Water shortage: what, why and how?


Water is life’s first necessity. Without water, everything stops. However, water supply is becoming a larger problem every year.  According to the World Health Organisation, water shortages already affect 2.1 billion people around the world. Worse still, by 2050, the United Nations expect that half of the world’s population will experience water shortage. Therefore, many people call water shortage one of the next global challenges.  

70% of the Earth is covered with water. That seems a lot. However, only 2.5 – 3% of this water is fresh. The remaining part is salty and ocean-based. Even more so, of that 3% fresh water, two-thirds is trapped in glaciers and snow fields and is not available for use. So only 1% of water is available for human needs and to feed the entire population on this planet. As a result, fresh water – the water that we use for ourselves, for animals, for industry and for agriculture, is rare and makes up a very small fraction of all water on the planet.

Courtesy Jared Verdi Unsplash

What is water shortage?

Water shortage, or water scarcity, is being driven by two converging phenomena: growing freshwater use and depletion of usable freshwater resources. Water scarcity can be a result of two mechanisms: physical (absolute) water scarcity and economic water scarcity, where physical water scarcity is a result of inadequate natural water resources to supply a region’s demand, and economic water scarcity is a result of poor management of the sufficient available water resources.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, the latter is found more often to be the cause of countries or regions experiencing water scarcity, as most countries or regions have enough water to meet household, industrial, agricultural, and environmental needs, but lack the means to provide it in an accessible manner.

Freshwater sources, in particular rain, is decreasing globally. It is believed by many that this is partly caused by climate change. Flavio Lehner et al expect that drought risks will keep increasing, even if we manage to stay below the global warming levels agreed in the Paris Agreement.

The reduction of water scarcity is a goal of many countries and governments. The United Nations recognises the importance of reducing the number of people without sustainable access to clean water and sanitation and included as one of the Sustainable  Development Goals.

75% of our Fresh Water is used for Agriculture

What most people do not realise, is that 75% percent of our water consumption is used for agriculture (source: FAO). Therefore, no water means: no food. With a growing world population and growing wealth, we need to secure water in order to feed all the billions of people. The good news is, that more and more people are becoming aware of this issue. Many organisations and companies now focus on solving the water challenge. In addition, more and more people are becoming conscious about water usage. Check out one of the many ways how you can reduce water at home.