According to Robert et al. (1027), the quest for a cleaner and sustainable environment is ongoing. The reason for the growth of environmental activism is that the resources that are vital for the sustenance of human life, like water, have been declining at a quick pace. Taking an example from the issue of climate change, it is noted that one of the impacts of the degradation of the environment is growing desertification.
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This denotes a decline in the supply of water to the population in areas that are affected by desertification. The rate at which clean water sources are declining is quite high, leaving populations exposed to waterborne ailments. Cases of waterborne diseases are often reported in the developing world.
The severity of the case of water scarcity can be best explained by the inclusion of the problem of water as one of the main goals of one of the greatest development frameworks in the world- the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The issue of access to safe drinking water occupies goal seven in the millennium development goals (UNICEF and World Health Organization 5).
According to Third World Academy of Sciences (6), approximately 75 percent of all diseases in the developing world emanate from the consumption of unclean water. According to the United Nations Report of issue of sanitation and safe drinking water, there is still a large gap between the demand and the supply of safe drinking water.
While the efforts of meeting the demand for clean drinking water are ongoing, the report revealed that approximately 780 million people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water (UNICEF and World Health Organization 5). This denotes an improvement on the research that was conducted by Basani, Isham and Reilly (953) in the year 2008, which showed that over a billion people across the world did not have access to safe drinking water.
This implies that there is still a need to speed the efforts of assuring the global population of the supply of clean and safe water. The implication of the observation that was made by the UNICEF and WHO is that most people in the world still use contaminated water for drinking and accomplishing a series of other domestic chores, irrespective of the risks of using that water. It should be noted that these people use contaminated water out of desperation.
They cannot access clean and hygienic water, while at the same time they cannot do without this basic necessity. By extension, this means that people are caught in desperate situations, implying a smouldering crisis. In this paper, it is argued that the demand for clean water far much surpasses the ability of governments to offer clean water to their citizens, leading to the struggle for access to clean water.
The continued contamination and the subsequent usage of clean water are likely to compound the problems that are associated with the demand and supply of clean water.
This paper explores the issues surrounding the scarcity of drinking water and the implications. The paper brings out findings on the problems and trends of demand and supply of clean water to the global populace and the likely impacts of the quest for clean water.
Water Borne Diseases
The provision of clean and safe drinking water is part of the initiatives of most governments, especially in the developing world. Governments are often backed by international agencies and non-governmental organizations in fulfilling the obligation. As observed in the introduction, there are a substantial number of people in the world today who do not have access to clean drinking water.
As people continue to strive for clean and safe water, the usage of unsafe water continues to cause harm to millions of people around the world. Unclean water, as noted in the introduction, is the cause of most of the maladies in the developing world.
Cases of the spread and prevalence of waterborne diseases in the world cannot be overemphasized. Millions of people in the world succumb to diseases that emanate from the consumption of polluted water. Common waterborne diseases that are reported include cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, and dysentery (Tulchinsky and Varavikova 339).
The question that ought to be asked is what the source of contamination of the water is and the reasons to whether people are informed of the risks of consuming such water. What happens is that people often find themselves in dire need of water, while the environment in which they inhabit cannot offer them clean water.
Thus, they are forced to utilize the available water, which is often contaminated, thence, a health hazard. The prevailing conditions of hygiene in the world are a predisposing factor for waterborne diseases. This makes water borne diseases as one of the main epidemics in the developing regions of the world.
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Natural sources of water are often polluted through exposure to un-hygienic compounds that come from sewers and poor disposal of refuse. The state of health and productivity of the affected populations is put in jeopardy, thereby exposing the global population to economic problems (Basani, Isham and Reilly 954).
While a lot of efforts are directed towards treating the conditions that emanate from the consumption of unclean water, research reveals that the main means of controlling the spread of diseases that are caused by consumption of polluted water is by ensuring that populations are supplied with adequate volumes of clean water. This mainly applies to the water-washed diseases, where patients require to be supplied with adequate volumes of cleans water.
Water-washed diseases are another complication that emanates from the prevalence of poor conditions of hygiene, which comes from insufficient supply of clean water to a given population. Contamination with a number of diseases is caused by contact of the infected people with the healthy population.
The diseases are spread by virtue of direct contact of the skin, mucus membrane and conjunctiva. Amidst the rise in the cases of disease transmission through contact, there is a clear pointer to the fact that the supply of clean water to populations is paramount if a stoppage it to be put to the break-up and spread of water-washed diseases.
However, attending to such a situation is quite hard, bearing in mind that most populations, especially in the developing regions of the world, are still struggling with food insecurity. This makes the issue of clean water supply a secondary issue, meaning that water-washed diseases are likely to prevail within these populations (Webber 72).
Water based diseases
Water is one of the most common mediums of passage of infectious diseases from one person to the other. Given the nature of the social environment in which global populations prevail, water-based diseases cannot be easily stopped because the conditions of water supply are poor.
This predisposes the global population to poor hygienic conditions and the spread of water based diseases. The socio-environmental characteristics of the global population make it difficult to plan and maintain the required standards of hygiene. The carrying capacity of most ecosystems in the world surpasses the recommended standards, yet there are no better plans to maintain the recommended size of population. This leaves the populations prone to water-based diseases (Yang et al. 1484).
According to Juuti (136), water storage comes out as one of the means of preserving water and guaranteeing populations of supply of water. However, the main concern is whether populations have the capacity to safely store water. There have been a lot of cases on the capacity of populations to store water.
The means of water storage is a critical issue. While the developed world is doing well in terms of developing technologies of storing water, a different scenario is witnessed in the developing world. The capacity to safely store water is quite low, which in most cases increases the vulnerability of the populations.
The mechanisms of water storage are hazardous. For instance, dams are left exposed, making them harbour other disease causing vectors like mosquitoes. Malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes, is one of the ailments that affect a substantial number of lives of people in the developing world and the tropics. The stored water is also not properly treated, thus it is contaminated with other disease causing pathogens (Juuti 136).
Shortage of water and food
Food security is one of the main problems that are crumpling development in the world. Most households in the developing world cannot afford food, which is one of the basic needs for human beings. There is a close relationship between scarcity of food and the shortage of water supply. This issue can be approached from two perspectives.
One perspective is the issue of lack of food, which makes most of people to concentrate on the search for food, leaving out the issue of seeking for clean water. Shortage of water has been termed as the main impediment to the practicing of agriculture. The second issue, which is perhaps more broad, concerns the scarcity of water.
This scarcity jeopardizes the production of food. Reliance on primary agriculture in most parts of the world makes water an essential factor in the production of food. In most parts of the developing world, there is a lot of reliance on the rain as a source of water for agriculture and the production of food.
With the changing patterns of rainfall as a result of climate change and the effects of environmental pollution, the sequence of rainfall keeps changing, thereby impeding the practice of agriculture. Secondary means of water supply are impeded by the lack of technology and resources. This results in the problem of food insecurity. Conflicts over natural resources also arise as a result of the strife for favourable land for agriculture (Behnassi, Draggan, and Sanni, 25).
Farming/ toxic farming
Farming cannot be done without supply of water. The growth in the challenge of water supply results in the constriction of farming activities in most of the regions of the world. The shrinkage in farming has several implications for local communities in different parts of the world.
One of the main implications of minimal farming activities is reduction in the amount of food supply. The other notable thing is that the lack of active farming weakens the economic base of communities, thus predisposing them to a series of other social derived conditions. However, different tactics of producing food are deployed by population in the regions with scarcity of safe water.
Some of the methods that are deployed in farming are argued to be unsound for agriculture production since they result in the production of food that has toxic substances and unfit for human consumption. This is what is referred to as toxic farming (Schulzová, Hajšlová, Botek and Peroutka 2763).
According to Bilibio, Hensel and Selbach (356), more than ten percent of the global population consumes food that is produced using toxic water. This is a critical observation as people continue to seek for alternative means of enhancing the production of food. An example is the use of sewer water in urban areas to irrigate vegetables.
The toxic chemical compounds in the water are often deposited in the food that is produced, making the food harmful for human consumption. Also, the natural sources of water like rivers that are deemed to have clean water are no longer safer sources of water since the water is contaminated with chemical deposits that are released from industries that are mushrooming across the world. Animals are also affected by the population of water, thus they are also exposed to diseases (Bilibio, Hensel and Selbach 357).
The seemingly solutions to water shortage in agriculture
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of efforts that have been directed towards attaining a solution to the problem of water shortage in agriculture. The most critical question that ought to be posed at this point is how sustainable the solutions are, amidst the growing challenges of environmental conservation.
One of the solutions to the scarcity of water for agriculture has been the construction of water reservoirs like dams in the tropics. However, dams have outstanding negative impacts on water ecosystems. Among the impacts is the increased concentration of mud/sand flats, which encrypts on the survival of the animal species like fish.
This implies that the solutions that are devised are not workable since they result in other complexities that hinder food security. The balance of flora and fauna in ecosystems where dams and other water reservoirs are built cannot be guaranteed. (Thorpe 244).
Population Growth and urbanization
Demand for energy
The growth of population results in population pressure. Population pressure means that the carrying capacity of the ecosystem is far less than the amount of the population that is accommodated in by ecosystems. A common example of this problem is witnessed in urban centres.
The growth in the number of people in urban centres results in the increase in demand for resources in the urban centres. Resources that are demanded for in the urban areas include water, food and energy. The scarcity of water in the urban centres is attributed to the population pressure, which supersedes the capacity of the institutions that are responsible for supplying water in the urban areas.
As observed earlier, scarcity of water results in unhygienic conditions, which brings about water-based diseases. The other angle to the issue of urbanization and water scarcity is that the demand for energy in the urban centres keeps growing with the increase in the number of people moving into urban areas. These cases are common in the developing world (Mathew et al. 7444).
Growth in urbanization and pollution
According to Mathew et al. (7445), urban centres are deemed to be the main location for industries, which give people employment. With the reliance on water as the main source of energy in the urban areas of the developing nations, it becomes quite challenging to meet the demand for energy.
The rationale behind this observation is that the need for energy keeps rising amidst a constant or even in some cases a reduction in the main resource that is used to generate energy- hydroelectricity. The number of industries in the developing world is growing. The number of people is also growing.
This denotes a swell in the demand for energy. The available options of power generation seem to be expensive, leaving the water-drawn power as the main source of power for industries and for domestic consumption. Increased industrialization puts pressure on the available water resources by virtue of the number of people who reside in the urban centres. The other dimension to the problem of increased industrialization is that the amount of pollution rises with the rise in the level of industrialization in a given country.
A proper mechanism of disposing of toxic waste gases and other substances from industries has not been fully developed. This case prevails both in the developed world, which has a higher number of industries, as well as the developing world, which has fewer numbers of industries.
Water is often on the receiving end when it comes to contamination from industries. There are other direct impacts of industrial actions on water resources. An example that can be given in this case is the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Both industries and population pressure combine, resulting in massive pollution of the available sources of clean water. These two factors are the primary sources of pollution of water resources (Mathew et al.7445).
Urge to save water in urban areas
Urban populations are encouraged to save water as a means of conserving water resources in the urban areas. Water saving is used a means of augmenting the supply of water amidst the problems of water shortage on urban areas. The main concern over the usage of water in the urban areas is whether the demand can meet the needs of the urban population.
This is what can allow the urban populations to save water, thus conserving this precious resource. Water conservation is a misnomer, considering the rate at which urbanization and industrialization are taking place and the scale of pollution that results from households and industries in the urban populations. Initiatives of saving water have materialized in a substantial number of the developed countries (Thoren, Atwater and Berube 1202).
Ways of Conserving water
Cooperating in water conservation
Water conservation has been one of the main areas of focus by a substantial number of environmental scientists across the world. The reason why researchers focus on the area of water conservation is that it is the main means of conserving water resources amidst the rise in the demand for clean water across the world.
The level of participation of diverse groups in conserving water is quite pleasing. This denotes the scale of the impact of the destruction of the global ecosystem, which calls for the application of ecological economics in the attendance of the desired state of the ecology.
The cooperation in the conservation of water is quite broad. It ranges from collaboration in the development and exchange of water conservation technology to the support in capacity building of populations. Both technology and the creation of awareness among the population are playing out well in as far as the conservation of water is concerned.
Different stakeholders, among them national governments, local populations, local organizations, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions are working together to ensure that there is a high level of water conservation (“Public Participation in Water Demand Management and Conservation” 60).
Water infrastructure and training
Part of the efforts of dealing with the impacts of unsafe water consumption ought to be directed towards the development of water infrastructure. Part of the initiatives in dealing with such problems is ensuring the delivery of clean water through the construction of water lines in order to deliver clean and safe water to populations in both rural and urban areas.
The other critical thing in curbing the problem of safe water scarcity is the training of populations on water purification and conservation techniques. However, a number of challenges are witnessed in training and empowerment. The challenges revolve around the scarcity of resources to sustain such initiatives (Heare 24).
Water is one of the most critical resources for the sustenance of human beings and other living creatures. Scarcity of water has been termed as one of the main problems that are facing people in the world. The scarcity of clean water has a negative connotation on the supply of other human necessities like food, energy and sanitation.
The problem of scarcity of clean water is compounded by a number of activities like industrial development and urbanization, which result in the pollution of the available clean water sources. From the research conducted, it can be concluded that shortage of clean water remains to be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.
Most of the efforts that are directed at solving the problem do not target the underlying issues like pollution, which is one of the key factors in limiting the availability of safe water for consumption. Therefore, a number of issues need to be addressed in order to limit the problem of clean water shortage, which causes a lot of pressure in human population groups.
- The first thing that needs to be done is paying attention to the root causes of the problem of scarcity of safe water. The main problem of water scarcity is the pollution of the environment. Addressing the issue of pollution is one of the means of curbing the pollution of the available sources of clean water.
- A lot of efforts have been directed towards the development and application of water conservation technologies. There is need for increased cooperation in the minimization of pollution, which is one of the means through which water resources become unfit for consumption.
- There is also need to increase research in the field of ecological economics to develop more solutions and better techniques for utilizing water for production like it is used in agriculture. Such solutions have to be built around the populations in areas that have water problems.
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