We live on a water planet. Around 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but only about 3% is potable — and two-thirds of that is frozen in the planet’s polar ice caps. The planetary population of nearly 8 billion people has to exist on just 1% of the planet’s water. As the population grows and global warming continues, safe and potable water is becoming harder to obtain.
Water shortages and scarcities are becoming more common every year. Two billion people live in what the WHO considered ‘water-stressed countries.’ Millions of people worldwide have to source their water from untreated surface sources like lakes and rivers or unprotected wells that have the potential for contamination.
These sound like problems that the average person might expect to see in the developing world, but water shortages are becoming a more frequent problem. The United States has 204 freshwater basins that help supply fresh drinking water to most of the country. By 2021, experts expect that more than half of them could experience severe shortages. Within the next 50 years, experts estimate that the water supply for the United States could shrink to a third of its current size.
The combination of climate change, extreme droughts and other challenges mean that no matter where you live, in the next few decades, you may find yourself facing a water shortage.
What can we do to prevent water shortages in the future?
Sustainable water management practices will be an integral part of preventing future water shortages. These practices include but aren’t limited to water conservation and solar-powered desalination programs such as providing fresh water to people in Kenya. The agricultural sector also needs to look for more efficient ways to use and recycle water. Currently, modern agriculture is the biggest consumer of water worldwide, accounting for more than 70% of global water usage.
Permitting the practice of rainwater harvesting can also help to prevent water shortages. While it isn’t enough to supply all of a community’s water needs, it can help to supplement other sources. Unfortunately, this practice is highly regulated in some parts of the country. In Nevada, for example, landowners must obtain a water grant, while in others, it’s only legal if the collection system is designed and installed by a professional engineer.
On the other side of the coin are pollution control and sewage treatment. Water is just as essential for hygiene and human health. Sewage becomes a breeding ground for waterborne illnesses without proper treatment and sanitation. Supporting proper sanitation treatments can help prevent water scarcity by preventing otherwise potable sources from being contaminated by sewage.
Finally, we need to focus on awareness and education. It’s easy for the general public to ignore the problem of water scarcity when it doesn’t directly impact them. Still, it’s a reality for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Water scarcity awareness and education need to be available and accessible for everyone.
Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, the human race will be around for a while — and we’ll need clean, safe water to drink. Preventing water shortages in the future is an essential step toward preserving the future. In simple terms, that means securing clean water resources, improving sewage treatment and sanitation and ensuring that everyone — regardless of the country they call home, understands the impact of water scarcity and what might happen if we allow it to run out.
Our most significant responsibility as humans on this planet is to ensure that we can preserve it for future generations. Without water, survival for future generations is all but impossible.
See more posts from Jane Marsh at environment.co
You liked what you read ? Leave a comment.