Although most of the earth’s surface is covered with water, water shortage is a serious threat to the survival of humanity at present and in future. There is a water crisis which faces many parts of the world and it is a threat to survival of human beings since humans are primarily dependent on water. Shortage in drinking water is a major problem facing developing countries which have not taken drastic steps to harvest water and purify it to make it safe for human consumption.
However, this problem is also being increasingly felt in developed countries where the population growth has strained available water resources and stretched the ability of governments and private firms to provide safe drinking water to the population. There are many conflicts around the world where people have died or have been injured as a result of clashes over a water resource. Most of these conflicts have occurred in Asia and Africa where most developing countries are located (Gleick 17-22).
When humans clash over resources, this underscores the seriousness of the issue and calls for drastic actions to be taken to solve the problem.
Shortage of drinking water is therefore an issue which must be investigated in detail and solutions developed to curb this problem. There are various causes of shortage of drinking water and most of these are attributable to human activities. These include such activities as deforestation and pollution which contribute to global warming, misuse of the water resource and groundwater contamination among others. It is important to develop solutions to this problem if future generations are to survive. This paper aims at analyzing the shortage in drinking water resource, its causes and solutions which should be implemented to solve the problem. The discussed issues will be summarized at the end.
Shortage in drinking water
It has been discussed that there is shortage of drinking water in various regions across the world. In many developing countries, people do not have access to drinking water due to various reasons. In some cases, water resources have dried up while in others, they are polluted. As a result, there populations especially in Africa face many water-borne diseases mainly due to pollution of water resources. Human activities such as population growth and industrial activities have further strained water resources and caused a shortage of drinking water. As a result, there are many conflicts over pastures or water resources and these lead to injuries or fatalities (Gleick 17-22). As mentioned earlier, this underscores the importance of finding a solution to the problem of shortage of the water resource.
In the United States, there is pressure on available water resources since half of water collected is usually used in electricity generation, leaving the population to share the little left. There are already calls for charging water resources in order to increase efficiency of use (CQ Researcher 531-550). Although water protection has been implemented for years, there is still water pollution occurring within the United States. After the Civil war, America strived to provide its population with clean water and its water treatment system was and is still is one of the best globally. However, industrial revolution led to the pollution of water resources, leading to shortage of clean drinking water. Other external factors such as effects of global warming have also put a strain on available water resources. It is important to understand how shortage of drinking water occurs and its causes. These will be discussed in the section below;
How human beings contribute to the problem of shortage in drinking water
There are various human activities and trends which are primarily responsible for the problem of shortage of drinking water. These activities damage the environment, contaminate water sources or put pressure on water resources leading to a shortage of drinking water. Some of these will be discussed below;
Environmental pollution is one of the major causes of lack of drinking water. Pollution contaminates available water sources, making water available unsafe for human consumption. Pollution also damages the environment and causes adverse effects which result in drying up of water sources (Levy 62-67). There are three major types of pollution which will be discussed in this section and these are water and air pollution as well as contamination of ground water sources. Air pollution occurs through human activities such as burning of fuel, release of harmful gases by industries or products such as vehicles, release of greenhouse gases among others. Air pollution is a major cause of global warming since gases released into the atmosphere allow more heat to be trapped within the earth’s surface resulting in global warming.
Water pollution results from discharging waste into water sources and this is common in developing countries which do not strong laws which deter such forms of pollution. Contamination of ground water sources occurs after the use of certain chemicals including fertilizers which contaminate ground water after use, making such water toxic to humans (Upmanu et. al. 1-17). These forms of pollution reduce the amount of water resource which may be used by humans leading to a shortage in drinking water resources.
There is a very high population growth rate in many countries across the world. The average world population growth rate is over 1% and some countries especially in Africa and Asia have growth rates of over 2% per annum. A large growth rate puts pressure on available resources and causes a shortage. Human beings depend on water to live and the large population growth rate has put pressure on available water resources. Since water infrastructure and resource has generally remained constant over the years, population growth rate strains the water resource and creates a shortage in drinking water for populations across the world.
Global warming can be attributed to a large proportion of the loss of water resources. It is caused by the emission of certain gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere leading to retention of heat by the earth’s surface. This raises the average temperatures and causes adverse effects such as heat waves and melting of glaciers. Global warming causes higher evaporation of water resources due to higher temperatures on the earth’s surface. This results in the decline of availability of fresh water sources. It also leads to the drying up of water resources such as rivers and lakes due to higher temperatures. Global warming should be addressed if humans are to have fresh drinking water in the long run.
Use of water for agriculture
Agricultural activities are a major part of many countries’ economies. Many people rely indirectly or directly from agriculture. Agricultural activities heavily rely on water for sustenance. In many countries, fresh water resources are used for irrigation of crops and feeding of animals. The use of freshwater sources for irrigation strains the water resource and creates shortages especially when agriculture is practiced in large scale (Buchanan & Horwitz 67-69). In developing countries, areas which have large scale agricultural activities especially in water intensive agricultural activities such as horticulture usually experience water shortages due to the amount of water used in agriculture. It is important that alternative water sources are used for agriculture is there is to be clean drinking water for people across the world.
Wastage of water resource
Wastage of water is common in nearly all countries due to ignorance on potential benefits of conserving water. There are many ways in which water is wasted and these include letting water run within households when it is not in use, lack of water recycling and lack of water harvesting among other means. When water within households is allowed to run when not in use, it may appear to be a little quantity, but when compared against numerous households, it becomes clear how much water is wasted. When water is also not recycled like for instance purified and used for other sources, this is wastage of the water resource. Poor harvesting of water or lack of water harvesting incentives allows water which would have been put to use to be wasted. This creates a situation where people do not have access to drinking water as is the case in many countries.
There are various solutions which should be implemented to solve the problem of shortage of drinking water. Some of them will be briefly discussed below;
Reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere
This is one of the most effective solutions needed to conserve the water resource. As has been discussed, one of the greatest threats to the availability of water is global warming. Global warming increases temperatures and encourages evaporation of water resources. Carbon dioxide emission is one of the major causes of global warming. It is therefore essential that emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is reduced. Greenhouses are some of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide and reduction of greenhouse gases will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. The Kyoto Protocol is a global agreement by countries to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions. More countries should join such agreements and they should develop a global approach in reducing carbon dioxide emissions (Glennon 33-38). Other measures such as planting of trees should be encouraged since trees are important in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Afforestation and re-afforestation
Afforestation and re-afforestation are two effective approaches in conserving the water resource. Afforestation involves planting trees where there were none while re-afforestation involves plating trees which were cut down. The planting of trees is useful in conserving the water resource for two main reasons. The first is that trees use carbon dioxide and give out oxygen thereby purifying the air. Carbon dioxide emission has been discussed as a cause of global warming and depletion of clean drinking water due to high temperatures. Planting of trees reduces the carbon dioxide levels in air and prevents adverse effects of global warming (Solomon 46-52). The second reason is that planting of trees attracts rainfall through the water cycle which involves transpiration. Transpiration by trees allows moisture to evaporate and form clouds which eventually fall down as rainfall. Availability of rainfall increases water resources and ensures that humans have access to clean drinking water.
Harvesting of water
Harvesting of water is one form of water conservation and it involves collecting waste water and purifying it to make it safe for drinking (The Economist 14-16). Water harvesting should mainly be done when there are heavy rains and water should be directed towards reservoirs where it may be stored and purified for human consumption. This form of water conservation ensures that there is minimal water wastage and that human beings have access to clean drinking water. It also ensures that there is enough water to sustain human activities such as agriculture.
Avoiding water wastage
It is important for governments and the private sector to educate the public on importance of water conservation and avoidance of water wastage. Avoiding water wastage ensures that the water resource is conserved and that there is enough water to meet all human activities. Water wastage through simple measures, such as letting water run when not in use or using excess water to perform various household functions, is very effective in conserving the water resource if done in large scale. When the public at large is advised about these simple measures, more water will be harvested, purified and stored for consumption by human beings.
In order to enforce these solutions, it is important to criminalize any actions which contribute to the depletion of the water resource. Human activities such as deforestation, pollution and contamination of ground water resources should be discouraged through the passage of tough laws which act as deterrent to such actions. Harsh sentences and fines should be imposed on people who are caught polluting or damaging the environment. This will discourage others from committing the same and it will encourage society to preserve various resources including the water resource.
Summary and conclusion
Shortage of water resources has been seen to be a serious problem which threatens the survival of mankind. Water is an essential part of the lives of human beings who need water for survival. However, there are many human activities which either pollute water resources or which pollute the environment leading to the drying up of the water resources. Some of these activities include air pollution which occurs through human activities such as burning of fuel, release of harmful gases by industries or products such as vehicles, release of greenhouse gases among others. Water pollution occurs through discharging waste into water sources while contamination of ground water sources occurs after the use of certain chemicals including fertilizers which contaminate ground water after use, making such water toxic to humans. Other human activities such as deforestation and agriculture also contribute to the shortage of clean drinking water. Population growth puts pressure on water resources making it difficult to satisfy human needs.
There are various steps which should be taken in order to address the problem of water shortage. Afforestation and re-afforestation are two effective approaches in conserving the water resource since they help in attracting rainfall and purifying the atmosphere. Harvesting of water is a form of water conservation and it ensures that there is minimal water wastage. Finally, string laws which discourage environmental pollution should be passed in order to ensure that the environment is conserved and that there are enough water resources for all. This will ensure that future populations survive on current water resources available.