Global Issues

Understanding the Global Water Crisis: Causes and Consequences

Understanding the Global Water Crisis: Causes and Consequences

Water is essential to life. It covers 71% of the area of the Earth and makes up a significant portion of the human body. It is necessary for drinking, farming, manufacturing, and maintaining ecosystems. But despite its abundance, the world is dealing with an imminent threat – a global water crisis. This crisis, caused by a lack of water, pollution, and unequal distribution, severely threatens the health of people and the planet. To effectively address this critical issue, it is essential to have a solid understanding of its causes and effects.

What’s Causing The Global Water Crisis?

Our current water problem has several underlying reasons, affecting everything from crops to public health. Here are the major causes of the global water crisis:

the global water crisis

1. Changes in climate

Climate change is one of the major causes of the world water crisis, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Water-stressed areas like Somalia’s decade-plus drought or Bangladesh’s worsening monsoons are most vulnerable to climate change. As the climate problem worsens, these resources are used up even faster. 

Deforestation, one of the main reasons for climate change, makes “heat islands” that affect the land around them. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, floods have caused 80% of farms to lose quality due to climate change. In contrast, rising sea levels contaminate freshwater sources, making them unfit for consumption.

2. Natural Disasters

According to UNICEF, 75% of natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related, climate change or not. This includes droughts and storms, which can destroy or pollute communities’ clean water sources. This prevents people from drinking clean water and increases the risk of diarrhoea. As climate change continues to affect us, we can expect these things to happen more often.

3. War and Conflict

Syria’s infrastructure has been destroyed by the ongoing conflict, which has led to a water problem in a well-developed middle-class country. This is a significant danger to the health of the millions of Syrians still living in their country. Armed groups have attacked village water points and wells in the Central African Republic, where there has been a long-lasting war. Just like hunger can be used as a tool of war, so can water.

4. Wastewater

Let’s talk about contaminated water and its role in the global water crisis: There can be a lot of water in some places. But the question of whether or not that water is safe to drink is a different one. Wastewater, used for washing dishes or industrial processes, must be better managed in many countries. 

The UN estimates that 1.8 billion people use water contaminated by feces, chemicals, or other toxic contaminants because 44% of household wastewater is reused without treatment, and 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem. Cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio are among the world’s most common diseases caused by wastewater.

5. Lack of Water Data

Data isn’t always the most exciting thing on a list, but it’s still essential: UN Water reports a global water quality data gap for over 3 billion people. These areas are at risk of using non-potable water due to other factors. Knowledge is power, and we can only solve the global water crisis by monitoring all rivers, lakes, and groundwater reserves.

6. Lack of International Cooperation On Shared Water Sources

Many bodies of water are shared by multiple countries, making them joint property. According to the latest UN Sustainable Development Goals update, only 24 countries report cooperative arrangements for all internationally shared rivers, lakes, and groundwater sources. This means that even if one country follows all the protocols to clean its side of a lake, it may not matter if the waters on the other side are not.

7. Lack Of Infrastructure

It’s not that countries want to mess up how they handle their water. Through deliberate destruction or unwitting mismanagement, many governments need more infrastructure to invest in their water resources, allowing clean water to reach those who need it. 

The US loses about $470 billion yearly because of insufficient water. Even though water infrastructure costs a lot of money, most people must realize how important water is. Water is “capital intensive, long-lived with high sunk costs,” according to the UN High-Level Panel on Water. It needs a significant starting investment and a long time to pay off.

8. Forced Migration and The Refugee Crisis

We faced unprecedented displacement before the Ukraine crisis uprooted 10 million people. Informal refugee settlements in many of the world’s largest host communities can strain infrastructure due to high population density. 

People often flee conflict or other crises by crossing the nearest open border and landing in areas with similar climate events or resource strains. This is why Concern’s emergency response plans include water trucking.

Consequences of the Global Water Crisis:

Consequences of water crisis

The following are the significant consequences of the global water crisis:

  • Human health: When people don’t have clean water, diseases that spread through water kill millions of people yearly. Dirty water can cause diseases like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid to spread.
  • Food Security: Agriculture depends significantly on water. When there isn’t enough water or enough of it when it’s needed, crops can’t grow. This causes food shortages, higher food prices, and hunger, especially in already weak areas.
  • Economic Impact: The water crisis affects the economy because it affects agriculture, energy, and manufacturing industries. Droughts can cause energy production to go down, food yields to go down, and production costs to go up, all of which hurt budgets on all levels.
  • Environmental Degradation: Depleted and contaminated water supplies harm ecosystems and biodiversity. Loss of refuge and pollution hurt aquatic species, which is bad for biodiversity.
  • Social unrest: In places where water is hard to acquire, competition for this vital resource can lead to social problems and even violence. It can make things worse and cause new problems.
  • Migration and Displacement: When water is scarce, people may have to move to find better places to live. This can lead to mass displacement and refugee crises. This is likely to get worse over the next few years.
  • Resource Wars: As water becomes less available, there is a chance that countries will fight over the water resources they share, especially in river areas that flow through more than one country.

Addressing the Global Water Crisis:

Managing the global water crisis is a collective authority that demands unified initiatives from governments, organizations, and individuals. Here are some important steps to help ease the situation:

  • Sustainable Water Management: Use sustainable water management techniques to ensure water resources are used properly and protect the environment.
  • Invest in infrastructure: Build and keep water infrastructure to ensure everyone can access clean water, especially in places without enough.
  • Conservation: Encourage people and businesses to use water wisely so that less water is wasted.
  • Controlling pollution: Ensure that rules and best practices are followed to reduce water pollution from factories and farms.
  • Climate Action: Take steps to stop climate change so that the weather stays stable and there are fewer floods and droughts.
  • Education and Awareness: Tell people how important it is to save and use water sensibly.
  • International Cooperation: Encourage countries to work together to handle water supplies that cross borders peacefully and fairly.

The world water disaster is a complicated issue, but it can be fixed if everyone cooperates and takes some responsibility. Understanding the causes and effects is the first step to creating sustainable, water-secure solutions for all.

RELATED: An Open Letter to Earth: Our Precious Home

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