Water: Soaring Demand But Less Supply
The impact of water scarcity is evident when we think about how water is related to our lives. Water is the base of everything, whether we use water to clean our food, hydrate our bodies, or manufacture the goods we need. However, as the demand for water continues to grow alongside today’s economy, freshwater scarcity can be difficult to supply to the population through conventional methods.
According to an article posted in 2016 by the World Bank, water scarcity would slow down economic growth in some regions by up to 6% of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) . Water insecurity could also bring up other issues, such as regional food security, the risk of regional conflicts, and even public health concerns . The following graph depicts the impact that water scarcity would have on GDP by 2050 in comparison to a baseline scenario with no scarcity.
Climate change, as we all know, is impacting our environment in a very extreme way as the global temperature continues to rise. As more research on water scarcity has been conducted over the past 10 years and its impact, it is shown that the increase in temperatures seen across the globe intensifies the evaporation cycle in all bodies of water (ie. oceans, lakes, lagoons, etc) . As a result, stronger evaporation events will bring stronger precipitation that can lead to flooding and impact all lifeforms.
Because of the intensified evaporation and precipitation in our water cycle, we are not able to capture as much water as before within the same time frame. In other words, the overall water retention time would become much shorter by up to 7.4% in our freshwater bodies and moves faster to oceans leaving us with more salt water than freshwater .
Let’s take the state of California located in the United States as an example. The following figure shows the annual statewide and regional precipitation variability by dividing California into 7 regions, data has shown an increase in precipitation variability after the 1980s. This draws a conclusion that dry and wet precipitation extremes have become much more frequent even though we cannot see an obvious trend in the total amount of precipitation in those regions .
Although government officials from California have pleaded with their residents and companies to reduce water usage by 15%, the overall data on water usage collected in March 2022 was up by 19% compared to March 2020. As the figure shows above, the overall precipitation does not really increase over time but the demand. Traditional methods to collect water is no longer sufficient to satisfy everyone’s need, and even the new technology such as desalination cannot solve the problem for us. Water conservation inside and outside our homes & business has to be our main effort in order to combat scarcity.
This type of water crisis is not only happening in California, we have identified that countries in tropical and subtropical regions are facing these challenges as well. Similar patterns are found across the globe and impact in a similar way. Although companies and governments have pledged to work on solving climate issues, it is far less enough to reverse the situation we are currently in. Passing the information to every individual will be the key to successfully helping the water crisis.