Updated: Apr 12, 2020

By Dr. Amita Fotedar

New Zealand

"All things are water."-- Plutarch Fresh water is an elixir of life. However, due to growing demand and increasing pressure on already dwindling water resources, fresh water scarcity is burgeoning at an alarming rate. As per the statistical data reported by the United Nations, around 1.2 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water and approximately 2.8 billion people suffer from acute water shortage.

The regions which are at highest risk of growing water stress are clustered around regions: western North America, the Mediterranean, Chile, western Asia, the Middle East, eastern Australia, and northern China. By 2030, the demands for water are anticipated to outstrip the steady supply by a staggering 40%. Many cities have had close calls with “Day Zero” events. For example, the Cape Town's 'Day Zero' water crisis of 2018.

Water withdrawals and usage for energy production are predicted to rise by about 20% in 2035, but consumption will increase by a more dramatic 85%. If adequate countermeasures are not taken by the global communities, governments, policy makers, the trend is expected to continue in the future.

Severe Water Poverty Humans are reliant on fresh water ecological systems to a large degree, and become extremely vulnerable when these resources deplete and are at threat. Experts warn that in the coming years, more and more regions will suffer acute water scarcity, and mass migrations will take place, with political frictions being a possible repercussion, something already witnessed in Syria, India, Nigeria, Iran and Somalia. It has been reported by the WRI (World Resource Institute) that by 2040 around 33 nations will add to the list of countries that are facing high water stress.

Water pollution generated by untreated industrial waste water discharges, over pumping causing permanent harm to the vital aquifers, farming, environmental damage from soil erosion, is another factor making a significant contribution to already dwindling water supply.

Future of Fresh Water Source - https://slideplayer.com/slide/16218634/

Fresh water use – The way forward The non-judicious and inefficient overuse have been cited to be the major culprits for the growing water crisis. Overall, the global population is not yet keeping pace with the issues, and the primary reason is lack of adequate counter measures. However, some institutions and nations have started to take a proactive stance, and advanced scientific knowledge and engineering are increasing the energy efficiency of water treatment to make it accessible to much more of the global population. Some advanced technologies, community-scale and household-scale point-of-use (POU) designs, and efficient water management practices that have been adopted in the recent times include;

⦁ Water recycling ⦁ Waste water treatment (Aeration, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration and, ⦁ Disinfection) ⦁ Sea water desalination

Some illustrations of how the governments and businesses in some countries are initiating practices, implementing water policies and adopting regulations to ensure the availability of fresh water in the future include;

⦁ Seawater desalination process is gaining more and more popularity because of its being less expensive and more efficient. The technology separates minerals and dissolved salts from the industrial waters, brackish waters and processed waters. Its use is growing for supplying drinking water. ⦁ Australia as a nation has set a benchmark in its initiative to manage demand-driven water stress. Fifteen year “Millennium Drought” in Australia began in 1990s. Australian government and policy makers enforced demand-reduction initiatives that more than cut in half per-capital water usage by the residential sector. A water-trading policy was established in the Murray-Darling water basin – the nation’s agricultural lifeline. This increased the efficiency of the agricultural production. ⦁ In California, big projects have been initiated to recharge the depleted aquifers. For example, the Santa Clara Valley Water District. This has improved the security and reliability of California’s water supply. Many efforts are being made for restoration of forests that are essential part of watersheds. ⦁ India has implemented the National Water Policy which lays emphasis on the need to conserve water resources through judicious, economical, equitable, and sustainable means. The aim is to address the growing water scarcity. ⦁ Many developing nations like Harare, Zimbabwe, well understand the advantages of decentralized water treatment. This technology offers cost-effective, long term mitigation measures for downtrodden communities to treat water. The technology offers large capital costs, maintenance costs and minimal operation, thereby helping businesses and creating job opportunities. ⦁ China's has initiated 8,000 water clean-up initiatives and made an investment of around 667.4 billion yuan ($100 billion.) The initiatives also involve river restoration, rural water treatment infrastructure outlays and other greening efforts. ⦁ The ‘Water for Life’ International Decade for Action 2005-2015 made safe drinking water accessible to around 1.3 billion people in the third world nations as part of the effort to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) ⦁ Some other programmes include the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the 2015 Paris Agreement within the UN Convention Framework on Climate Change.

Some global entities that are making significant contributions to water conservation efforts: whether by establishing new standards for water efficiency, by raising awareness, or making reductions to their own water use include;

⦁ charity: water ⦁ Clean Water Fund ⦁ Global Water Challenge ⦁ Global Water Leaders ⦁ PepsiCo ⦁ The International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka ⦁ The Nature Conservancy ⦁ The Stockholm International Water Institute ⦁ The United Nations (UN-Water) ⦁ The Water Project ⦁ The World Bank ⦁ World Resources Institute ⦁ World Water Council ⦁ World Wildlife Fund ⦁ Water.org

All these organisations are making efforts to facilitate the efficient protection, conservation, planning, development, management and use of water, establish clean power systems, prevent deforestation, create a water-secure future, reduce the impact of food industries on the environment, and improve quality of life.

However, it is to be kept in mind, that this is not enough. Much remains to be done. More and more initiatives for addressing the global water crisis could very well hold the key to a sustainable life and a future of water security around the world.


If the governments of the nations, non-profit organizations, academicians, scientists, development banks, industrial sector, and policymakers can come together and work in collaboration with serious efforts, then it is possible to turn the freshwater challenges into a net positive. By taking adequate measures and opening venues for developing water policies, by developing proper infrastructure, and by sharing data, we can save and conserve this vitally required resource as an inspiration for collaboration and cooperation rather than conflict.

References http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170412-is-the-world-running-out-of-fresh-water https://www.freshwatersystems.com/blogs/blog/why-fresh-water-is-a-critical-resource https://www.hydrofinity.com/blog/organizations-addressing-the-worlds-water-issues https://www.livescience.com/27610-future-fresh-water.html https://www.seametrics.com/blog/future-water/ https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/06/future-fresh-water https://www.fluencecorp.com/future-of-fresh-water/

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