Issues Contributing to Water Scarcity



Around 1.2 billion people (almost one-fifth of the world’s population) currently live in areas of physical water scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation (UN-WATER 2014). Although nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only about 2.5 percent is fresh with the rest being saline and ocean-based. However, only 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. Actually, only 0.007 percent of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion people (National geographic 2014). Clean water is the water that is safe enough to be consumed by humans with low risk of immediate or long term harm (Wikipedia 2014).

Water scarcity is the defined as the lack of access to adequate quantities of water for human and environmental uses However, the Water Project (2014) states that water scarcity can be explained in two ways, it is either the dearth of ample water (quantity) or it is the inability to be able to access safe water (quality). In developing countries, finding an infallible headspring of safe water is often tedious and dear. This is known as economic scarcity (a state where although water can be found, it just requires more infrastructure to access it). However, other areas experience physical scarcity, a situation where the water available is not sufficient. (The water project 2014).

This essay will aim to describe the issues that may have contributed to water scarcity.


The issue of water scarcity is quite a thriving one, whilst the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the amount of freshwater on earth has remained fairly constant. This means that yearly, the competition for a safe and copious supply of water intensifies. Web of Creation (2003) states that the main cause of the shortage of fresh water is global warming. Increase in the average temperature of mountainous areas can result in an altered precipitation mix amidst rainfall and snowfall, with more rain and less snow. This would lead to more flooding and overflow during the rainy seasons, this also results in a reduced amount of water that is usually held in glaciers for use during dry seasons. These mountain glaciers are all liquefying. The snow mass in the Himalayas, (the third largest in the world) is now beginning to wince at an increasing rate rate. Every major river in Asia originates in that snow mass.

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Global issues (2010) points out that another reason for water crisis is the commoditization of water. Promoting water as a commodity has led to an increased control of water by multinational corporations (MNC). The World Bank has encouraged countries around the world to privatize water access in the hope for increased efficiency as well as follow other policies such as removal of subsidies for such provisions. As a result, although there may be many people in terms of market access, the poor have found themselves being shut out as prices have risen beyond affordability.

Tread softly (2013) explains that the over extraction of freshwater and other human intrusion with the water cycle is the immediate cause of water scarcity. Over-extraction of ground water has an upfront manifestation in the level of aquifers. If withdrawals (extraction) transcend the natural rate of recharge, the level of an aquifer will fall and ultimately drying up. In parts of India, the level of aquifers is said to have fallen more than 300 metres, this is associated to the dearth of control intensified by a policy of allowing farmers infinite access to water. Given how highly fragmented land ownership is in India, with majority of the populace being farmers, their waterloo is inevitable. India’s rate of extraction of ground water has been growing steadily from a base of 90 Billion cubic metres (bcm) in 1980 to about 251 Billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2010, whilst the rate in the United States has remained rather constant since 1980 (Luthra and Kundu 2013).

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In Africa south of the Sahara, where agriculture is predominantly rain-fed (that is, it relies on rainfall for water), farmers’ access to water is limited based on time (during droughts and dry seasons) and space (in arid areas). Water scarcity in these regions is not necessarily caused by a physical lack of water. Literally much of the region is primarily considered to suffer from economic water scarcity, which means that investments in water resources and appropriate human capacities are not substantial enough to meet water demands of the population (IFPRI 2013).

Another cause of water scarcity could be the increasing rate of pollution of the water available. Majority of the biocides, fertilizers, sewage overflows, oil and grease eventually get into the water systems. The increasing loss of marshlands can be attributed to the fact that these runoff nutrients are not always sanitised by nature before they ultimately enter the body of water. More than 60 percent of US coastal rivers and bays are severely being reduced by nutrient runoff (web of creation 2003).


Increase in population has led to an increased demand for quality water. Water scarcity is a global issue which requires immediate attention. To ensure sustainability, steps should be taken to ensure that water is used in such a manner as it does not reduce the potential for the future generation to have access to quality water. Sustainable practices such as water recycle, minimization, etc. should be implemented to reduce the need for freshwater extraction.


Global Issues (2010) Water and Development. [Online] Available at [Accessed 18-03-2014]

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Global Water Forum (2012) Understanding water scarcity: Definitions and measurements. [Online] Available at [Accessed 10-03-2014]

IFPRI (2013) What’s really causing water scarcity in Africa south of the Sahara? [Online] Available at [Accessed 18-03-2014]

National Geographic (2014) Fresh Water Crisis. [Online] Available at [Accessed 10-03-2014]

Luthra, S. and Kundu, A. (2013) India’s Water Crisis: Causes and Cures. [Online] Available at [Accessed 18-03-2014]

The water project (2014) Water Scarcity and the Importance of Water. [Online] Available at [Accessed 10-03-2014]

Tread Softly (2013) Causes of Water Scarcity. [Online] Available at [Accessed 18-03-2014]

UN-WATER (2014) International Decade for Action ‘water for life’ 2005-2015. [Online] Available at [Accessed 18-03-2014]

Web of creation (2003) Problem: Fresh Water and Oceans in Danger. [Online] Available at [Accessed 18-03-2014]

Wikipedia (2014) Drinking water. [Online] Available at [Accessed 09-03-2014]

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