Loren Eisley was once quoted, “if there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” It is one of the few things that almost all known life needs to function, can be found on every continent and is one of the first things that scientists look for when trying to find life in outer space. Water is one of the most vital resources of our planet. And yet water scarcity in on a global rise.
The Blue Planet
Earth is the Blue Planet. Over 70% of Earth’s surface is covered with water. However, a lot of this water is not of great use to us, the water that sustains the majority of life is fresh water, and this is much harder to find, only 3% of the world’s water is fresh and a lot of this is not accessible, locked away in glaciers and ice shelves. Now, there is no less and no more water than there ever has been on Earth, water scarcity is not a system in which there is less water but less access to useable water. Water scarcity involves changes in the distribution of water, the number of people accessing and using fresh water and pollution making fresh water sources unusable.
Quite simply the more people using a resource the less there is to share. Think of it as having a single bottle of water. If there is one person drinking from that bottle it lasts a lot longer. If there are five people the water runs out a lot faster and not everyone gets enough. The global human population has been increasing since the 1300s and has boomed within the last hundred years, however the amount of available water has not increased. So, going back to that bottle analogy you now have 7.7 billion people drinking, bathing, growing food and manufacturing goods from the water out of that one bottle.
Rubbish in the Lakes and Trash in the Sea
Pollution is only making this worse, as water pollution levels increase the amount of available fresh water decreases. You can’t drink water sources contaminated with factory run off, garbage, sewage and pesticides. Climate change can increase the severity of water scarcity, with changes in weather patterns changing the amount and location of rainfall on certain areas. Modern agricultural practices such as growing crops in unnatural areas, water consumption in factory production and high product consumption rates are causes of water scarcity in many regions with underground aquifers drained at a rapid rate.
Water is a vital resource for life and as water scarcity increases many experts believe that conflict over water resources will spark the wars of the future. Some companies and individual brokers are already purchasing water rights, claiming that water will become the new gold within their lifetime.
The Last Drops of Water in a Thirsty World
Water scarcity is already beginning to impact many populations, with over four billion people living in an area that experiences water scarcity at least once every month. The World Economic Forum has listed water scarcity as potentially one of the largest global risks. By 2040, one in four children are predicted to be living in an area of high water stress. These regions will include major cities such as Melbourne, Sao Paulo, Beijing, Cairo, Madrid and Miami. Cape Town has already experienced looming water scarcity, coming to the brink of running out of water in both 2017 and 2018.
There is currently enough water to support the human population, it is down to how we use this water and how we share it that will determine the level of water scarcity we face in the future.
Abraham Lincoln once said that when the well is dry we will know the worth of water, let’s try to know the worth of and protect this vital resource before we use the last drop.