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    Home >> Social Studies >> Water Scarcity

    Water Scarcity

    By Miha Alam


    ·      There are a lot of human and environmental factors affecting patterns and trends in physical water scarcity.

    ·      Economic scarcity exists when there is abundance of water but it is available locally for humans, institutional purposes or financial capital reasons.

    ·      This exists usually in the least developed countries such as Sub Saharan African countries. 

    ·      Physical water scarcity is when there is lack of water and still in some places the water usage exceeds 60% of the usable supply. It exists in dry areas for instance Saudi Arabia, North Africa. Developing countries where physical water scarcity exists like India and China use a lot of water for development, to cater to the growing economy etc. 

    ·      Developed regions like Europe where there is low/no scarcity use the least amount of water. 

    ·      The graph below represents where physical and economic scarcity is prevalent in the world.


    ·      Physical water scarcity exists in dry locations where there is low rainfall, low groundwater supplies, few lakes and rivers.

    ·      In hot places, the water evaporates faster than usual and in cold place, the water freezes. 

    ·      Due to scarcity, there is little or low access to safe water. Countries dealing with physical water scarcity can take water from the ocean and desalinize it. However, many countries which have physical water scarcity are less economically developed and therefore cannot afford desalinization as it is costly.

    ·      In countries like India and China, the population is increasing. Thus, the increasing human use limits the water supplies and the demand for water exceeds the supply.

    ·      In order to cater to the population, the food production needs to increase as well. Thus, the rivers are getting diverted for irrigation etc in order to increase agriculture.

    ·      All the three things (population, agriculture, industrial production) are growing but the water sources aren't. As a result, there is physical water scarcity.

    ·      Secondly, 60 to 70% of water is lost due to irrigation, leakage, runoff and is never used for the intended purpose. Many governments are ignorant towards establishing water purification systems where water can be treated. Governments focus more on developments and the economy. They ignore the implications of development and industrialization on other factors. As a result physical water scarcity exists.


    ·      Economic scarcity exists mainly because of no access to safe water and because of contamination.

    ·      In poverty areas, there aren't any pipes, hand pumps, wells or any kind of water source. Thus, there is no access to water. For example; in African countries, women have to walk miles to get water.

    ·      In poverty areas; there is lack of sanitization and rivers start turning into sewages as the local population take bath in the river. The water often becomes impure and gets contaminated.

    ·      This further promotes lack of sanitization and causes diseases. It is estimated that 4 million people die from water related diseases.

    ·      Secondly, farmers are just interested in growing crops and making income. In desperation, they use abnormal amounts of fertilizers and pesticides. This also affects economic water scarcity because if affects water availability. As a result, economic water scarcity exists.


    ·      In conclusion, the trends will continue to change. It is easier to treat economic water scarcity because the main factors which need to be solved are contamination and access to water sources which is easier than physical water scarcity because in physical water scarcity, there isn't much that can be done as the water itself is scarce.

    ·      Whereas, in economic water scarcity, measures can be taken against pollution and water purification systems can be established to purify the water.

    ·      However according to the UN, climate change will affect the timing, availability and quality of water resources. Barriers against the production of enough food to cater to the worlds growing population will be made. Hydrological cycle will speed up. Traditional water strategies will no longer be applicable either. The future will be pretty dark unless supplemental changes are adopted.



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