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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that in the year 2018, 3.6 billion people had little to no access to drinking water for at least one month per year. By 2050, the number is expected to rise to more than 5 billion. This lack of clean water is a global concern, and nations have to work fast to avoid disastrous consequences.
Overpopulation, climate change, and increasing global conflict are the leading causes of the global water crisis. The imminent threat of permanent water shortages looms closer and closer – it is projected that two-thirds of the world’s population may face water crises by 2025.
There are many reasons as to why clean water is becoming scarce. Poor infrastructure or lack of it is a major factor that causes water loss – in the US, 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost per day from leaky pipes.
Overpopulation and climate change are two interconnected factors that cause water scarcity. Water systems are not able to handle the burden of the demand created by the ever-growing populations. Additionally, many of the water sources are becoming too polluted to use.
But there are some solutions and ways that the water can be made available. There are many real-world examples that we can imitate to prevent prolonged periods of drought. One such case is that of a South African city.
In 2018, Cape Town in South Africa narrowly escaped “Day Zero” – a term coined by the locals, meaning the day that the city would entirely run out of water. They saved the city from the brink of disaster by using simple but effective methods such as restricting unnecessary water use, reducing irrigation of fields, and desalinization.
Large-scale desalinization is extracting and removing the salt from seawater, which turns it into fresh water. It is one of the many technologies that the world depends on to help solve the water crisis. There are over 18,000 desalinization plants across 150 countries, particularly in the Middle East.
Another technique that is quickly gaining traction is Fog catching. It is a method of collecting condensation from the fog surrounding a particular area. FogQuest is one such Canadian not-for-profit that aims to provide water through fog catching. They have projects set up in Chile, Morocco, Nepal, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.
While we talk about new technologies to resolve the water crisis, we must not forget about the natural systems provided to us by nature. Wetlands are Natural Water Filtration Systems. They play a significant role in the collection and purification of water. That is why it is essential to conserve wetlands. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty that aims to do that. Today, there are 2000 wetlands under the Ramsar Convention.
Similarly, natural ecosystems must be protected and restored to improve water security. For example, Ethiopia achieved an almost impossible feat of restoration by the 2010s. In the East and Central Tigray regions, one million-plus hectare of degraded agricultural and forest land has been restored.
Although its usage is not that common because of the misconception that arises, wastewater treatment is one method that can help alleviate the water crisis in hard-hit areas. Wastewater can be converted into drinkable water through extensive purification and treatment. Despite widespread public hesitation, countries like Singapore, Australia, and Namibia have already adopted the practice of using purified wastewater.
Thus, it is clear to see that lack of clean water spells disaster for all of humanity. Clean water is an essential commodity. If people can’t get enough to drink, wash, or feed crops, it directly affects the strength of a nation.
More importantly, it impacts the health of a society and increases the risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrheal diseases, and other illnesses. And, as the COVID-19 epidemic proved, when a society’s overall health is affected, every element of it, including its economy, declines.