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We all know that 70% of Earth is covered in water. Due to that, many assume that water is an abundant resource. But out of all the water that we see around us, only the smallest percentage, i.e., 0.5%, is available for us to use. The rest is seawater, which is unfit for human consumption.
Water is an essential part of our life; it sustains us and everything we depend on. Our agriculture, energy, and health are largely dependent on the availability of water. With the unsustainable growth of populations and the consequent temperature rise, drinking water sources are fast depleting.
Many communities around the world have already started to feel the severe effects of water scarcity. One such example is that of Cape Town in South Africa. In 2017, Cape Town narrowly escaped being the first major city with complete water scarcity. Through strong local efforts, the residents narrowly avoided disaster. Now, the water consumption of Cape Town is half of what it was in 2014.
We get our drinking water mainly from surface water and groundwater. Surface water can be found in lakes, rivers, or reservoirs, whereas groundwater lies under the surface of the land.
Groundwater has been increasingly found to be contaminated due to the chemicals deposited in it by nearby industries. For example, arsenic is a serious water contaminant, and so far, 20 significant incidents of groundwater arsenic contamination have been reported. Effects of groundwater arsenic contamination include high risks of lung, liver, and bladder cancers.
Similarly, surface water is also susceptible to pollutants from sources like chemicals from fertilizers and the leakage of sewage into lakes and rivers. Surface water contamination also carries a high risk of water-borne diseases.
Contamination is just one of the many reasons why water sources are depleting. Other factors include over-consumption and poor water management practices. For instance, agriculture consumes huge quantities of water. Additionally, in many parts of the world, irrigation practices are largely inefficient—this leads to large quantities of water wastage.
There is already a finite availability of usable water. Adding factors such as over-usage and contamination leads to the global water crisis that over 10% of the total human population is currently experiencing.
The global water crisis has many harmful effects on humans and the environment. The shortage of water leads to devastating impacts such as acute famine, droughts, habitat loss, and ecosystem collapse.
There are some successful methods that some countries have used to combat the effects of water scarcity. Desalination is one such method that is gaining momentum; it removes salts from seawater to convert it into freshwater. Israel is a global leader in desalination—over half of its drinking water is sourced from desalination.
Another technique that is cost-effective and requires comparatively less infrastructure is water conservation. Water conservation techniques already exist in the form of traditional methods. For example, in the state of Rajasthan in India, the use of conventional small-scale dams called Johads are used to conserve rainwater.
So, it is the urgent need of the hour to preserve and restore our water sources. The technology to achieve this already exists. Governments must prioritize the development of projects that will recharge and conserve water sources. Additionally, proper maintenance and setting up of infrastructure must be carried out to ensure minimal wastage of water.
Such measures are critical in preventing our water sources from becoming completely depleted and, as a result, ensuring that future generations have access to clean water.