The Upcoming Water Crises

For most people, demands for water are met through the turning of a tap. Water has become so easy to access that people have forgotten that they are they are privileged to have this resource on hand. Historically the quest for water has been one of the defining struggles for humans. The Nile Civilisation and the Aztecs thrived as they were built on the banks of rivers and were successful in harnessing water. Civilisations that couldn’t do this failed.

Presently there are a lot of disputes pertaining to the distribution of water like Cauvery River Water dispute etc. The water crises is a reality with certain countries claiming that they will be running out of water. Cape Town was the first to declare a “Day Zero” which is the day when water would run out. Many other cities could also be facing Day Zero including Mexico City, London and even Bengaluru. The reason this is becoming a reality is because people have taken water for granted and have treated it as a resource that will be there indefinitely.

One reason for this belief could be attributed by the fact that our planet is known as the Blue Planet. Over 75% of the Earth is covered with liquid bodies, so how is it then possible for our planet to run out of water? Let’s being clarity to this situation. When we say we are running out of water, it means that we are running out of fresh water for consumption. 97% of water that covers the earth is salty and is of no use to us. 2% of the water is trapped in the poles and is frozen which means they cannot be accessed either. This leaves just 1% of water for the entire human race and our associated activities. Most of the water is underground, making it difficult and costly for us to access, therefore for the longest time we have had to make do with lakes and other fresh water bodies. Now with the advent of technology it has become easier to access these ground water sources. But these sources should be used with great care. The water in these areas took millions of years to arrive there and hence are limited. When we use these water sources it leads to soil compression which can lead to sinking of areas. It is estimated that Mexico City has shrunk by 9cm and will shrink in the future because of rampant use of their ground water reservoir.

This brings us back to our original question, why are the water sources depleting? The first reason could be attributed to the exponential growth of the human population. More people mean greater resources are consumed in order to meet needs. People drink around seven litres of water a day for a healthy life. More people, more drinking. It also raises the use of virtual water, which is the water that is indirectly used in food production and other activities. For instance, the virtual water of a hamburger includes the water consumed by the animal, water consumed when growing of the vegetables for ingredients and every single step where water was involved however indirectly. The crux of this matter is that greater the population, greater the water consumed.

Another reason can be related to climate change and global warming. There have been a great number of droughts recorded in the past decade. This leads to evaporation of water bodies and this is clearly seen through the increasing number of geographic sinks in the world. Climate change is making the world a hotter and drier place. Consequently, rainfalls have reduced and temperature have risen leading to water shortage. A final but most important reason is water wastage. Water does not follow the rules of capitalism– although a very valuable resource and necessary for life, it is priced extremely cheaply. As a result, people are not very mindful with their water use like neglecting leaky pipes and growing water heavy crops in arid regions.

With water becoming scarce, people need to learn how to value water. One way to do this is by increasing the price of water. When the price of water increases, the value of water would rise, and people would be more mindful of their consumption. Governments would take initiatives to ensure more efficient water distribution and use. On the other hand, it could lead to greater competition and also lead to the collapse of certain businesses because of greater expenses involved with a higher price of water. The other problem with raising the price of water is that in 2010, the UN recognised water consumption as a basic human right. If the price of water is increased too much, not everyone would be able to afford it and it goes against the UN philosophy.

Alternatively, we can create a balance between value and distribution. This can be done through knowledge and awareness. Let’s take the example of Cape Town. When talks of Day Zero propped up people took a step back and became more mindful of their water consumption. This led to a decrease in water consumption by about half and pushed the date for Day Zero indefinitely. People came together and understood the value of water. If more people are made aware that water should not be wasted and used sparingly instead of liberally, we will not run out of water, nor will we have a ticking time bomb awaiting a water crises.

Picture Courtesy- www.takepart.com

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