Overcoming water scarcity, towards sustainable development

By Wedad Saleh Abdullah

Do you know that for the water that you may consume in a wasteful way, there are those who are struggling to even find even drops of water?

Yes, there are countless people who find it difficult to get water supply easily. The lack of water resources and water pollution have become a problem that some countries in the world are faced with. And because water is the basis of life, people suffer from great difficulty in living and adapting to the water issue.

World Resources Institute reported that “Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the most water-stressed region on Earth”.

Based on its research, it has been revealed that 17 countries – home to one-quarter of the world’s population – face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80 percent of their available supply on average every year.

Forty-four countries, home to one-third of the world, face “high” levels of stress, where on average more than 40 percent of available supply is withdrawn every year. Based on that, there is such a narrow gap between supply and demand, leaving countries vulnerable to fluctuations like droughts or increased water withdrawals, which is why we’re seeing more and more communities facing their own “Day Zeros” and other crises.

What’s meant by Day Zero is when most of the city’s taps will be switched off – literally. The consequences of coming this point will be far reaching. For one, it will mean residents will have to stand in line to collect 25 litres of water per person per day.

In fact, there are many countries currently such as Yemen, California and Sao Paulo whose residents stand for a long time waiting for their turn to take water by filling in bottles and taking home after walking thousands of meters. There are also those who did not even find a safe source to take water from and were exposed to diseases and health risks because of their reliance on the only solution, which is polluted water from lakes and so on.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), “Water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people or almost one-fifth of the world’s population live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).”

UN DESA has stressed on the issue of scarcity by reminding that water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. As there is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people, but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

The aim of this article is, firstly, to raise awareness and rationalise the importance of water and how to use it. Secondly, to draw attention to the critical situation of those who suffer from the problem of water shortage.The lack of awareness and the depleting use of water without sustainable renewal will make the land an area invaded by drought that will lead to the issue of water scarcity!

What is the definition of water scarcity? Water scarcity, which can broadly be understood as the lack of access to adequate quantities of water for human and environmental uses, is increasingly being recognised in many countries as a serious and growing concern. As a result, the term ‘water scarcity’ is regularly used by the media, government reports, NGOs, international organisations such as the UN and OECD, as well as in the academic literature, to highlight areas where water resources are under pressure.

In order to overcome the issue of water scarcity, it is necessary to know first its causes which are:

  • Overusing and overpopulation: A resource becomes scarce whenever we abuse it and consume way too much of it. Most of the time, this occurs as a result of overpopulation. 
  • Pollution: Pollution is among the main cause of water scarcity. All kinds of toxic substances can easily get into our water system, and once they taint it we can no longer count on this particular freshwater source.
  • Conflicts: Those war-affected areas often face difficulties in getting to freshwater resources. Since these areas are struck by military conflicts, people who live there have to risk their lives if they want water. 
  • Droughts: This isn’t too common among the causes of water scarcity, but it can often strike certain areas of the world. Some places are more likely to be hit by droughts, while in other places, it only happens occasionally. Unfortunately, this is the only cause where there is nothing you can do about it.
  • Distance: Some people are just unlucky enough to live too far away from water. This applies to those who live in the desert or in isolated villages, and the closest source of the vital liquid is much too far away. Usually, these people also struggle with poverty, so it’s difficult for them to build a water system that really work.

After knowing the reasons, solutions must be found, which are as follows:

  • Water recycling: There are many ways all of us can make better use of water. Instead of depending on a water system, we can harvest rainwater and then use it for agricultural purposes.
  • Smarter agriculture: We consume a huge amount of water on irrigation and other agricultural practices, so we need to start by managing them properly. Instead of using excessive quantities of water, we may seek to reduce our consumption. 
  • Education: The most important way to overcome the causes of water scarcity is to educate people about it. First of all, they need to be aware that certain areas struggle with limited water resources. 

After knowing the causes of water scarcity, which is the first step towards solving this crisis as it is the main source of the problem, it will be much easier to intervene and take appropriate measures to solve it.

One step at a time towards water conservation may bring us all closer to a world where people do not have to suffer from limited water resources, and who can thrive and enjoy good health in a society where they have everything they need without the fatigue and suffering that is currently happening in some countries.***

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