When discussing the water crisis that so many face (over 1 billion people are affected), the two main reasons water is not available is due to concerns of quality and quantity. While there is enough freshwater on the planet for six billion people, it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and managed unsustainably.
First I want to define the term “water scarcity” to make sure we are all on the same page:
The UN website, Water for Life defines water scarcity as the point at which the aggregate impact of all users impinges on the supply or quality of water under prevailing institutional arrangements to the extent that the demand by all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully. Water scarcity is a relative concept and can occur at any level of supply or demand. Scarcity may be a social construct (a product of affluence, expectations and customary behaviour) or the consequence of altered supply patterns – stemming from climate change for example.
Never mind, let me sum up: water scarcity is the imbalance between the availability and demand of water to a population.
There are two kinds of water scarcity: economic and physical.
Physical water scarcity is based on geographic location, such as deserts, although physical water scarcity can also be due to man made causes like pollution and over-use.
Economic scarcity is when there is a lack of infrastructure necessary to take water from rivers and aquifers and provide it to a community. This type of infrastructure is extremely expensive and time consuming to create, so while water may technically be available, it cannot be accessed.
There is some overlap between the two because it can also be caused due to the erosion of river beds, the contamination of ground and surface water as well as competition for water between communities and other conflicts which all affect water accessibility.
Yes there should be plenty of water to satiate the thirst of all of us here on Earth, however, many struggle on a daily basis to get the amount they need to just exist. In my next post I am hoping to touch on what these struggles are and their effect.