Clean water, a necessity for all but not available to all at present. Water scarcity is a serious issue demanding our attention. As numbers suggest around 700 million people around the world do not have enough clean water for drinking, sanitation and other requirements. This number is expected to reach 3 billion by 2025 because of different factors. The demand of water is increasing day by day due to a rise in population, global warming and hence the resulting change in climate across the world.
World water scenario is changing at a steep rate. No country or community will be sheltered from the growing water shortage. People will have to resort to extreme measures like relocation from one place to another. Urbanization and industrialization is polluting existing surface and groundwater resources. Increasing demands of growth and development are causing water tables to decline at an alarming rate and agricultural lands are losing their fertility and nutrients (“Water”).
The crisis of freshwater shortage affects 31 countries presently and is expected to upset 48 countries by 2025 (Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”; Editor’s summary).
Figure 5 (Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”) shows population in water scarce countries, 1995-2050. Conflicts as a consequence of above mentioned circumstances are inevitable. The big question is how can everyone have sufficient clean water without conflict? Water extraction rate from natural resources like lakes, rivers and underground water wells is faster than their replenishment rate.
Figure 1(Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”) below shows links between population and freshwater and figure 2 (Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”) below shows distribution of world’s water and availability of freshwater. Population growth in countries like Ethiopia, Pakistan, China, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Peru will have adverse effects on their water resources. More population means more food requirements and hence more agricultural irrigation.
To make things worse existing resources are being turned into waste disposals by ever increasing industrialization, urbanization and rising use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture. Conservation of water and proper management of the available resources is very important to avoid the coming global hard times (Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”; Editor’s summary). Figure 4 (Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”) shows rising water use. Struggle and conflicts for water among people are unavoidable. Situation is no different in developed and developing countries.
Developed countries like Belgium, Great Britain, Poland, Singapore, and North America are already feeling water stress. It becomes difficult for rivers and groundwater resources in UK to satisfy the augmented water demands of summer heat. Similarly in USA, agricultural requirements are fighting for their share with urban needs of water. Different states in India are fighting for their share of water bodies. Chinese farmers are sacrificing their water needs to feed urban demands of cities. Less water for irrigation means less food grains production and eventually a global food crisis.
Shared water resources among countries will add to this fight. For instance Africa, where the conditions are already worse, will see different countries fighting for the Nile, Zambezi, Niger, and Volta river basins to meet their water needs. Similarly Aral Sea Basin for Central Asia and rivers like Amu Darya and Syr Darya will be a subject of conflict among Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The US and Mexico also share cold space over the Colorado River (Hinrichsen, Robey and Upadhyay “Solutions for a Water-Short World”; Ch. 3. 3 ).