Water scarcity means scarcity of freshwater to fulfill the water demand of the world. Each and every continent is affected by this matter. This is the reason why the World Economic Forum declared in 2015 that freshwater scarcity will be the greatest global concern in the near future.
The human right to drinkable water
In Tanzania’s Meatu district, located in Simiyu Region, water is mostly collected from holes dug in the dry sand of riverbeds. This water is often contaminated and many children are not sent to schools so that they can stay at home and collect water for the family. Such is the critical situation in places where freshwater is scarce.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights founded a body for water security. It states that all human beings have the right to get safe, sufficient, acceptable, affordable and physically accessible water for domestic and personal use.
Effects of freshwater scarcity on the environment
There are several negative impacts of water scarcity on our environment. Water scarcity in irrigational areas increases salinity, leads to loss of wetlands and floodplains and also causes nutrient pollution. In the last century, at least 50 percent of the wetlands of the earth have been spoiled and have, therefore, disappeared.
The wetlands are required for several reasons. First of all, they are necessary for the survival of numerous species of birds, fish, mammals, invertebrates, and amphibians. They also support the growth of various food crops like rice and do water filtration. In the last three decades, the Aral Sea, which was once the biggest freshwater lake, has lost at least 58000 sq km and salt concentration of this lake also increased vastly.
Freshwater resources and their depletion
The conventional sources of freshwater are lakes and rivers. Some other freshwater resources are glaciers and groundwater. Wells and springs are constructed for accessing groundwater by people as it is clean. Glaciers provide clean water that is melted from ice and supply springs or streams in summer when the water melts.
As the conventional sources of freshwater are decreasing due to pollution and climate changes, more and more people are depending on the unconventional sources like glacier and groundwater. Growth in population means a need for freshwater and therefore, after some years, many countries are going to suffer.
What is water stress?
It has been stated by the United Nations that 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of the Earth’s water is freshwater that can be consumed by humans. This means that at least one in every 6 persons in this world can be considered as water stressed, that is, they lack proper access to drinkable water. Minimum 1.1 billion residents of our Earth are under water stress.
The Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator opines that a country can be marked as water stressed if every person of the country does not get 1700 cubic meters of water annually. In regions like India, China, Africa (Saharan desert) scarcity in freshwater resources is becoming a serious concern.