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Impacts of Water Scarcity and Resolution Strategies

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 4064 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Clean Water and Sanitation

Today, humanity has become acutely aware of all past and present errors that are associated with the wrong handling of nature. This is due to the fact that modern age faces one of the global environmental problems – the acute shortage of fresh water. Clean and affordable water is a fundamental part of the world. Safe drinking water and sanitation are fundamental to nutrition, health and dignity of every person. Poor water quality can lead to diseases, political instability, inequalities, and natural disasters. In most parts of the planet, the pressure on water resources is constantly increasing. Population growth, increasing income, changing lifestyles and dietary intakes, as well as the growing demand for fresh water for various purposes increase the strain on limited freshwater resources. Due to weak infrastructure and economy, every year, people, most of whom are children, suffer from diseases that are related to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Since water plays an essential role in the future of mankind and its scarcity has many adverse effects, integrated water resources management should become a priority goal in order to achieve socio-economic and environmental goals. 

Problem of Water Scarcity

The shortage of fresh drinking water in the world has been familiar to mankind since the ancient times. Since the last decade of the 20th century, it has been constantly viewed as one of the global problems of modern times. At the same time, as the population of the planet grew, the scale of water consumption and, consequently, water deficit significantly increased, which later began to lead to deteriorating living conditions and slowed down the economic development of countries experiencing a shortage.

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Changing living standards in developed countries, increasing civil society concerns about poverty and inequality in living conditions have led to a rethinking of the importance of a number of international issues. The aggravation of problems of access to water, regional complex problems in the distribution of water resources and the growth of human requirements for living standards reflect both a gradual objective exacerbation of the situation and an increase in the moral standards of the global civil society regarding inequality and lifestyle issues.

Until the 21st century, the water problem did not attract much attention of economists beyond issues related to national water supply and irrigation systems, hydropower, and urbanization issues. Outside of national borders, the issue of water came down to an analysis of the problems of droughts and deserts. Attention has been focused on finding effective local measures to counter droughts or tackle complex problems of the distribution of limited water resources in several countries especially in border areas. Today, one can talk about a mature understanding: the shortage of fresh water is becoming one of the structural factors affecting global economic development. The provision of clean fresh water is in the focus of sustainable development policies. Water problems hinder economic growth in developing countries. At the same time, the costs of researching the problem and investing in combating droughts and other natural phenomena, which have an impact on access to water resources, are growing in the world.

The situation with the development of urbanization, population growth, increasing industrial water demand and accelerating global climate change, leading to desertification and reduced water availability, will only get worse. Lack of water may soon lead to the development and aggravation of already existing global problems. When the deficit will pass a certain line and humanity will finally understand the full value of fresh resources, one can expect political instability, armed conflicts and a further increase in the number of problems in the development of economies of the world.

Negative Effects of Water Scarcity

Like hunger, deprivation of access to water is a silent crisis that is experienced by the poor and not a matter of concern to those who have sufficient resources, technology and political power to end it. Nevertheless, this crisis hinders the progress of mankind, condemning the wide strata of the population to a life of poverty, vulnerability and danger. The diseases that are generated by water scarcity take more lives than any war. It also exacerbates the abusive inequality of opportunity that divides the rich and poor nations in an increasingly prosperous and interconnected the world, and also exacerbates the dissociation of people in terms of welfare, gender and other social criteria.

Food Security

Poor water quality and inadequate sanitation have a negative impact on food sanitation. Water is the most important resource for the maintenance of life and the source of all life on Earth, but its uneven distribution on the continents has often caused crises and social disasters. Today, the world’s population is growing rapidly, and the need for fresh drinking water is only increasing. According to Joshi and Amadi, “the poor access to water supply is a prevalent issue in over 850 million people worldwide with over 2.5 billion limited by access to sanitation facilities” (1). Today in many countries, especially underdeveloped economically, water is the cause of many social crises. The degree of water security affects the condition and the development of medicine, education, industry, nutrition and much more.

Inequality in Livelihood Choices and Educational Opportunities

Disparities in living choices and educational opportunities for poorer families worldwide are consequences of poor water quality. Ahmad states that children spend their time “gathering water for their families instead of attending school, leaving them without the skills they need to change their economic position later in life”. Without water, children cannot reach their potential, which negatively affects their future lives. Poor quality water causes nutrition problems, especially in children and adolescents (West). With such issues, pupils cannot concentrate in school. It is a great challenge to make efforts and stay interested in learning when feeling ill. Water-borne diseases are one of the key causes of absenteeism in schools. In poor regions, the shortage of water makes impossible to attend school (West). Needing water, poor parents are forced to keep children at home in order to help with gathering water. In order to get enough water for cooking, drinking, bathing, and gardening, some children have to spend almost all the day lugging water cans (West). When children are forced to miss lessons, they experience decline of absenteeism in schools, which results in lower concentration, stunted development, and poor academic performance. Moreover, because of specific hygiene needs, the absence of particular sanitation facilities impacts girls’ school attendance. Young girls often refuse to attend school without toilets because of menstrual periods. Therefore, this influences not only children themselves depriving them the opportunity to receive education but also the whole society. Children, who do not receive proper education, earn lower salaries, less productive, not active in economic, social, and political spheres. This generates inequalities within the society and between countries. Thus, the lack of clean water deprives children’s of opportunities, which has negative effects on living choices.

Role of Water for Future of Mankind

Nutrition Problems

Water security can resolve the problems of hunger in developing countries. It is impossible to imagine the life of a person without water. Ersel emphasizes that the right to water and sanitation is a key human right that is recognized in international level and provides safe and affordable water (27). Water resources are extremely important for food safety and nutrition. They are the basis of ecosystems, including forests, lakes and wetlands, on which food security and nutrition for present and future generations depend. Since problems with the supply of clean water lead to hunger, adequate water supply can resolve the problem of hunger in developing countries.  Water of good quality and quantity is extremely important for drinking and sanitation, and food production (fisheries, crops and livestock), food processing and cooking.

Diseases, Migration, Political Instability, and Natural Disasters

Poor water quality can become a reason for diseases, migration, inequalities, political instability and natural disasters.Lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene has undermined the nutritional status of people through water-borne diseases and chronic intestinal infections. Lack of clean water forces people to use unsafe water for drinking, which is often dangerous to health. In addition, due to the lack of water, there is a negative practice of water storage by people in their dwellings, which can significantly increase the risk of pollution and create favorable conditions for the reproduction of harmful bacteria.  In particular, according to Kamara, “diarrheal diseases related to inadequate water supply and sanitation are among the leading causes of death among children in the developing world” (p.604). Moreover, it is estimated that diarrhea caused by waterborne diseases cause 3.6% of the global disease burden and kill 1.5 million people every year (Li & Elliott 66). Ersel states that provision of sufficient safe water can diminish “diarrhoeal disease, typhoid fever, vector-borne disease, and scabies” (28). The worldwide burden of illnesses and mortality by 9.1% and 6.3%  can be reduced if success in facilitating access to hygiene, sanitation, and water facilities is attained (Joshi & Amadi 1). In addition, water scarcity can affect mental health and even aggravate anxiety. Moon emphasizes that insomnia, stress, social isolation, anxiety, depression, and suicide are the results of water scarcity. The lack of water leads to fatigue (Moon). A person begins to feel tired if the level of harmful substances in the blood rises, which cannot leave the body without enough liquid. In addition, one of the most acute problems is the problem of hygiene. People cannot properly wash and keep their homes clean. Drought affects some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening the situation of hunger and malnutrition. Long periods of drought can lead to food insecurity, loss of livestock, hunger, malnutrition and growth delays in children and women, as the most vulnerable groups of the population.

Water helps nations gain socio-political and economic development. The lack of water in desert and semi-desert regions will cause intense migration of the population. All large areas on the planet are in constant drought mode. Many people in the world have left their homes in deprived regions. This will lead to political instability in the world. The threat of water conflicts can be exacerbated if economic growth and the growing need for water in countries that claim to world leadership experience instability and lack of resources in rival countries. The situation is such that in the future, if measures are not taken, water wars can easily begin, since many of the world’s largest rivers flow through several countries.

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Water and sanitation are key survival determinants in the case of a disaster. Water has a mitigating effect on weather and climate conditions. It constantly moves in all spheres of the Earth along with the circulation flows of the atmosphere over long distances. Circulation of water in the ocean (sea currents) leads to a planetary heat and moisture exchange. The results of climate changes may be a decrease in crop yields, an increase in the number of plant diseases, an increase in the number and types of harmful insects, as well as nature disasters. While suffering from particular disaster, people become susceptible to diseases that are related to inadequate sanitation. Plain providing safe water and sanitation provision ensure optimal use and reach the desired effect on public health (Porkka). It is crucial that disaster-affected people receive the necessary information and understanding for preventing sanitation-related illnesses.

Integrated Water Resources Management

The goals of sustainable development include integrated water resources management in order to achieve socio-economic and environmental goals. Improving access to safe water and sanitation promote economic growth, reduce poverty, and contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Walker 1). However, in the area of water resources, food security and nutrition, both today and in the future, there are many problems in the wider context of the interrelation of issues related to water and land resources, soil, energy and food, taking into account the objectives of inclusive growth and sustainable development .

Efficient Water Use

It is important to promote efficient water use at all levels, taking into account the relationship between water, food, energy and the environment. One of the most difficult tasks of modern time is to increase food production using less water. Irrigation and livestock abstraction will increase as world population growth and economic development spur demand for food (UN Environment 46). Changes in food preferences point to a global increase in food consumption, the production of which requires more water. It is important to ensure more efficient, productive, equitable, and environmentally sound water use in agriculture (Guarino). This includes producing more food using less water, creating resilience of agricultural communities to droughts and floods, and applying water purification technologies.

To improve water management, there is a wide range of measures, starting with appropriate planning and optimization of the resources inputs and means of production in rained and irrigated systems, as well as throughout the food chain. These measures are aimed at the sustainable management of ecosystems and landscapes that improve, regulate and stabilize the supply of water (UN Environment 41). Water management will be a key factor in adapting rain-fed and irrigated systems to climate change. To ensure future food security, land and water management must preserve their ecosystem functions and ensure the future of these resources. The main source of food production on a global scale is rain-fed agriculture. In many regions, there is still a large gap in yields, and there is a potential for increasing yields and productivity of water resources without irrigation (Porkka). A set of measures such as plant and animal breeding, agroecology, and resource-saving agriculture can also increase the productivity of water resources (Guarino). SDG (sustainable development goals) include improving the water quality through the reduction of pollution, elimination of dumping, reduction of releasing hazardous chemicals (Jobbins & Langdown & Bernard 9). Sustainable ecosystem management and an ecosystem approach to water management from the local to the global level is key to ensuring the volume and quality of water resources for the needs of food security and safety and nutrition in the future.

Formation and Dissemination of Knowledge

Improving the mechanisms of formation and dissemination of knowledge, facilitating access to knowledge and the exchange of information on best practices plays a crucial role. Improving water management depends on the reliability of data and tools: water abstraction records, as well as the efficiency and productivity of water use (Guarino). To improve water management, each stakeholder needs a different toolkit, which requires relevant data to be activated. In many countries, there is still a shortage of elementary data, especially for groundwater reserves (Walker 1). It also makes sense to collect more detailed data about informal water use.

Planting Forests and Restoring Wetlands

Planting new forests, re-connecting rivers to floodplains and restoring wetlands will help to balance the water cycle and improve people’s health. An important role in the water circulation is played by forests, which ensure the volume, quality and stability of water supply for the needs of people ((UN Environment 67). Wastewater is also a resource. Dry countries often reuse wastewater, which allows them to close the nutrient cycle, but with ineffective regulation of this process, it poses risks to human health. Wastewater, which is now undervalued and under-used, can be a resource for the future ((UN Environment 46). In coastal areas, the desalination of seawater is a potential source of fresh water, especially drinking water.

In the process of regulating the use of water resources, competing strategies, interests and actors from different sectors and in varying degrees endowed with political or economic power have to be engaged. Disputes and conflicts at different levels can cause access to water, control over water resources or their pollution. Growing scarcity, as well as competition for water resources from multiple users and sectors, makes it much more difficult to regulate water use in the context of food security and nutrition, from local to higher levels. In the area of resources, the main problems are competition between uses and owners of various economic and political levers, rules of this game, as well as the relationship with land resources. In the services sector, the main problem is regulation, control and monitoring in relation to public and private service providers, including regulation, conditions and implementation of physical and economic access to water for various users, especially socially separate groups. Experiments with the privatization of water services do not always take into account the interests of the poor, affecting the ability of poor households to receive sufficient water of adequate quality for cooking, maintaining health and meeting hygienic needs. In many countries, associations of water users can play an important role in the management of water resources and water supply services, especially at the local and community level, including with regard to irrigation systems. At the same time, different categories of users (farmers, fishermen, urban consumers, environmentalists and amateurs to relax in nature, etc.) pursue different goals. Within the regulatory system, there should be mechanisms for resolving conflicts of interest and fair dispute resolution.

Depending on the country and the situation, water resources are handled by a wide variety of institutions. They may be formal or informal and traditional, part of local, subnational or national authorities, organizations that deal only with water resources, whether or not related to specific water bodies associated with investment, public or private. They may involve different users in resource management. Decentralized regulation allows better consideration of user needs and the state of resources, as well as more actively asking users, especially those who have guaranteed rights and are involved in the decision-making process about managing resources. Decentralized regulation often involves strengthening local organizations and creating specialized institutions. However, even at such levels, the principles of good governance should be followed to ensure equitable access and not reject less influential actors, including informal water users.


Protecting water for universal preservation of dignity, health, food security and nutrition is one of the greatest challenges for humankind. This is a fundamental element of the sustainable development agenda. Currently, deficiency of access to safe drinking water, base sanitation and healthy hygiene, along with water shortages and pollution, is a paramount concern for the international community, in particular for developing countries. Water scarcity has serious consequences for society and threatens sustainability development. Water shortages may adversely affect the provision of services of water supply and sanitation and affect human health. Lack of safe drinking water can compromise the conditions for adequate hygiene and increase the risk of diarrhea. Water shortages can also limit economic growth as a result of declining agricultural production, affect the environment and biodiversity, reduce the environmental runoff required for ecosystem viability, and also lead to conflicts within and between countries Therefore, it is significant to implement and promote relevant programs and projects, as well as to expand cooperation and partnership at all levels to promote the implementation of internationally agreed goals and water related challenges.

Works Cited

  • Ahmad, Sidrah. “Water scarcity across the globe”. Waterlogic, 2017. <https://www.waterlogic.com/en-us/resources-blog/water-scarcity-across-the-globe/>.
  • Brenner, Laurie. “Role of Water in the Ecosystem”. Sciencing, 2018, <https://sciencing.com/role-water-ecosystem-5444202.html>.
  • Ersel, Murat. “Water and Sanitation Standards in Humanitarian Action”. Turkish Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 15, no. 1, 2015, pp.27-33.
  • Jobbins, Guy, Langdown, Ian, and Giselle Bernard. “Water and sanitation, migration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. ODI, 2018, <https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/12299.pdf>.
  • Joshi, Ashish, and Chioma Amadi. “Impact of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Interventions on Improving Health Outcomes among School Children”. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2013.
  • Guarino, Arthur. “The economic implications of global water scarcity”. Global Risk Insights, 2016. <https://globalriskinsights.com/2016/12/economic-cost-global-water-scarcity/>.
  • Kamara, Joseph, et.al. “Understanding the Challenges of Improving Sanitation and Hygiene Outcomes in a Community Based Intervention: A Cross-Sectional Study in Rural Tanzania”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 602, 2017.
  • Li, Sabrina, and Susan Elliott. “Facilitators and barriers to effective water and sanitation interventions for characterizing shigellosis incidence in Jiangsu, China”. Procedia Environmental Sciences, vol. 36, 2016, pp.65-69.
  • Moon, Emily. How does water scarcity affect mental health? Pacific Standard, 2018, <https://psmag.com/environment/how-does-water-scarcity-affect-mental-health>.
  • Porkka, Miina, et.al. “Causes and trends of water scarcity in food production”. Environmental Research Letters, vol. 11, no. 1,  <http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/1/015001>.
  • “Progress on integrated water resource management. Global baseline for SDG 6 Indicator 6.5.1”. UN Environment, 2018.
  • Walker, Corah. “Lack of safe water, sanitation spurs growing dissatisfaction with government performance”. Afrobarometer Dispatch, no. 76, 2016.
  • West, Susan. “The Impact of the Water Crisis on Education”. Students Rebuild, 2014, <https://www.studentsrebuild.org/blog/2014-02-07/impact-of-water-crisis-education>.


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