Some months ago, I talked about the Flint Water Crisis. As it turns out, it was just the tip of the iceberg, as there were thousands more contaminated water systems in the United States. Also, there is a bigger crisis around the world.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a total of 1,386,000,000 km3 of water on Earth a 71% of the planet is water. Over 96% of that water is saline-based (oceans, seas, and bays) and less than one percent of our water is drinkable. Fresh water is contained in sources like aquifers, rivers, and glaciers (where the water is unavailable).
Water is a vital resource for life. We are 60% water and water is needed for bathing, cooking, to support plant life, and for producing food.
The lack of a reliable water source in countries could lead to a huge geopolitical crisis in years to come. So moving forward, we need to come up with solutions to preserve water and ensure everyone has access to it.
How Serious Is the World’s Water Crisis?
It exists on multiple fronts, but there are two basic levels: physical scarcity and economic scarcity. The first type pertains to regions where there is just no enough water, like those with arid and drought conditions. The second type of scarcity pertains to regions where there is little freshwater and sanitation problems.
The common problem in Flint and all 50 states is economic. Around 2,000 water systems across the country have excessive levels of lead and other pollutants.
Third-world countries are already dealing with economic physical water scarcity, but the latter is an ongoing problem in First World, especially for countries with irrigation farming and a large demand for their exports. This problem is exacerbated by global warming, because the heat is evaporating water faster than it can be replenished by precipitation.
In the United States, the California drought was declared over due to the unusual downpour, but the reserves are still lower than they have been in decades. In addition, there are farmlands in the state and other states, like Iowa and Illinois, which require more water than which can be replenished naturally.
There are other countries, including Mexico, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, where aquifers are being stressed to farm and supply other countries with crops.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the job of collecting water primarily falls upon the women. They may have to spend much of each day finding water for their families, which can take women from working paying jobs and girls from attending school.
In countries like Honduras, people may have to pay water vendors to procure water “of dubious quality.” At times, that could cost people as much as 25% of their total income.
What Are Some Solutions?
There are currently 7.2 billion people on the planet and unfortunately, water use has increased per person. So, one way to help would be to get people to use water more efficiently.
In addition, a few other ways to increase water supplies would include:
1. Making Water Available to Consumers via Loans
Matt Damon and Gary White, the co-founders of Water.org, stopped by National Public Radio to talk to David Greene. During the 7-minute interview, Damon and White talked about their organization and the profound effect their system can have in third-world countries.
In particular, Damon talked about two trips, one to Zambia and other to Haiti. In Zambia, Damon saw the effect a bore well had on the girls and women there, since the responsibility of fetching water rests with females: By being able to draw water from the well, women are able to save a considerable amount of time and girls can go to school. In Haiti, Damon met a 13-year-old girl who was at the top of her class. By being given access to water, the girl was able to make time to play.
Damon and White have helped out by giving people loans to pay for water. The people are able to pay them back 99% of the time and returns are 7-to-1. The two have also reached 5.5 million people.
White says the demand for water is 663 million, and 2.4 billion need sanitation. Also, it might cost $1 trillion to solve the water crisis. However, countries are only giving $8 billion a year for the effort.
2. Improving Infrastructure and Educating People About Water Sanitation Techniques
In cities like Flint, contaminated water lines need to be replaced. According to one plumber, there are around 140 working days available per year. Also, not only do municipal lines need to be replaced, but home lines need to be replaced because those could back up and re-contaminate the state drinking water.
Regardless, people need to know more how to use filters. Bob Bowcock, Erin Brockovich, and Scott Smith, discussed how harmful bacteria can be found in American water systems.
It would behoove state and local governments and the EPA to educate the public about this problem and discuss how to properly use filters.
3. Converting Saltwater to Freshwater
This is called desalination, and it is an option being considered for states like California. Basically, saltwater will be taken from oceans and seas then put through membranes to extract the water.
Israel has emerged as a leader in this process and it gets 55% of its water through this process. In addition, it has found a way to deal with microorganisms found in sea water, which would otherwise clog up the membranes. The use of lava stones allows workers at the Sorek desalination plant, for example, to clean the membrane without chemicals.
“Global Water Shortage: Water Scarcity & The Importance of Water.” The Water Project. <https://thewaterproject.org/water-scarcity/>.
Jacobsen, Rowan. “Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here.” Scientific American. 29 July 2016. Web. <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/israel-proves-the-desalination-era-is-here/>.
“Matt Damon And Gary White On The World’s Water Crisis.” NPR. 21 Apr 2017. Web. <http://www.npr.org/2017/04/21/525010789/matt-damon-and-gary-white-on-the-worlds-water-crisis>.
Nichols, Mark and Young, Alison. “Beyond Flint: Excessive lead levels found in almost 2,000 water systems across all 50 states.” USA Today. 11 March 2016. Web. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/03/11/nearly-2000-water-systems-fail-lead-tests/81220466/>.
Philpott, Tom. “California’s Drought Is Over, but the Rest of the World’s Water Problems Are Just Beginning.” Mother Jones. 8 Apr 2017. Web. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/04/globes-supply-underground-water-vanishing>.
U.S. Department of the Interior. “How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?” U.S. Geological Survey. Last Updated 2 Dec 2016. Web. <https://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html>.
“Water Quantity FAQ.” Lenntech. Web. <http://www.lenntech.com/water-quantity-faq.htm>.