Water is the key ingredient to all life on our planet. It directly, or indirectly, affects every facet of life on Earth as we know it. Without water there would be no plants or vegetation, no oxygen for all living creatures to breathe, and the Earth would look like, and become, a desolate and lifeless sphere. Although water is the central driving force of all nature, it is disappearing at an alarming rate. The decline of fresh water is causing several extreme, dire consequences and will eventually result in a global crisis.
Four Negative Effects of a Global Water Shortage
Recent studies have shown that by 2040, there will not be enough water to meet the global demand for energy production and drinking. The water shortage will have terrible effects on billions of people, the first being a sharp increase in the number of wars being fought around the world.
1. Increased Global Conflicts – Most countries are forced to share their fresh water sources with neighbouring countries. As water becomes more scarce, fights between nations using the same water source will rise. According to the United Nations, there are 276 freshwater river basins that border two or more countries, and 200 other water sources being used by several countries. There are treaties in place dealing with this issue, but in times of war and peril, words on paper aren’t much protection. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence has warned that even the security of the United States will be in jeopardy if the overuse of water continues.
2. Lack of Clean Drinking Water – In many developing countries, people are forced to drink unsafe and contaminated water. Currently, over 1 billion people worldwide have little or no access to healthy and clean drinking water. The lack of water means less sewage flow, which results in hazardous, often fatal, airborne diseases. The stagnant water also creates the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects, dramatically increasing malaria and various deadly infections. The lack of clean water can also limit intellectual and economic growth. As populations rise and the water supplies dwindle, more and more people will be adversely affected.
3. Food Shortages and Hunger – It takes a lot of water to grow the world’s agricultural crops and to sustain the livestock herds that feed much of the world. Approximately 70% of our water sources are used for irrigation and agricultural use. Increased water conservation techniques will have to be developed and implemented to slow down the unsustainable withdrawal from groundwater sources and reservoirs before they are completely dried up. Less water will mean fewer crops. Farm animals will die along with our crops, the end result being a low quality of life and a constant hunger for food and thirst for water. The global population is expected to be over 9.6 billion by 2050 but the shrinking supply of water will not be enough to meet the increased demand.
4. Energy and Economic Slowdowns – Energy production accounts for one of the biggest demands of freshwater resources. Thermoelectric power plants are run by water and account for 38% of all freshwater usage. Wind and solar energy uses a lot less water and is a step in the right direction, but they only make up a small portion of today’s energy production. By 2030 over half the world’s people will live in areas of high water stress. Having a robust and thriving economy in those regions will be almost impossible. The lack of freshwater resources will make it tough to produce goods such as food, clothing, and even cars.
Another factor in the decline of freshwater resources is climate change. Severe droughts around the world are forcing people to try and drill for their own water sources. California has never been as dry as it has in recent years, experiencing four years of drought in a row. In the Middle East, entire regions are turning into deserts. In Asia and other parts of the world there have been huge losses of the groundwater necessary for the irrigation of crops. Heavy global water usage combined with changing precipitation patterns is destroying agricultural lands everywhere. Changing rainfall levels and melting glaciers are wreaking havoc on the planet’s climate, making the need to act now one of paramount importance.
Water is the key to life as we know it. Without it, we, and everything on our planet, will die. Learning about and implementing water conservation strategies could literally be the difference between life and death.