How Serious is the World’s Water Scarcity Crisis?

With the possible exception of air, water is the most valuable resource we currently have on our planet. Without water, sustaining human life—or any type of life on Earth—would become fundamentally impossible. Naturally, because water is something we simply cannot live without, making sure that the world’s water supply is clean, bountiful, and efficiently distributed ought to be among our highest priorities.
Andrew Paniello
Water Scarcity

According to recent estimates, more than 1.2 billion (roughly 1 in 6) people currently do not have access to clean drinking water. Throughout the course of the year, at least 2.8 billion people will experience water shortages to some degree. If a future global water crisis is something that we hope to avoid, we will need to begin planning and searching for solutions in the status quo. In order to effectively preserve our global well-being, it will be important to identify the causes of this crisis, commit resources to create solutions, and continue developing the saltwater desalination industry.

Climate Change is Here!

Though evidence of climate change has been observable for decades, there is no doubt that this decade is one that has been particularly brutal. Currently, climate change has been actively affecting every continent on our planet. This summer alone has been characterized by intense fires in California, record-setting heat waves across Europe, and the continued desertification of what were once some of the most fruitful lands in Africa.

Whether human beings are responsible for 90%, 95%, or any other portion of this climate change no longer seems to particularly matter. The fact that our actions and consumption habits have significantly caused our planet to change can no longer be denied. As global temperatures continue to increase, the amount of usable water available will inevitably continue to diminish unless we are able to change. With a global population that is expected to continue rising over the coming decades, the consequences of human-caused climate change will only accumulate further.

Our future is one that will likely be characterized by even more droughts and self-inflicted natural disasters. Unsurprisingly, the global poor and those living nearest to the equator will likely be the ones who experience these consequences the most. This will likely be particularly problematic if the UN projections of a global population of 9.8 billion in 2050 turn out to be accurate.

South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, and… Canada?

One of the most notable problems with our developing water crisis is that with each passing year, new countries are added to the list of those who are affected or are at risk of being affected. There may be a very little surprise that the nations with largely desert climates will be the ones that suffer the most, but some unexpected victims—such as Canada—are being added to this list as well.

In Canada, the current problem has had very little to do with the available supply of freshwater but instead has been primarily caused by issues relating to water quality and distribution. As has been the case throughout much of Canada’s unspoken history, the individuals who have been burdened by the water crisis the most have been their indigenous populations (First Nations). This pattern can also be witnessed in South Africa and Brazil where—despite Brazil having access to the world’s largest river—the European-dominated cities in these nations typically experience significantly higher water quality than the indigenously-dominated rural areas.

Because water is fundamental to human life, all issues regarding access to clean drinking water need to be immediately addressed. Though even the United States has witnessed similar issues in Flint, Michigan, the magnitude of these problems are projected to be greater than ever before. Without clean water, entire nations’ infrastructures, agriculture industries, and ways of living will eventually collapse. In the parts of the world that are already plagued by ongoing tensions, the outbreak of water wars is something that will be seemingly inevitable.

Could Water Cost More than Oil?

Though the idea that water could someday cost more than oil may initially seem rather outlandish in the status quo, this may actually be a very real scenario that policymakers across the globe need to consider. There are two primary reasons that this can be expected to happen. First, as alternative sources of energy continue to become more affordable (and thus, more practical on a global scale), oil will likely experience a significant drop in price over time. Secondly, as the global demand for water continues to rise with the human population, the cost of a gallon of water will also continue to increase.

The primary concern with water costing more than oil is that while oil is a luxury (and was largely unused for most of human history), water is absolutely essential for human life. The average human cannot go more than three days without access to clean drinking water, which is something that can certainly not be claimed about oil.

In order to assure that water—which ought to be considered a human right more urgent than seemingly any other—is kept at a reasonable price, governments and NGOs around the world will need to work to make sure it exists in ample supply. Investing heavily in desalination and various infrastructure projects over time may help keep supply greater than demand. Unfortunately, however, the governments of the world that are least equipped to complete these projects are largely the ones that are most threatened by this impending crisis.

How to Invest in Water?

Knowing that, without the proper actions, the pending water crisis will continue to affect individuals across the world well into the foreseeable future, it is important to recognize which actions we can possibly take. “Investing” in water crisis will be the surest way to help us avoid a self-destructive future.

In the public sphere, there are several things that politicians (and voters) can do to improve the situation. Focusing on preservation efforts, the building of reservoirs, and encouraging the localization of commercial activities will all likely be quite helpful. Additionally, providing tax credits and deductions for the corporations that are willing to invest in desalination projects can also create a market incentive to help improve things over time. Finding creative ways to direct capital where it can do human good will almost certainly be necessary in order to preserve our collective well-being.

Though it may not be clear just how bad a future water crisis may be, what can still be observed is the fact that now is the time to begin taking action. The impact of human-induced climate change has already had a wide range of consequences—strongly evidenced by the global climate anomalies that have been witnessed throughout this summer. In order to make sure that humanity still has a strong future, taking care of our planet and our most fundamental needs cannot be willingly ignored. Human action is needed in order to assure our collective well-being.

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