13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (2023)

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    One of the most important environmental goals is to provide clean water to all people. Fortunately, water is a renewable resource and is difficult to destroy. Evaporation and precipitation combine to replenish our fresh water supply constantly; however, water availability is complicated by its uneven distribution over the Earth.

      Water Scarcity

      The water crisis refers to a global situation where people in many areas lack access to sufficient water, clean water, or both. Arid climate and densely populated areas have combined in many parts of the world to create water shortages, which are projected to worsen in the coming years due to population growth, water overuse, water pollution, andclimate change. Specifically, climate change shifts precipitation patternsand causesthe snow pack that recharges rivers to melt earlier in the year. Furthermore, rising sea levels associated with climate change worsen saltwater intrusion.

      Water scarcityrefers to water shortages, which can be physical or economic(figure \(\PageIndex{a}\)).Physical water scarcity isthe lack of sufficient water resources in an area; that is, water is depleted more quickly than it is replenished. Unpredictable precipitation patterns associated with climate change, which increase the risk of flooding and drought, exacerbates physical water scarcity.Economic water scarcity occurs when people cannot afford access to water.The United Nations estimates that over half of the global population faces water scarcity for one or more months of the year (see The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019).According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 785 million people lack access to even a basic drinking water service (see Drinking Water) andtwo billion people lack access to improved sanitation as simple as a pit latrine (see Sanitation), and three billion people lack a facility to wash their hands (see Hand Hygiene for All).As a result, nearly 829,000people die every year from diarrheal diseases, and 297,000 of those deaths occur among children under the age of five (see Drinking Water).

      13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (2)

      Solutions for Addressing Water Shortages

      While some human activitieshave exacerbated the water crisis, humans have also developed technologies to better acquire or conserve freshwater. Solutions to addressing water shortages include dams and reservoirs, rainwater harvesting, aqueducts, desalination, water reuse, and water conservation.

      Dams and Reservoirs

      Reservoirs(artificial lakes) that form behind dams in rivers can collect water during wet times and store it for use during dry spells (figure \(\PageIndex{b}\)). They also can be used for urban water supplies. Other benefits of dams and reservoirs are hydroelectricity, flood control, and recreation. Some of the drawbacks are evaporative loss of water in arid climates anddownstream river channel erosion. Additionally,dams reduce water flow downstream, which could lead to political conflicts when rivers span states or countries.

      The negative ecosystem impacts of dams are another major drawback. For example, dams change a riverto a lake habitat and interfere with migration and spawning of fish. Furthermore, warming of the surface water in the reservior influences the temperature of the water downstream, impacting the fish and aquatic invertebrates that are adapted to colder water. Dams also trap sediments that would otherwise continue to flow down the river, creating habitat and supplying nutrietns downstream.

      13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (3)

        Rainwater Harvesting

        Rainwater harvesting involves catching and storing rainwater before it reaches the ground. Figure \(\PageIndex{c}\) shows a complex rainwater harvesting system (rain water capture system) proposed for federal buildings, but smaller, simpler systems (sometimes called rain barrels)can be used by individual homeowners (figure \(\PageIndex{d}\)).

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        13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (4)
        13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (5)


        Aqueducts can move water from where it is plentiful to where it is needed. Aqueducts can be controversial and politically difficult especially if the water transfer distances are large. One drawback is the water diversion can cause drought in the area from where the water is drawn. For example, Owens Lake and Mono Lake in central California began to disappear after their river flow was diverted to the Los Angeles aqueduct (figure \(\PageIndex{e}\)). Without water supply, Owens Lake dried and became a major source ofparticulate matter, polluting the air during dust storms (see Air Pollution).Owens Lake remains almost completely dry, but Mono Lake has recovered more significantly due to legal intervention. Learn more about the Los Angeles Aqueduct here.

        13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (6)


          One method that can actually increase the amount of freshwater on Earth is desalination, which involves removing dissolved salt and minerals from seawater or saline groundwater (figure \(\PageIndex{f}\)). An advantage of this approach is that there is a virtually unlimited supply of saltwater. There are several ways to desalinate seawater including boiling, filtration, electrodialysis (applying an electric current to removed the ions which comprise salts), and reverse osmosis (figure \(\PageIndex{g}\)). All of these procedures are moderately to very expensive and require considerable energy input, making the water produced much more expensive than freshwater from conventional sources. In addition, the process creates highly saline wastewater, which must be disposed of and creates significant environmental impact. Desalination is most common in the Middle East, where energy from oil is abundant but water is scarce.

          13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (7)
          13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (8)

          Water Reuse (Water Recycling)

          Water recycling refers to reusing water for appropriate purposes such as agriculture, municipal water supply, industrial processes, and environmental restoration (figure \(\PageIndex{h}\)). This could occur at the scale of a single household, for example, installing plumbing that reroutes water drained from the sink toflush the toilet. Water recycling can also occur at large scales. For example, wastewater fromthe sewage system is regularly treated to an extent, but it can be treated further to producepotable water (which is safe to drink) and then pumped into depleted aquifers. This approach limits saltwater intrusion of aquifers near the coastand reduces dependence on precipitation and subsequent infiltration to recharge aquifers. Orange County Water District in California employed this system following an information campaign to explain the purification process and ensure public confidence in the safety of the treated wastewater.

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          13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (9)

          Water Conservation

          Water conservationrefers tousing less water and using it more efficiently. Around the home, conservation can involve both water-saving technologies and behavioral decisions. Examples of water-saving technologies include high-efficiency clothes washers and low-flow showers and toilets. Water-conserving behaviors include turning off the water while you brush your teeth, taking shorter showers and showers instead of baths, and fixing leaky faucets. A dishwasher uses less water than washingdishes by hand, particularly the dishwasher is only run when it is full. Similarly, running fewer, larger loads of laundry conserves water relative to more frequent, smaller loads. Choosing foods with a low water footprint (like eggs) over those with a high water footprint (like beef) can also conserve water.

          Gardening offers several water-saving opportunities. If you live in a dry climate, consider growing only native, drought-tolerant vegetation, which requires little irrigation (figure \(\PageIndex{h}\)). When you do irrigate your garden, do so only as needed and early in the morning, when less water will be lost to evaporation. Drip systems assist in delivering only the needed amount of water in a way that minimizes evaporation. These strategiescan also be applied at large scales in agriculture,which is extremely important considering the high agricultural demands onour water supply relative to municipal use. Water conservation strategies in agriculture include growing crops in areas where the natural rainfall can support them, more efficient irrigation systems such as drip systems, and no-till farming, whichreduces evaporative losses by covering the soil.

          13.3: Water Scarcity and Solutions (10)

          Bottled water is not a sustainable solution to the water crisis. Bottled water is not necessarily any safer than the U.S. public water supply, it costs on average about 700 times more than U.S. tap water, and every year it uses approximately 200 billion plastic and glass bottles that have a relatively low rate of recycling. Compared to tap water, it uses much more energy, mainly in bottle manufacturing and long-distance transportation. (Purchasing a water filter is a more sustainable solution than bottled water if you do not like the taste of tap water.)

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          Drinking Water. 2019. WHO.Accessed 2020-12-29.

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          Hand Hygeine for All. 2020. UNICEF.Accessed 2020-12-29.

          Sanitation. 2019. WHO.Accessed 2020-12-29.

          The Sustainable Development Goals Report. 2019. United Nations. Accessed 2020-12-29.


          Modified by Melissa Ha from the following sources:


          What are the solutions to water scarcity? ›

          Managing Water Scarcity
          • Installing special tanks that store rainwater for irrigation.
          • Using drip irrigation for more efficient watering.
          • Establishing schools for farmers where they learn how to adapt to climate change with drought-resistant crops, crop rotation, and sustainable ways to raise livestock.

          What is driving China's water scarcity crisis Dbq answers? ›

          What is driving China's water scarcity crisis Dbq answers? There are three main causes of China's water scarcity crisis: Global warming, Water pollution, and Industrialization. Out of these, the biggest driver is Industrialization.

          What are the 10 causes of water scarcity? ›

          Following are some of the major causes of water shortage:
          • Climate change.
          • Natural calamities such as droughts and floods.
          • Increased human consumption.
          • Overuse and wastage of water.
          • A global rise in freshwater demand.
          • Overuse of aquifers and its consequent slow recharge.

          What are the main causes of water scarcity PDF? ›

          Water scarcity occurs where insufficient water resources are available to satisfy long-term average requirements. Population growth, more intensive agriculture, energy and manufacturing needs and tourism all contribute to increasing water use .

          What is the best solution for scarcity? ›

          Societies can deal with scarcity by increasing supply. The more goods and services available to all, the less scarcity there will be. Of course, increasing supply comes with limitations, such as production capacity, land available for use, time, and so on. Another way to deal with scarcity is by reducing wants.

          What causes water scarcity? ›

          Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others. At the current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse.

          What are the 2 main reasons for increasing global demand for water? ›

          Demand for water is rising inexorably through a combination of population growth, economic development, and changing consumption patterns. Over the past 100 years, global water use has increased nearly eight times. Traditionally, the largest demand for water comes from agriculture, around 70%.

          Why do so many countries face water scarcity Class 7 short answer? ›

          Human society is overusing water and in many cases wasting it. Loss of water due to leakages, excessive use of water for washing purposes, taps left open after use are some common sights that form the basis of the problem of water scarcity. Due to the large increase in population, the demand is much more than supply.

          What is water shortage caused by and how can we tackle this issue ielts? ›

          To sum up, water lack is an urgent global problem with many reasons contributing to it. Such as water wastage, increase population and human activities. To solve this up growing problem, we should all cooperate with the government in minimizing our usage and saving water.

          What are the effects of water scarcity? ›

          Water scarcity limits access to safe water for drinking and for practising basic hygiene at home, in schools and in health-care facilities. When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting diseases like cholera surges. Scarce water also becomes more expensive.

          What are the types of water scarcity? ›

          Water scarcity is often divided into two categories: physical scarcity, when there is a shortage of water because of local ecological conditions; and economic scarcity, when there is inadequate water infrastructure.

          What are the three types of water scarcity? ›

          There are two general types of water scarcity: physical and economic.

          Who affects water scarcity? ›

          Women and children are worst affected - children because they are more vulnerable to diseases of dirty water and women and girls because they often bear the burden of carrying water for their families for an estimated 200 million hours each day.

          What are the causes and effects of scarcity of water? ›

          The concept of water scarcity may also refer to the difficulty in obtaining fresh water sources and the deterioration and depletion of the available water sources. Some of the contributing factors to water scarcity are climate change, water overuse, and increased pollution.

          How does water scarcity affect the economy? ›

          Progress in water technologies that help reduce water consumption can increase GDP growth. Water scarcity will hinder future economic development in China and other parts of the world, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. Even in non-arid regions, water scarcity can constrain economic growth.

          Why do we need to solve scarcity? ›

          We have to efficiently allocate resources. We have to do those things because resources are limited and cannot meet our own unlimited demands. Without scarcity, the science of economics would not exist. Economics is the study of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

          Why is water important? ›

          Water helps your body:

          Keep a normal temperature. Lubricate and cushion joints. Protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Get rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements.

          What is meant by water scarcity? ›

          Water scarcity is a relative concept.

          The amount of water that can be physically accessed varies as supply and demand changes. Water scarcity intensifies as demand increases and/or as water supply is affected by decreasing quantity or quality.

          How does population affect water quality? ›

          Overpopulation will strain current water resources to their limits, cause an increase in water pollution, and lead to an increase in civil and international conflicts over existing water supplies.

          What is the future of water? ›

          Population growth, lifestyle changes, development, and agricultural practices will contribute to an increasing demand for water during the next 20 years. Global water use is likely to increase by 20 to 50 percent above current levels by 2050, with industrial and domestic sectors growing at the fastest pace.

          What causes scarcity? ›

          The causes of scarcity can be due to a number of different reasons, but there are four primary ones. Poor distribution of resources, personal perspective on resources, a rapid increase in demand, and a rapid decrease in supply are all potential scarcity causes.

          What are 100 uses of water? ›

          "Using water mostly in our daily life for drinking"
          • Brushing Teeth.
          • Bathing.
          • Washing Clothes.
          • Cleaning Floor.
          • Flushing Toilets.
          • Cleaning Fruits.
          • Cleaning Vegetables.
          • Cleaning Dishes.
          8 May 2020

          How can students help the water crisis? ›

          Report leaks to the appropriate authorities

          Reporting leaks and following up to make sure they are fixed is one of the most effective ways individual students can save water at school.

          What is the conclusion of water shortage? ›

          The Water Project states that, [..] without access to a reliable source of water, food is hard to grow[...] In conclusion, water scarcity, is an issue that will greatly affect the amount of crops grown and will determine whether there is enough food to feed the world by 2050.

          What are the causes and effects of scarcity? ›

          Solution. Scarcity is caused by society not having enough resources to produce all the things people would like to have. The affects of scarcity are that we must make economic decisions regarding how to satisfy seemingly unlimited and competing wants through the careful use of relatively scarce resources.

          When did water scarcity start? ›

          1800s: Water shortages first appear in historical records. 1854: Dr. John Snow discovers the link between water and the spread of cholera during an outbreak in London.

          What are the two main causes of scarcity? ›

          What are the causes of scarcity?
          • Demand scarcity: When there is a high demand for a resource or product, due to increasing populations or changes in preferences.
          • Supply scarcity: When the supply or resource is low or out, due to weather, disasters or resource depletion.
          13 Apr 2021

          What are the benefits of water supply? ›

          Table 9.6Benefits of Improved Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation
          Health, economic savingsCosts related to diseases, such as health care, productivity losses, and premature mortality
          Convenience time savingsSaved travel and waiting time for water collection
          6 more rows

          What is driving China's water scarcity crisis? ›

          Pollution Driving Scarcity

          Pollution of large portions of China's extensive river system is contributing to water scarcity across the country.

          What is the main issue behind China's water problem? ›

          Northern China's water poverty, combined with myopic government policy, means that the region relies on fast-depleting groundwater for much of its household usage, industrial consumption and irrigated water. Groundwater drilling, coupled with breakneck industrialisation, has proved particularly toxic.

          Why is water scarcity a problem in China? ›

          Three factors contribute to China's water scarcity: uneven spatial distribution of water resources; rapid economic development and urbanization with a large and growing population; and poor water resource management.

          What 3 things are causing the water crisis in S Asia? ›

          Less than sufficient water flows in rivers, drawing down of ground water, and rapid population growth have made the region highly vulnerable to water stress. The gap between demand and supply is likely to further worsen because of the impact of climate change on weather patterns.

          How does polluted water affect people? ›

          More than 50 kinds of diseases are caused by poor drinking water quality, and 80% of diseases and 50% of child deaths are related to poor drinking water quality in the world. However, water pollution causes diarrhea, skin diseases, malnutrition, and even cancer and other diseases related to water pollution.

          Does the world have a water shortage? ›

          Over 2 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water at home, and by 2025 over half of the world's population will reside in water-stressed areas. These numbers will increase significantly if climate change and population growth follow or exceed predicted trajectories.

          What causes water scarcity in Asia? ›

          The cause of the scarcity has been the proliferation of urban infrastructure, heavy demand of the agricultural industry and general mismanagement of water. As a result, there has been an increasing over-extraction of finite groundwater; water held underground in the soil or pores and crevices in rock.

          What are the problems faced by water? ›

          Groundwater problems are scarcity of recharge, depletion of aquifers, decline of groundwater levels and increase of salinity and intrusion of saline water from the sea. The problems related to water desalination result from disposal of reject brines and pollution of feedwater.

          What is the main issue with water? ›

          Overuse, increasing demand, pollution, poor management, lack of infrastructure, and changes in weather patterns due to global warming are key stressors that affect the availability of fresh water.

          What problems are we facing with water? ›

          Water scarcity limits access to safe water for drinking and for practising basic hygiene at home, in schools and in health-care facilities. When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting diseases like cholera surges. Scarce water also becomes more expensive.

          What country is running out of water? ›

          There are 17 countries listed in the category of suffering from extremely high baseline water stress – Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, United Arab Emirates, San Marino, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Oman and Botswana.

          Does India have enough water? ›

          In addition to affecting the huge rural and urban population, the water scarcity in India also extensively affects the ecosystem and agriculture. India has only 4% of the world's fresh water resources despite a population of over 1.38 billion people.

          Can you drink water in China? ›

          Tap water in China is undrinkable, but it is safe to use it for washing and for brushing your teeth. Travelers can drink boiled water or easily find bottled water in convenient stores everywhere. Tap water is not drinkable.

          Why is water a global issue? ›

          More than two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water; and nearly double that number—more than half the world's population—are without adequate sanitation services. These deprivations can spur the transmission of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, and diarrhea.

          What are 3 problems that water has in our world? ›

          Climate change, increasing water scarcity, population growth, demographic changes and urbanization already pose challenges for water supply systems. Over 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries, which is expected to be exacerbated in some regions as result of climate change and population growth.

          When did water scarcity become a global issue? ›

          1800s: Water shortages first appear in historical records. 1854: Dr John Snow discovers the link between water and the spread of cholera during an outbreak in London. 1900s: Since 1900, more than 11 billion people have died from drought, and drought has affected more than one billion people. 1993: The U.N.


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