Seventy percent of the surface of our planet is covered by water, so it’s easy to assume there’s plenty of it to drink, cook, and bathe with. It’s time we all threw that assumption out with, well, the bathwater.
Less than three percent of the water covering the earth is freshwater, and the bulk of that freshwater isn’t accessible. This is one of the reasons why humans in many parts of the world rely on extremely limited water resources.
Though we all rely on water for our survival, we also contribute to the rise of water scarcity. The vitality of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of freshwater is threatened by a variety of causes, many of which are the result of human activity. These include pollution, climate change, industrial agricultural practices, unsustainable energy production, and population growth. The end result is that more and more people around the globe face water shortages.
While water scarcity is predominantly a man-made creation, we also have the capacity to develop solutions to mitigate the rise of water scarcity. Read on to learn more about water scarcity plus some of the exciting ways people are reducing it.
What is water scarcity?
At its simplest, the term water scarcity refers to insufficient access to the water resources necessary to sustain a region. The term applies to both human activities such as drinking and cooking, as well as the healthy functioning of an ecosystem. Water scarcity can range from a challenging but manageable water shortage such as in the Greater London area or the High Plains in the U.S. to a full-blown water crisis such as in Flint, MI or Durban, South Africa.
When it comes to the human experience of water scarcity, the term is divided into two categories: physical water scarcity and economic water scarcity. As you may expect, physical water scarcity refers to a lack of available water resources relative to its demand. Economic water scarcity refers to limited water access resulting from insufficient financial resources to access, store, and/or distribute water to homes, business, and so on.
If you grew up with unlimited access to water resources, it’s easy feel less connected to the gravity of water scarcity. However, water scarcity affects every continent at an increasingly alarming rate.
According to a 2016 study, at least two-thirds of the world’s population—a tremendous number of four billion people—already live with severe water scarcity for at least one month each year. In addition to this, 500 million people live in regions where humans consume water at twice the rate it is replenished by rain, particularly in China and India. For those regions that fall into this category, severe water shortages are all but guaranteed in the future.
The situation is so serious that the World Economic Forum now ranks the water crises as one of the top biggest risks to humanity and human economics. The people most vulnerable to water scarcity today live in India and China, while the problem also affects dozens of …