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Water shortage, padlocked faucets; image courtesy Andrew Hart via Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Water shortage, padlocked faucets; image courtesy Andrew Hart via Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

In Part One of this article, we discussed the how, what, and why of the water scarcity problem. Today, we examine the issue of economic water scarcity: what it is, the impact it’s having on our world, and what can be done about it.

What Is Economic Water Scarcity?

In order to understand the water crisis, we need to understand the concept of economic water scarcity.

Economic water scarcity is a term that began having a wide range appeal in mid-2007. It was defined, after a rather long and investigative essay, as a condition caused by the lack of investment in water infrastructure.

The concept first came into play after researchers and policymakers, overseen by the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, conducted a 50-year study to determine the viability of sustaining life on Earth with the growing population problem. Their findings were less than hopeful.

One on the prime symptoms of economic water scarcity is a region’s capacity, both technological as well as human, to satisfy the area’s demand for drinkable water. It is a critical and typical manifestation of underdeveloped countries.

The main aspects of economic water scarcity are:

A lack of infrastructure with poor sanitation policies. The population has no other choice but to rely on rivers and lakes for their hydration.

Woman washing at water's edge, Bangladeshi Village; image courtesy of Thyme (own work) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes.
Woman washing at water’s edge, Bangladeshi Village; image courtesy of Thyme (own work) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes.

Much of the water is used for agriculture and domestic chores. Evidence suggests that in many cases the water is “recycled” for different uses. Bathing, laundry, livestock, cleaning and cooking water not only comes from the same source but is oftentimes reused from one chore to another.

Large parts of the world, particularly in Africa, suffer from economic water scarcity. Developing the right infrastructure would lower the poverty line.

Terrorist groups and local warlords use their own wealth and resources to create the needed infrastructure, the major caveat being that they control the pipeline and in turn use it for their own goals – mainly recruitment.

Developing infrastructure in these areas not only requires funding but a complete overhaul of socio-political doctrines.

Consequences of water scarcity:

  • Using unclean water, in many areas, leads to an upswell of different diseases, some of which are fatal.
  • In Africa, women spend half of their day walking and hauling up water from a clear source. The same goes for sections of India and Latin America. It is estimated that in the remotest parts of Africa, the female population spends a combined total of 40 billion hours a year walking to and from a well.
  • Communities don’t have the time to grow. Most families waste a great deal of their productive hours dealing with the problems that arise from water scarcity. Access to clean water gives families time to go to school and earn an adequate income, helping them fight off poverty. Women are mainly responsible for water collection in these areas. In Sub Saharan Africa, 72% of the water collected is done by women.
  • It takes an enormous amount of water to grow crops, maintain livestock, and ultimately feed a nation. Less water means a rise in endemic and localized famine.
  • Less water means less sewage flow and more stagnant water. These pools, particularly in tropical and subtropical environments, often become fast breeding ground for insects and parasites. One of the most far reaching and prevalent insects is the mosquito, a known carrier of West Nile Virus, malaria, zika and other infections.
  • Economies that, due to their natural landscapes could easily increase their gross income and national wealth through a busy tourist trade, have had no other choice but to close this venue of revenue. Hotels, restaurants, stores, and other attractions are no longer able to maintain an adequate level of sanitation for visitors.

Countries with a high degree of water scarcity:

All countries suffer from water scarcity in one way or another.

For example, the United States, a nation that takes for granted the gift that is drinkable tap water, is in the midst of a major water crisis. The Western States, among them California, are having to cut back on water delivery to certain areas. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s water supplier, will deliver 15% less water to cities in the greater Los Angeles area starting in July 2018.

Nonetheless, the US and other first world nations have the advantage of a growing and confident economy, one that can acclimate itself to any sort of natural woe by investing heavily in infrastructure.

Drought; image courtesy Modern Event Preparedness via Flickr.com CC BY 2.0, no changes.
Drought; image courtesy Modern Event Preparedness via Flickr.com CC BY 2.0, no changes.

Others are not so lucky. Three countries standing on the brink of complete water-related collapse are:

Yemen: According to UPI, Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is expected to be the first major city in the world to experience full water scarcity, a direct result of the many turmoils and local military brews of the area.

Libya: Another war-torn country that’s facing a full sanitary cataclysm. The constant regime changes and wild political upheavals are taxing the nation’s capacity to create a viable water policy.

Jordan: The country of Jordan finds itself in one of the driest geographical latitudes on the planet. Its only sources of water are the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. Transforming saltwater to fresh is a financial hurdle that’s hurting their weak economy.

Conclusion

The United Nations considers water scarcity to be one of the most detrimental and crippling crises attacking struggling economies and communities.

The Millennium Development Goals (8 fundamental objectives established by a committee of different nations within the United Nations) established the necessity of making water scarcity a key problem to eradicate. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, following the Millennium Summit, aimed by 2015 to “halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water.”

While we may not have solved the problem of water scarcity, we’re certainly making an effort to minimize the problem in as many ways as possible.

Audrey Hepburn said, “Water is life, and clean water means health.”

She knew what she was talking about.

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