Water Scarcity: The Blemish On 21st Century And Pathways To A Sustainable Future
By Sanjeev Verma
The problem of water scarcity is not breaking news. In fact, if we believe the current UN reports, by the end of 2050 more than 5 billion people could be affected by water shortages.
If we just discuss the current statistics, then more than 700 million people in 43 countries live in water-stressed areas. The consumption of non-drinkable water along with inadequate sanitation also exposes people to severe diseases like cholera and typhoid fever. Clearly, the problem of water shortage is not something to be taken lightly. It’s therefore necessary to look for ways through which we can make freshwater available to everyone.
So What Is Water Scarcity?
In the most basic terms, water scarcity is the insufficient access to water resources that are necessary to support a locality. The scarcity can be in the form of a physical lack of water resources relative to the demand or economic water instability caused due to insufficient financial resources to access, store, or distribute water.
It is quite ordinary to not understand the gravity of water scarcity if you haven’t observed it first-hand. It is a parasite that is widely affecting different continents at an alarming rate. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are especially vulnerable to the shortage of these resources due to hot climates and already limited water supply, as per World’s Resource Institute.
Let us see some of the consequences that countries might face due to water scarcity:
- Lack of clean drinkable water
The life of people goes at stake when they don’t receive proper potable water. More than 80 percent of illnesses in developing countries are caused due to the consumption of unsafe water. Around 842,000 people (mostly children) die every year due to water related diseases like diarrhea.
- Loss of flora and fauna
The effects of water shortage and adulteration are also visible on the wildlife. Globally in the past 120 years, we have already lost around 50 percent of our wetlands. Primarily, global warming and intoxication of freshwater bodies result in the disappearance of wetlands, which further destroys the habitat of animals.
- Inflation in food costs
The availability of any resource is inversely proportional to its price. As water will become scarce, its price will skyrocket to even greater heights. This will directly impact farming practices, which will make food and groceries more expensive for consumers. For instance, a 10 percent rise in water prices can inflate the price of a single orange by 30 percent! This reduces access to healthy food items that further affect the health of the public.
- Cross-boundary conflicts
Water shortage conditions often result in animosity among countries that share common water bodies and rivers.
- Unstable economic conditions
As water is the core resource on which every industry depends, lack of water directly impacts their operations and results in the inflation of other products and resources. This puts the economic stability of a country in turmoil and can also lead up to increased poverty and unemployment.
How To Counter The Problem Of Water Scarcity
Even though water insufficiencies are growing at an unprecedented rate, the problem of water shortage can be reduced considerably by 2050 by taking some large-scale practical steps.
- Using filtered water
With a surface coverage of more than 70 percent of the Earth’s crust, water is the most prevalent resource on our planet. However, the main problem is to have access to clean drinkable water. Out of this 70 percent, only 3 percent is worth drinking — and that, too, is mostly trapped in glaciers.
One way to deal with this situation is to make the most out of the available water. By using advanced water filtration systems, we can drink water worth consuming with a little treatment. Companies all around the world are hence using the competencies of processes like reverse osmosis and UV purification to develop water filtration systems for consumers.
More advanced systems like seawater desalinization are now also being developed that can process the seawater into fresh and potable water. As per research, the use of these systems can help curb the issue of water scarcity by 50-fold! However, these systems require a lot of energy to transform seawater and are quite expensive to build. As per an estimate, building a desalination facility that generates 1,000 cubic meters of water per day would require an investment of around a million US dollars.
Hence, a more cost-effective solution for desalination of sea and ocean water is required along with a sustainable energy source that doesn’t contribute to more water shortage.
- Empowering efficient consumption practices
One way to deal with the shortage of water is to use it smartly in an organized manner. The city of Cape Town in 2019 was going to run out of water in April. The strict regulation by the country’s government helped this duration to extend until July. They rationed a mere 13 gallons of water per person every day that made a huge difference for the citizens to enjoy potable water for a stretched duration.
In short, the best way to get rid of water shortage is to use it efficiently. One way to do this is to continuously monitor its consumption via smart water meters. These meters enable two-way communication between consumers and utilities, resulting in real-time monitoring of water consumption. These meters along with an intelligent IoT system allow users to have complete oversight about the amount of water they consume via different appliances. This end-to-end IoT solution can also be optimized to somewhat identify leak possibilities and other water insufficiencies.
IoT Smart water meters also help utilities to identify the exact supply and demand requirements in different localities of a city and monitor it remotely from far-off locations. Hence, utilities can improve their distribution network and expand their reach to provide everyone with an appropriate amount of water.
Water is, no doubt, the most precious commodity in the world and we have an abundance of it. But most of it isn’t worth consuming for drinking or even industrial purposes due to quality issues. It is high time for us to either change the way we use water or find some breakthrough innovations to clean it.
Clearly, in the current scenario, the latter isn’t a viable option due to various social and financial complications. Until we reach the stage where we can find a solution for these challenges, consuming water in an efficient manner seems to be the only choice.
Sanjeev Verma is the founder and CEO of Biz4Group, based out of Orlando, FL. He has conceptualized the idea of Biz4 Brand and founded Biz4Group and Biz4Intellia. He has 20+ years of experience in boosting IT-based startups to success. In the past, he has worked on leadership positions with Marriott Vacations, Disney, MasterCard, Statefarm, and Oracle. The company headed by him excels in developing, implementing, and monitoring digital solutions ranging from IoT solutions and products, mobile and web development, and digital marketing to full stack development and CMS solutions.