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Causes Of Water Crisis, Its Effects And How To Solve The Predicament

Updated on July 17, 2017

As the population escalates exceedingly, the world is grappling on how to sustain the ever increasing population with enough fresh water. All over the world, there is lack of enough safe and clean water due to various reasons attributed to humans and nature. Nonetheless, humans are credited as the biggest contributing players who have led to this catastrophe experienced at locally, nationally and universally.

The fact of the matter is: Seventy percent (70%) of the world contains water. Out of the seventy percent, three percent (3%) is only accessible to humans i.e. safe and clean water (freshwater). The high percentage of freshwater is frozen signifying a small percentage of fresh water is accessible to humans. The remaining percentage of seventy percent is salty

Out of the three percent (3%) of fresh water, which is less than three percent, that is fit for humans seventy percent (70%) is used for irrigation purposes while twenty percent (20%) is used by industries. The rest, ten percent (10%) is used at homes. This signifies a large percentage of freshwater is used for agriculture, and as the population continues to grown the demand for food intensifies indicating a lot of water will be used in order to meet this demand.

The world population is increasing at a rate of one point thirteen percent (1.13%), that is, 80 million people annually. If nations do not take action to solve this crisis, then the problem will worsen in ten years to come. It will arrive at a point whereby war between nations will be about getting control of water resources.

The Congo River is a lifeline, but also a huge threat
The Congo River is a lifeline, but also a huge threat | Source

Statistics And Facts

  1. Over 1 billion people have no access to safe and clean water.
  2. 2.6 billion people have no access to proper sanitation.
  3. An approximated 1.5 million children die annually due to diarrhea which is a killer disease among children. It is far worse than malaria, AIDS and measles when they’re combined against it.
  4. One out of every four deaths among children under the age of five years is attributed to water-borne diseases due to lack of safe and clean water.
  5. Water-borne diseases are preventable. However, it appears not to be the case because in every sixty seconds or one minute a child dies from water-borne diseases.
  6. An astonishing fact, 783 million people do not have access to safe and clean water. This translates to in every nine people, one of them has no access to safe and clean water. The majority of these people come from Sub-Saharan Africa, the worst hit region worldwide.

Retrieved from The Water Project:

  1. Globally, we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses.
  2. Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys to be the family member responsible for fetching water.
  3. 1 in 3 people, or 2.4 billion, are without improved sanitation facilities.
  4. 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.

Retrieved from Business Connect

  1. 1,800 child deaths every day are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene.
  2. Lack of clean water kills children at a rate equivalent to a jet crashing every 4 hours.
  3. In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than armed conflict since WWII.
  4. 10% of the global diseases could be reduced through improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
  5. Globally, at least 1.8 billion people use a drinking-water source contaminated with feces.
  6. An estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 years of age perish from diarrhea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11% of the 7.6 million deaths of children under the age of five and means that about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal disease. (CDC)

Digging for drinking water in a dry riverbed
Digging for drinking water in a dry riverbed | Source

Water crisis also known as water shortage, water stress or water scarcity can be defined as lack of enough clean and safe water to satisfy the water needs of humans locally, nationally or internationally.

As had been indicated above, seventy percent (70) of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Out of the seventy percent, three percent (3%) is safe for humans. “The rest of the water is salty and ocean-based,” states CEF. It is further noted, “Out of that 3% fresh water, two-thirds of that is trapped in glaciers and snowfields and is not available for our use. The rest one-thirds of that freshwater is available for human consumption and to feed the entire population in this planet.”


Effects Of Water Crisis

  1. An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation (more than 35 percent of the world’s population. (CDC) furthermore, “Sanitation is an even bigger problem than lack of water – with 2.5 billion people worldwide suffering from lack of a good enough toilet or latrine” (Global Citizen).. The lack of enough clean water coupled with ineffective sanitation facilities aggravates the problem further as
  2. In developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions and lack of clean water kills children at a rate equivalent to a jet crashing every 4 hours. (Business Connect). It is not only children who are affected but also adults. The only way of solving this problem is when “10% of the global diseases could be reduced through improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene.” (Business Connect)
  3. Children’s attendance at school is depressing as they have to spend most of their days looking for water. The most affected are young girls. Not only are they unable to attend school on a regular basis as a result of water-borne diseases related to lack of enough clean and safe water, also they have to walk for long distances to look for water. As stated by The Water Project, “443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.” As noted by Water, “Children are often responsible for collecting water to help their families. This takes time away from school and play. Access to safe water and sanitation changes this. Reductions in time spent in collecting water have been found to increase school attendance. Access to safe water gives children time to play and opportunity for a bright future.”
  4. It leads to food shortage since without water it is hard to plant and thereby harvest. In addition, at homes, schools and community level water is used for various purposes such as cooking. Voss Foundation shows there is a relation between water and hunger. “One of the main causes of water scarcity is inefficient use, especially in food production, which means that poorly managed water resources can lead to famine. We need to drink an average of 2.5 liters of water a day, but the amount of water needed to produce food for one person for one day ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 liters!”
  5. Lack of access to enough safe and clean water is an indication of poverty. As noted by The Water Project, “The lack of water is an often insurmountable obstacle to helping oneself. You can’t grow food, you can’t build houses, you can’t stay healthy, you can’t stay in school and you can’t keep working. Without clean water, the possibility of breaking out of the cycle of poverty is incredibly slim.”
  6. Lastly, it can lead to war. Nations might fight against each other to gain control of sources of water or water resources. As noted by Our Planet, “Nowhere is this issue more important than in the Middle East, where water is considered a ‘strategic’ resource and tensions between countries in the region over it are high. There it has become a major political issue, and the various peace agreements that have been proposed or signed in recent years all include water…that the next war in the Middle East will be over water.” It is further observed, “This rhetoric has captured the public imagination and caused much consternation in the intelligence communities of various countries, who worry whether water – or other scarce resources – may be a future flashpoint for international conflict.”

Causes Of Water Scarcity

  • Deforestation. As the population increases more land is needed and more furniture is needed and more woods for housing is needed leading to felling of trees. Trees play a major role as with other plants in absorbing water from rain. During evaporation it releases water during evaporation, a process known as transpiration. Unlike other plants, trees absorb a large capacity of water and transpire a lot of it leading to rain clouds.

Trees act as reservoirs as they prevent flooding from taking place. When trees are felled, when it rains the ground becomes flooded and this leads to water streaming to rivers and ultimately to oceans. “While streaming down, it brings an important amount of mud, which can be extremely destructive, and fills up the river with it….The water becomes unclean and not safe to drink or for cooking purposes as it contains mud.”

Furthermore, deforestation leads to desertification as is in Sub-Saharan Africa. It becomes difficult to access water because it’s very difficult to find water resources in deserts.

  • Wastage of water. In recent years there has been an increase in wastage of water as water is left running from the tap when it is not needed, showering for a long period of time and using a lot of water to wash vehicles.
  • Lack of managing water resources effectively coupled by corruption in the water sector leads to water scarcity. It is the major cause of water scarcity in developing countries. As noted by the World Water Vision Report, “There is a water crisis today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our need. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment - suffer badly.”
  • Pollution is another major cause of water crisis as chemical wastes from industries are deposited into water system which flow to river and lakes. As noted by CFF, “many industries do not have proper waste management system and drain the waste in the fresh water which goes into rivers, canals and later in sea.” Other sources of water pollution are waste water, sewage water, oil leakage, dumping garbage among others which contribute to water pollution.
  • A lot of water is used for irrigation purposes and for dam projects. Dams need a lot of water in order to produce electricity and farms need a lot of water to prevent drying up of crops.
  • Lastly, regions faced with war are confronted with water scarcity. People in that area will find it hard to access water as the water resources or reservoirs or systems are in control of the rebel or terrorist group.


Solutions To Water Scarcity

If each and every individual manages water as effectively as possible, then we will realize fresh water in its fullest, that is, enough water to satisfy the ever-increasing population. While it may seem carrying out actions to reduce wastage of water at individual level is not contributing much, remember every drop of water from a tap leads to a bucket full of water. Strict laws need to be put in place to avoid contaminating water. Those found polluting water be it industries or individuals need to be fined or imprisoned. NGOs and water conscious individuals need to educate people on issues regarding water such as how to recycle rain water. Better farming practices should be adopted which ensures less water is used. Governments need to come up with alternative ways of producing energy not solely relying on water. Marine laws should be enacted and sewage systems need to be repaired or improved where necessary. Water catchment areas should be protected and laws need to be passed regarding felling of trees to minimize deforestation. Afforestation should be encouraged.


In conclusion, “Corruption in the water sector is widespread. It damages drinking supplies, sanitation, agriculture, energy and the environment. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation is a massive task. Corruption wastes billions of dollars in these efforts. It makes water undrinkable. And since dirty water can be deadly, cleaning up the water sector is literally a matter of life and death for millions of people.” (Transparency International)

“For every drop of water you waste, you must know that somewhere on earth someone is desperately looking for a drop of water!” (Mehmet M. Ildan)


“We need a global approach to this from all sides. We need to educate people, we need scientists to create new technologies, we need the engineers to create the networks, we need every human being to be aware of how precious water is and save it. Everybody has to be involved in a very firm and assertive way.” (Isabel Allende)


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