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The Impending Global Water Crisis

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    The Impending Global Water Crisis

                Water is considered as one of the essential components that nature has given to man. Water is also one of the basic necessities for man’s survival. Though it is tasteless, odorless and does not have much of the vitamins and minerals that foods have, water is essential in nourishing our body so that the body can function properly. However, the growing population and environmental factors have negatively affected water supply around the world. There might emerge a global water crisis unless man does something to prevent it from happening.

    Importance and Uses of Water

                Water is very important in such a way that it regulates all of the body’s functions. Without enough water in the body system, a human body may suffer from major diseases (Woven). Humans lose water through sweat, urine and feces. For the body to continue working properly and to avoid chronic dehydration, water that is lost must be replaced. In a hot weather, water will cool the body down and lower the core temperature. Thus, it is important to drink eight or more glasses of water a day in order to maintain good health (Bryant). Moreover, water helps in digesting and absorbing food, in maintaining muscle tone, in lubricating joints, in moistening tissues for eyes, nose and mouth, and in flushing out wastes. The body cells are healthy due to oxygen and nutrients that are supplied by water. It is also important to get rid of the body wastes and to keep the internal body system clean. Water is also considered as the body’s natural air conditioning system (Quiles, S. and D. Quiles). Water has also been proven effective in losing weight as it lessens appetite and enables the body to metabolize stored fat. Moreover, water is essential in relieving constipation and is considered as the best treatment for fluid retention (qtd.in Quiles, S. and D. Quiles).

    The uses of water vary greatly. There are offstream and instream uses of water. In offstream, water is removed or withdrawn from its source through diversion or pumping. Examples of offstream uses are municipal, commercial and domestic, irrigation and industrial (see Figure 1).

    (Figure 1. Offstream uses of water in the United States in 1995.)

    Source: Perlman

    Municipal and commercial uses include fresh water for establishments like restaurants, hotels, office buildings, and civilian and military institutions. Domestic uses of water include washing and cleaning. In the United States alone, the largest category of water use is agriculture, irrigation in particular.  Irrigation uses water for farms, horticultural crops, orchards, and even pastures. Parks and golf courses, cemeteries and nurseries and all landscape irrigations make use of water. In fact, water in irrigation is very important as seen in the large amount of fresh water needed and used to harvest crops for world consumption (see figure 2).

           (Figure 2: Distribution of water use. Source: BBC News).

    Aside from these, water is needed for livestock. Stock animals, fish farms and dairies must be supplied with plenty of water. Water is also needed to produce red meat, eggs, milk, and poultry and for other animals. Only fresh water is used for livestock purposes (Perlman).

    Another area where water is needed is mining. Mining activities such as milling, which includes washing and flotation, and quarrying need saline water. Moreover, water is needed for the extraction of minerals, solids, liquids and gases. Another category of offstream uses is public supply wherein public and private water suppliers withdraw water for delivery to commercial and domestic establishments. This includes water needed for municipal water works and for commercial and other purposes. Furthermore, thermoelectric power needs water to produce electric power from heat. Heat source may be from geothermal or fossil fuels. Fossil fuel power plants usually reuse water.

    Instream uses, on the other hand, depict that water remains where it is. Water is very important for instream uses, which is why a reservation of water is used for instream purposes. It is a water right which aims to protect instream water uses for recreation and fish spawning and other activities. Through this water right, water for instream uses is made available and later keeps water users from using water that may affect instream activities. Through AS 46.15.145, certain parts of lakes or streams are available for instream uses. This includes the protection of fish and wildlife habitat, migration and propagation. Moreover, sanitation and water quality is included in the permissible instream uses. It also includes navigation and transportation and recreation and parks (“Reserving Water for Instream Use”).

    Water in the whole world may be finite, but with the growing population, people suffer from a limited supply. Many say that water acts as a main component in determining man’s quality of life (Quiles, S. and D. Quiles). Not only that, man determines where he can live through the availability of water. Despite the fact that there is plenty of fresh water that the Earth has to offer, man sees that water is not always available when and where he needs it and is not always of suitable quality. Furthermore, results from studies in the past have shown that in certain parts of the world, people are experiencing water crisis.

    Water Crisis

    The Earth is covered with more than 70% of water. However, only 1% of this is available as drinking water for humans. This means that water is not just a luxury but a necessity. What is sad about this is that some of the people’s activities contaminate human’s limited source of drinking water. Humans are at risk of dehydration. In addition, not humans alone are dependent on water for survival; all living things need water, including plants and animals.

    Pollution and disease affect water consumption around the world, especially in water-stressed countries. Between the years 1900 and 1995, water consumption raised six fold. This shows that the water consumption rose twice as fast as the population growth rate. It continues to grow as industry, farming and domestic demands for water have escalated.

    Pollution affects the availability of potable water in such a way that the amount of useable water declines when pollution increases. As a result, more than five million people around the world die annually due to waterborne diseases.  This is not just the problem, as such; agriculture also makes use of seventy percent of the water used around the world.  With the ballooning population, much water will be needed to feed people. The population is expected to rise from 6 billion today to 8.9 billion by 2050 (Kirby).

    It seems that people in poverty usually suffer the most from water crisis. In Africa alone, poor people have to walk miles just to get water. Another option is to buy water that is suitable for drinking, but poor people do not have means to avail of fresh water daily. Around the world, almost two billion people do not have access to clean water, who are mostly from poor countries. Shortage of water only worsens poverty, disease and early death (Segerfeldt).

    However, some say that there is really no water shortage since only eight percent of water available for human consumption is used. The problems are bad policies. The public sector, which manages 97 percent of all water distribution in water-stressed and poor countries, is responsible for the water shortages among the poor (Segerfeldt). In 2000, an estimate of $100 billion a year is needed to resolve water shortages among the countries. The amount is staggering that only the private sector can provide it. Even if there is money, spending it wisely is another problem to tackle (Kirby).

    It is a common knowledge that an area cannot develop if there is no sufficient supply of water or if demand for water exceeds available supply. The World Bank states that demand for water doubles every 21 years. In some regions or countries, the demand is even higher. With this scenario, it seems impossible to keep up with the demand.

    To address this issue, some businessmen, governments and private agencies resorted to business for help. It seemed a good idea as it generated good results in poor countries. The demand for water has also encouraged businesses to improve their distribution of clean and safe water. With the privatization of water distribution, along with better access to capital, competence and better incentives, water distributors improved the quality of water and the scope of distribution. Now millions of people can have clean and safe water delivered to them (Segerfeldt).

    However, this move of the private distributors of water was challenged. Those who were anti-privatization, such as local protesters and anti-business non-governmental organizations and unions from the West, staged violent protests and rallies against the privatization of water. They think that through privatization, the price of distributed water will increase. This means that poor people cannot afford it. This is true, because the price of water in some private distributors increased after being privatized. However, this should not be the main concern. Instead, governments must prioritize those who do not have immediate access to clean water, specifically the poor from the poorest countries who die from waterborne diseases. As in the common case, poor people buy low-quality water from vendors, and they pay around 12 times than for water from private distributors. Sometimes they pay even more (Segerffeldt).

    Another argument of those who were anti-privatization is that water should be handled democratically. This means that water distribution should be in the hands of the government and not to the private sector. They explain that water is a human right, and if people do not have it, they will die. Through the government, they say, distribution of water will be handled in a good way, as opposed to private distributors who seek profit from their business.

    These arguments and the protests and rallies had an effect on the privatization and the larger scope of water distribution through the enterprise and market. Privatization slowed down. Although in some countries privatization was difficult, and there were other problems associated with it, people should think of how to make privatization better (Segerfeldt).

    Impact of Population on Global Water Concern

    Population growth was seen as the primary cause of global water concern among countries. Around the world, population increases by around 80 million each year. This implies that the demand for clean and safe water also increases. In certain parts of the world, there are countries which are water-stressed, wherein the annual supply of water drops below 1,700 cubic meters per person. If water supply drops below 1,000 cubic meters for each person for a particular country, that country experiences water shortage (Hinrichsen). Two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to be water-stressed by 2025 (Kirby).

    The Population Action International (PAI) calculated water stress and scarcity in 1997. They released an update for the year 1997, and projections for the years 2025 and 2050. The results were quite unbelievable. In 1995, PAI estimated that 31 countries experience water stress or scarcity on a regular basis. PAI’s projection shows that almost 50 countries will face water shortages by 2025. For 2050, the projection shows that 40 per cent of the estimated world population of 9.4 billion, living in 54 countries, will face water shortages. Other estimates show how bad the situation is since 2000. UNEP declares that come 2025, almost two billion people will experience water scarcity and over 5 billion will experience water shortages (Hinrichsen).

    Through the Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems, the World Resources Institute found out that 41 per cent of the world’s population, which is 2.3 billion people, can be found in water-stressed regions. Almost two billion from this total is living in countries where water is scarce. Moreover, the number of people living under water stress condition can increase to 3.5 billion, with 2.4 billion of them projected to be living in water scarce condition (Hinrichsen).

    Although some countries may seem water-rich, the river basin perspective will show that these countries are running out of water. For instance, the United States is water-rich, with an allowance of 8.838 cubic meters for each person per year. However, the crowded Colorado River Basin can only provide over 2,000 cubic meters for each person per year. The Rio Grande River Basin, on the other hand, can only provide 621 cubic meters for each person per year (Hinrichsen).

     Despite the gravity of the situation, added by the rising standards of living, people consume more water. If population reaches nine billion or more by 2050, the source of water will be a big problem for countries. To make matters worse, the worsening desertification concerns many countries. Desertification is the degradation of lands in arid dry regions, which is caused by human activities and change in climate. In turn, water quality is affected in many areas around the world. Added to this is the salinity brought by industrial farming in some areas. Moreover, many people still dump wastes into bodies of water. Furthermore, climate change will make the situation worse than that it already is. With the drastic increase in temperature and the melting of winter snow packs, there will be less water available for farms and cities during summer when demand for water is high.

    Solutions

                Water shortage concerns everyone. It is something that will have drastic effects on people and the environment. Although there is no single and easy way to resolve the water crisis, several solutions have been brought into consideration to prevent negative effects from materializing. First is the desalination, a process of removing excess salt and other minerals from water. Through desalination, water can be made available for consumption for humans and for irrigation. It is appropriate in places where the availability of water is limited.

                Another prospective solution is a market approach to water management. This approach is supposed to alleviate tensions between politics and security which further worsen international affairs. Furthermore, people look into providing solution to the population as a way to resolve water crisis. Besides slowing population growth, pollution reduction, management of supply and demand and water conservation are being studied as remedy. New technology can also help to resolve this problem by cleaning pollution and thus making water useable to people. If pollution will be solved, water use in agriculture will be far more efficient. Planting drought-resistant plants will also help. Furthermore, drip irrigation is seen as another solution because it cuts the amount of water needed. Even low-pressure sprinkles and the building of earth walls to trap rainfall are considered helpful.

    On a personal level, it is perhaps helpful that each person is aware of the global water crisis so that his or her concerns are put into perspective. Every individual should be guided in his or her decision by the awareness that water is a valuable natural source that can be depleted if not used efficiently and wisely.

    Man will not survive without water. It is a basic need that must be met in order for man to live. Water is needed for bodily functions such as: regulating body temperature; lubricating joints; moistening tissues for mouth, eyes and nose; protecting body organs and tissues; carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells; helping flush out waste products from kidneys and liver, and; dissolving minerals and other nutrients to make them accessible to the body. Water is also used in many ways. It can be categorized into offstream and instream uses. In offstream, the water is withdrawn from the source. The uses can be municipal, commercial, industrial, domestic, public supply and irrigation. Instream uses, on the other hand, include fish spawning, recreation, transportation and navigation, and protection of natural habitat.

    The water shortages that people experience are brought about by many factors. One of these is the growing population which has the heaviest impact on the decreasing supply of water. The poorest people from underdeveloped countries suffer the most because they do not have the means and access to clean and safe water. Water shortage has been attributed to the rising number of people who died from waterborne diseases. Aside from the population, other factors include pollution and climate change.

    Privatization was perceived as the solution. Through privatization, private sectors and businesses distribute clean water. However, this was challenged by anti-privatization unions and organizations because the price of water will increase if distribution is in the hands of private distributors. Democratic is the way it should be done because water is a human right and everyone should have it. Other solutions include desalination, market approach to water management, slowing population growth, pollution reduction, new technologies and water conservation.

    Works Cited

    BBC News. N.d. “Soaring Use.” 28 November 2008. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/04/sci_nat_world_water_crisis/html/2.stm>.

    Bryant, Charles W. 11 February 2008. “How Long Can You Go Without Food and Water?” HowStuffWorks.com, 27 November 2008 <http://health.howstuffworks.com/live-without-food-and-water.htm>.

    Hinrichsen, Don. 31 March 2008. “Freshwater: Lifeblood of the Planet.” People and the Planet. 28 November 2008 <http://www.peopleandplanet.net/doc.php?id=671&section=14>.

    Kirby, Alex. 19 October 2004. “Water Scarcity: A Looming Crisis?” BBC News, 27 November 2008 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3747724.stm>.

    Perlman, Howard. 2007. “Uses of Water.” Advameg, Inc.. 27 November 2008 <http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Tw-Z/Uses-of-Water.html>.

    Quiles, Sandi and Darrin Quiles. 1996-2008. “The Importance of Water.” AlphaOmega Marketing. 27 November 2008 <http://www.aomega.com/mpure/water.htm>.

    “Reserving Water for Instream Use.” 22 October 2008. Alaska Department of Natural Resources. 27 November 2008 <http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/water/instream.htm>.

    Segerfeldt, Fredrik. 25 August 2005. “Private Water Saves Lives.” CATO Institute. 27 November 2008 <http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=4462>.

    Woven, Kevyn. N.d. “The Importance of Water.” Frank Singer and Naked Kitty Productions. 27 November 2008 < http://www.franksinger.com/importance_of_water.htm>.

     

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