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Among the major challenges that have continued to threaten the existence of man on planet earth is the decreasing availability of water. Water resources are now being used for generating electricity and manufacturing industrial products among other uses that have recently emerged (Business Council of Australia 2011). Rainfall remains the major source of fresh water.
Regions that receive adequate rainfall are often rich in water resources. Often, such regions produce high agricultural yields, and have abundant fresh water sources such as rivers and lakes. On the other hand, regions that receive very low rainfall (such as deserts) have scarce water resources (IBG 2011).
With an average annual rainfall that falls below 200mm, deserts are the driest regions on our planet. Due to scarcity of rainfall, Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Australia are among the regions on our planet that have been hit by a recurring problem of water scarcity (Royal Geographical Society 2008).
Causes of Water Scarcity
Usually, the main cause of water scarcity at any place or region is lack of enough annual rainfall (IBG 2011). Most of Africa, Australia, and Arabia consist of dry areas that receive low rainfall.
Exacerbating the problem of water scarcity in Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Australia is the fact that most of these regions consist of huge deserts where it seldom rains. With the lack of adequate rainfall at his habitat, man has been forced to make necessary adaptations (such as the exploitation of alternative water sources) so as to survive (Chartres 2006).
Ironically, it is now becoming clear that man has been greatly contributing to the water scarcity problem. Often, man has failed to exploit existing water resources in a sustainable way (Chartres 2006). Many people who live in the dry regions that I have mentioned above are not aware of the presence of abundant water resources (like underground water) in the areas that they reside.
Man has even failed to exploit rain water adequately for his own benefits (Shaw 2008). For example, in areas that experience alternating dry and rainy seasons, it is common for people living in such areas to experience water shortage during dry spells (IFAD 2008).
Such a direction can be avoided through the use of appropriate water harvesting techniques. Generally, a failure to employ appropriate tools to exploit water resources has greatly contributed to problem of water scarcity.
Another factor that can generally contribute to water pressure is a rapid increase in population. In recent years, Africa has especially seen a gradual increase in her population. Due to her increasing population, a UNDP report is now predicting that water shortage in Africa will even be exacerbated further (UNDP 2009).
Here (Africa), unless the water scarcity problem is addressed, the level of water supply is projected to fall below 1000 cubic meters per person per year in at least eleven countries by the year 2025 (Issar 2006). It is noteworthy to observe that a large number of affected countries will be in parts of West Africa where high annual rainfall is often received.
Moreover, another factor that has greatly contributed to water scarcity in Africa, Arabia, and Australia is climate change. A negative effect of climate change is a decrease in the amount of available precipitation. Usually, precipitation is often reduced as a result of decreasing rainfall and increasing temperatures.
Sadly, like most other parts of the world, the trend in Africa, Australia, and Arabia has been a decrease in rainfall and an increase in temperatures. Diagram 1.1 shows how surface temperatures have been rising at Lake Tanganyika; an indication of rising temperatures in the region.
Here, droughts are now increasingly common; hence, resulting in water shortage. Such a direction has been observed in worst affected regions like Ethiopia in Africa. Here, temperatures have been increasing by an average of about four degrees in the past decades.
Lake Tanganyika, East Africa
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Generally, deserts (like the Sahara) have been increasing in size over the years. The current trend where the ice caps of major mountains like Mt. Kilimanjaro have been steadily decreasing is an indication of rising temperatures in our planet.
Such a direction has resulted from industrial emissions that have created a greenhouse effect; thus, increasing temperatures in the regions mentioned. Moreover, the destruction of forests, the destruction of water catchments, and the pollution of fresh water sources have also played together in contributing to the reduction of water resources.
Before venturing into the use of technological tools, which can be used to exploit water resources in the dry lands, it would be even more useful for man to seek ways of increasing the abundance of natural sources of water (UNDP 2009). So as to increase rainfall and help to decrease temperatures, it would be useful for man to engage in tree planting activities.
The reduction of green emissions can also help in reducing global temperatures. Besides, the cleaning of polluted water resources like rivers, and the preservation of water catchments areas would also help in availing more water resources to man (Business Council of Australia 2011).
The exploitation of underground water in desert areas is among the important directions that can be taken in the regions that I have mentioned so as to increase water sources. Often, people in dry areas of Australia, Arabia, and Africa are ignorant of many underground water resources that they can exploit.
Here, among the challenges that have emerged has been to exploit underground water sources in a way that is sustainable. For underground water sources to be sustainable, they must be in a state of continual recharge (UNDP 2009). If exploited, an underground water source that is not naturally recharged will soon dry up (IFAD 2008).
Among the approaches that can be utilized to check if an underground water source is rechargeable is to detect for traces of tritium and carbon (Issar 2006). Usually, ground water sources have low traces of tritium and are more aged than underground water sources (Gonfiantini 2000). Therefore, the presence of low traces of tritium should indicate that an underground water source is recharged.
Similarly, the age of an underground water source can also be used to determine whether such a source is sustainable. Other useful approaches that can be employed to tackle the problem of water shortage include employing water recycling techniques and desalination of sea water (Shaw 2008).
So as to stem the water scarcity challenge in Africa, Saudi Arabia and Australia, a good management policy is required. While some of the measures that can be undertaken to tackle the water challenges here are required to operate at the local level within the areas that have been affected, some of the measures that are needed will require an integrated global approach.
While measures like planting of trees and cleaning of rivers require a more local based approach, tackling the challenge of greenhouse effect (as it was realised in the Kyoto protocol) requires an integrated global approach.
Description of Sources
- Chartres, C., 2006: Here, the author had discussed the main challenges that are facing the distribution and availability of water in Australia. He has also suggested ways in which such challenges can be effectively tackled. The focus of the author has been on the degradation of available water sources like rivers and underground water sources.
- Royal Geographical Society: Here, the document has presented valuable information about different facets of Arabia. The document has especially presented information on the Geography of Arabia, culture, lifestyle, and History. Thus, one can therefore learn how the people in Arabia have been surviving with the challenge of water scarcity over the years.
- Issar, S., 2006: Here, the author has discussed climate changes that have occurred in the geological history of planet earth. The author has especially focussed on how changing wind patterns and the ITCZ have affected climate change during the periods studied. Attention has also been paid to the development of deserts and desert characteristics.
- Gonfiantini, R., 2000: With attention on the water scarcity problem that is prevalent in desert areas, the author has suggested how radioactivity can be used to check for traces of trace elements; hence, help in determining if an underground water source s rechargeable. The author has thus helped in developing an approach that can be used for a sustainable exploitation of underground water sources.
- UNDP, 2009: Here, several patterns that have been leading to climate change within several regions of the world have been examined. The main focus of this particular document is how climatic changes have affected water resources within the regions that have been studied.
- IFAD, 2008: Here, the experience of IFAD in developing and implementing programs that have been designed to tackle the challenge of desertification has been discussed. IFAD has been developing various initiatives like tree planting in arid areas so as to help in mitigating the problem of desertification. The success and experience of IFAD is useful in understanding the challenges that are often met in mitigating desertification and water scarcity.
- IBG, 2011: This particular document is rich in pictures and information about the Middle East. The economy, population, desertification, among other types of information about the Middle East can be obtained from this particular document. One can thus understand how the Middle East has dealt with the challenge of water scarcity.
- Shaw, B., 2008: Here, the author has focussed on alternative water sources apart from ground water that can be utilised in arid areas like the Sahara to tackle the challenge of water scarcity. With falling underground water levels, the author explains why man needs to shift from exploiting underground sources and look for other alternatives.
- UNEP, 2011: Here, the UNEP has discussed various initiatives that it has taken especially among young people to tackle the problem of desertification and water scarcity. Various programs such as the planting of trees as well as the preservation of water catchments areas have been discussed.
- Business council of Australia: Here, this particular document has discussed ways in which the challenge of water shortage in Australia can be addressed. The document has suggested ways in which management and policy issues (such as laws on water distribution) can be refined so as to mitigate the challenge of water shortage in Australia.
Business Council f Australia, 2011, Water under pressure, Business Council of Australia Press, Sydney
Chartres, C., 2006, “Can Australia overcome its water scarcity problems?” Journal of Developments in Sustainable Agriculture, Vol. 1, pp. 17-24
Gonfiantini, R., 2000 investigating water resources of the desert: How isotopes can help, IAEA, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 126
IBG, 2011, The Geography of the Middle East, IBG press, New York
IFAD, 2008, Desertification, IFAD press, New York
Issar, S., 2006 Climate Changes in the Levant during the late quaternary period, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Royal Geographical Society, 2008, Arabia, Oxford University press, Riyadh
Shaw, B., 2008, the Sahara Forest Project, Exploration, New York
UNDP, 2009 Analysing regional aspects of climate change and water resources, UN Press, New York
UNEP, 2011, Deserts and dry lands, UNEP press, New York