Water stress is a serious issue in many parts of the world. Discover its causes and effects, but most importantly the solutions to the water crisis.
Water is one of the most precious resources on the planet. More than 1 billion people do not have access to a source of clean drinking water, and around 3 billion experience water scarcity at least one month per year.
What is the definition of water scarcity? What are its causes and effects? And most importantly, how to overcome the water scarcity problem?
The Solar Impulse Label is granted to innovative water scarcity solutions that meet high standards of sustainability and profitability.
Each solution goes through a strict assessment process performed by independent experts.
A solar-powered distillation system for sustainable desalination of complex water supplies
A refillable gas powered unit for a completely eco-friendly buffet type environment
Fluorine gas mixtures as an environmentally friendly cleaning gas alternative for semiconductors
A shower tray with a heat recovery device that reduces shower water heating bills
A cordless rain water tank helping you to water your garden in a more sustainable way
A thousand-year-old irrigation system making plants naturally self-sufficient and saving up to 70% of water
A low-pressure, self-closing push-button tap that saves water when washing hands
An automated aeroponics system to grow full-size leafy greens in commercial greenhouses
A mercury-free ultraviolet water treatment to protect potable water from dangerous microorganisms
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Water scarcity, both natural and of human origin, is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands within a region. Water is unequally distributed over time and space. Much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.
There is no global water scarcity as such, but a number of places and regions are chronically short of water because its use at the global level has increased more than twice as fast as the population over the last century.
Pressure on water resources is increasing in several parts of the world, especially in China, India, Pakistan, in the Middle East and many countries and regions of Africa.
What are the main sources of water scarcity?
The degradation of water quality contributes to the shortage. Water pollution has environmental consequences that make water unfit for consumption or use and reduce the available water resources. Pollution is thus becoming one of the main threats to the availability and reuse of water. Fertilizers and pesticides, soil depletion and poor waste disposal conditions are detrimental to available freshwater sources.
Overuse of water
The misuse of water resources is another big issue leading to water scarcity. Inadequate management of water resources, whether it be for agriculture - using 70% of the world’s accessible freshwater - industrial activities or domestic use, causes a lot of wasted water. Considering that we are wasting more water than ever before, this causes a lot of “stress” on the amount of available water resources.
Glaciers and ice packs are melting in some areas, affecting the freshwater supplies. Moreover, because of global warming, there are more and more droughts, floods and heat waves. Climate change is therefore worsening the water crisis, especially in regions that are already under water stress.
Growing freshwater demand
Over the last 50 years, the world's population has doubled and continues to grow. As a result, the use of water to drink, cook and meet other needs has tripled. As the global population is expected to boom in the coming decades, water resources need to be managed more efficiently.
Water shortages have a great impact on human health, socio-economic development, and the environment:
1. Hunger, poverty and education
Apart from dehydration due to the obvious lack of drinking water, hunger is one the most serious effect of water scarcity. Why? Water shortages have a direct impact on crops and livestock, which can lead to food shortages and eventually starvation. As well, because of water shortages some people cannot shower, wash their clothes or clean their homes properly.
In the poorest countries, some children can’t go to school, because they are either too sick or they have to walk for a long time to reach a water source. Even when they can attend, many children cannot learn because of their fatigue, heavy responsibilities and worries for their families.
2. Sanitation issues and diseases
Water scarcity generates sanitation problems by forcing people to drink unsafe water. In fact, when water is scarce people tend to store it at home, which increases the risk of domestic water contamination and creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which transmit dengue and malaria.
Lack of water cause other diseases such as trachoma (an eye infection that can cause blindness), plague and typhus.
Having access to water has become a powerful global economic issue that could become one of the main causes of international tension. Local conflicts - sometimes resulting in warfare - are triggered over scarce water resources. With the burgeoning global population and growing needs, these tensions could multiply in the future.
4. Biodiversity loss
Water scarcity has different negative impacts on rivers, lakes, and other freshwater resources. It harms the environment in several ways including increased salinity, nutrient pollution, and the loss of floodplains and wetlands. Ecosystems and biodiversity (e.g. freshwater fish) are threatened by the scarcity of water resources.
There are ways to save water and prevent water scarcity:
1. Sustainable water management
Improving water infrastructure must be a priority, as water conservation and efficiency are key components of sustainable water management. Solar desalination and smart irrigation systems are great examples of clean technology for water efficiency and control. That obviously applies even more to the agriculture and farming sector - the largest consumer of water.
2. Reclaimed water
Rainwater harvesting and recycled wastewater also allow to reduce scarcity and ease pressures on groundwater and other natural water bodies. Groundwater recharge, that allows water moving from surface water to groundwater, is a well-known process to prevent water scarcity.
3. Pollution control & better sewage treatment
Without proper sanitation, the water becomes full of diseases and unsafe to drink. That is why addressing pollution, measuring and monitoring water quality is essential. Besides, improving the sewage systems in specific areas is another way to prevent water scarcity from becoming any worse.
4. Awareness & Education
Education is critical to solve the water crisis. In fact, in order to cope with future water scarcity, it is necessary to radically reform all forms of consumption, from individual use to the supply chains of large companies.
A label focused on both the environment and profitability.
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A label focused on both the environment and profitability.