A Discussion on the Issue of Scarcity of Drinkable Water

From the comfort of the society we live in, it's easy to forget how privileged we really are. Without a second thought we'll leave the water running in the sink while we brush our teeth, or throw away bottles of water that are still half full. We don't stop to think about how precious our drinking water is. Even though we live on a planet whose surface is three quarters water, most of the water on Earth's surface isn't actually drinkable. The scarcity of drinkable water leaves us with less than one percent of all the water on earth among over 7 billion people. Living in the area that we do, it doesn't cross our minds that we have such a minuscule supply of safe drinking water. However, in countries like Bangladesh, Uganda and other third world countries, the lack of fresh drinking water is a profound problem.

While we take it for granted and waste it, even pay extra to drink it from little plastic bottles, far too many people spend their days searching for it. In sub-Saharan Africa, time is lost every day gathering water, and people suffer from water-borne diseases. Education is left by the wayside in the shadows of sickness, and the economy in those countries is lost while it's inhabitants struggle just to survive. In the coastal areas of Bangladesh, the scarcity of drinking water is extreme due to the high levels of saline on the waters surface. Households in this area are forced to rely heavily on rainwater harvesting, or pond water to have access to water reserved for drinking purposes. Because of this, the people who inhabit these areas are often exposed to and suffer from water born illnesses. Though the situation of the scarcity of drinkable water is dire, there are options to overcome water scarcity in order to balance out the minute amount of drinkable water such as the desalination of brackish groundwater.

Only 0.37% of the water on earth is safe to drink. Ninety-seven percent of the water on earth is salt water, that's filled with salt and other minerals that aren't safe for humans to ingest. While it is possible to remove these minerals from the water, it is a difficult and expensive process. Another 2% of the water on earth is glacier ice found at the north and south poles. The ice is constructed of fresh water, and would be physically possible to melt down, however the process of transporting it from the poles to the areas of the world populated by people would be too complicated and expensive to be feasible.

MD Rezaul Karim's study on the scarcity of drinkable water in Bangladesh, discovered that,“73% of people live in rural areas”where“well water is the main source of drinking water” (Karim). Meanwhile, the individuals residing in the coastal areas of Bangladesh rely "rainwater conserved using either natural or man-made ponds” (Karim), for them it is the only source of drinking water. To make matters worse, there are many households in this region whose homes are not located within close proximity to these ponds. This causes great difficulty to those families, as they usually spend several hours each day collecting water from distant sources. Due to the lack of filtration systems, the water in the ponds are "heavily contaminated with fecal coliforms and pathogenic bacteria" (Karim). With the scarcity of clean drinking water, the people who inhabit the coastal areas of Bangladesh are often exposed to these bacteria, causing waterborne illnesses and diseases.

Every Year, 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. According the researchers at WWF, there is also a dire situation pertaining to inadequate sanitation of drinking water. This has lead to "2.4 billion people - exposed to diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever" (Krchnak). This has causedover two million people, most of them children, to die from diarrheal diseases every year.

In order to sustain human life, clean drinking water is an essential however water levels are drastically reclining every year. It is estimated that by 2025, two thirds of the world's population may be facing water shortages. This will lead to people not being able to “drink, wash, feed crops and may cause economic decline” (Krchnak). Every year the competition for a clean supply of water intensifies with the growing population. This is an abstract concept for people in areas with access to clean drinking water, but for others it is a stark reality. In most areas of the developing world, clean water is either “laborious work to find or transport, extremely expensive, or hard to even come by” (Hodgson). According to the United Nations, the rate of water usage has accelerated at more than twice the rate of the increase in population over the last hundred years. It is estimated that ten years from now over 1.8 billion people will be struggling with problems that arise from water scarcity.

Today, 1 in 10 people lack access to safe water, that's roughly 663 million people. This number is twice the population of the United States. What we tale for granted so often over the duration of our lives, so many people face every day without knowing whether or not they will have any access to clean drinking water. This leaves 1/3 of schools worldwide without access to safe water and adequate sanitation, as well as 1/3 of the world's health care facilities without a safe source of water. Water and sanitation are essential to human development. Extending beyond the importance of these issues themselves, lack of access to them also drastically affects "adequate nutrition, education over all health especially in children” (UNICEF). Without clean water the human body lacks vital nutrients that it needs to develop and strengthen its immunity.

Due to the scarcity of drinking water in developing countries, millions of people lack these nutrients, leading to the deaths of 25,000 people every day.

Often times the only access to clean water that people have are "badly polluted shallow wells" (Allgood). Because of this the water is unsafe, and is the main cause of "disease, poverty, and hunger worldwide" (Allgood). This affects women and children especially due to the fact that they spend hours a day collecting this water, spending upwards of six hours per day gathering the water that makes them sick. Movements such as Project Humanity have developed ways of implementing sustainable water supplies to people world wide who have no access to clean drinking water. Currently Project Humanity is working to provide clean drinking water to 5,000 people in northern Uganda. Their goal is to "reduce the prevalence of water borne illnesses and diseases in children and vulnerable populations” (Project Humanity). An increase of access to clean water means an increase in health, income and education for women in children in developing countries.

While countries like America and other first world countries aren't as directly affected by the increase of the scarcity of drinking water, the problem is increasing at an alarming rate. Without a permanent solution to the drinking water crisis, the world is looking at more than half of it's population struggling to find access to clean water on a day to day basis.

The crisis of the scarcity of drinking water is a pressing issue that we need to find a solution to as fast and efficiently as we can. Project Humanity, as well as Children's Safe Drinking Water Program are all working on ways to solve the crisis in developing countries. One of these solutions is the development of purification packets that cleans water of dirt, bacteria and impurities. The development of this solution and other sanitizing solutions needs to have more scientists behind it to further accelerate the production of a solution to the drinking water crisis.

With the constant increase in population and so many countries already struggling every day with finding clean water to drink, the problem will expand to unmanageable heights without a solution that is applicable, and soon. With thousands already dying every day it is of the utmost importance that we do something to solve this dire problem in developing countries and in our own. California already faces extreme drought and with the dramatic climate change, areas over more of the United States could soon face rapid shortages of water. Countries face epidemics of water borne illnesses and diseases every day, and while that isn't a pressing issue here we need to start contributing to the problem in order to find a solution.

Children shouldn't have to be plagued with water borne illnesses, miniscule immune systems and malnutrition from birth due to the lack of access to clean water. Humanity needs to come together to provide a permanent solution to what has already been too much of a prolonged problem. In ten years the scarcity of drinking water will spread to heights far beyond what it is now, we need to do something to make a change now before waiting until the problem reaches us to start making an effort to resolve it. Whether it's continuing the development of the purification packets, or developing and constructing machines to filter and sanitize ground water to kill the bacteria causing water borne illnesses, a solution needs to be found and implemented in the near future.