resources:
Water is being used in umpteen places. The places might be different starting from agriculture to domestic use. Almost everywhere , water is wasted and as long as people are not facing water scarcity, they believe access to water is an obvious and natural thing. With urbanisation and changes in lifestyle, water consumption is bound to increase. Changes in food habits should be welcomed for saving water resources. For example, 1 kg of potatoes require 100 litres of water whereas 1 kg of beef requires 13000 litre.
Improving drinking water supply:
Water should be celebrated. It should be on top and great priority. One of the main objectives of the World Water council is to increase awareness of he water issue. Decision-makers at all levels must be implicated. One of the Millenium Development Goals was to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation. To achieve this aim following actions can be undertaken.
-The responsibility of the water must be decentralised
-Financing and funding can be improved
-Monitoring and evaluating water resources
-Everyone must be guaranteed the right to water
Nationalisation of rivers and improving transboundary cooperation:
We often see that the monsoons are sometimes very heavy, inundating each crevices of a land in one part of the country. At the same time, the lands at the other corner of the country may have parched and desiccated lands owing to a greater drought. As far as transboundary conflicts are concerned, regional economic development and culture preservation can all be strengthened by states co operating water. Instead of a trend towards war, water management can be viewed as a trend towards cooperation and peace. Many initiatives are launched to avoid crises. Institutional commitments like the Senegal river are created. In 2001, UNESCO and Grenn cross International have joined forces in response to the growing threat of conflicts linked to water. They joined the joint from Potential Conflicts to co-operation Potential programme to promote peace in the use of transboundary watercourses by addressing conflicts and fostering co-operation among states.
Awareness to be instilled in the minds of sapiens:
Increased awareness by citizens of the urban areas is very much crucial. Solving this crisis means that each citizen must be aware of the crisis and take part in proper conservation, stopping water misusage, and eliminating usage of bottled water. Development of community level water harvesting structures should be followed to reduce the pressure from groundwater and to supply water for human consumption.
Cape Town in South Africa will have a ‘ Day zero’ in near future, when at least a million homes in the city will no longer have any running water. They have faced a drought continuously for three years. No person in Cape Town is allowed to flush potable water and they are supplied only with 13 gallons of water everyday. Today Cape Town , tomorrow it might be us.
Access to clean water changes everything. It is touch stone to measure any country’s development. The change is possible only by the citizens of any domicile. By improvising the water culture, it helps in improving the lifestyle of women and children who are the most vulnerable. When the water is made available to everyone throughout the year, the time spent carrying water by women might face a stunted growth which in turn will be transformed into a quality time. It will surely improve the quality of the life they lead. When people gain access to clean water, they are better able to practice good hygiene and sanitation. With the growing population and depletion of fresh water resources, Water may become unavailable in the span of another 25 to 30 years. Let us start conservation right now, and stand as an example in throwing light to the fact, “Better late than never”. Start today, make water available even to the next, new generation.
“Water is everybody’s business” – Second World Water Forum
-Ramyasree D (One of the Prize Winners of Article Writing Competition 2020 in the 25-44 Years Age Group)
Picture Credits: greencleanguide.com