You might have heard that water is running out in some parts of the world quicker than others.
This guide is a summary of whether we will have enough usable water in the future, and the important considerations to know that fit around that question, such as what will happen if we don’t have enough.
Will We Have Enough Water To Use In The Future?
- There is quite a large amount of freshwater in the world
- One of the problems is access to that water
- Most of the world’s freshwater is located in a small handful of countries
- This is a problem for high density populations and cities that rely on a comparatively small water supply to the amount of people that need to use it
- In addition to that, the quality of the water matters. Some places can have an abundance of freshwater, but due to different reasons, it is contaminated or polluted and unusable
- To help prevent a water shortage, either water supplies can either be augmented (increase the total capacity), or water consumption rates (in terms of litres per person per day) can be decreased
- The agricultural, industrial/commercial, and residential sectors are the three users of a water supply that can become more efficient with, or limit their daily water usage
- A growing population puts a huge demand/strain on water supplies – especially as population grows but a scarce water supply’s capacity isn’t increased
- This population needs water to drink and use in the household, but also to grow food to eat, and for energy production (sometimes referred to as the water-food-energy triangle)
- Decreased rainfall and droughts (which may or may not be exacerbated by climate change) also impact how much and how quickly water supplies are replenished or refilled
Ultimately, running out of water is an issue specific to a particular location, city, town or region.
A full assessment needs to be made of each location as to the factors that determine whether they will have enough water into the future, and all the variables that go along with it (as the variables are unique to each place).
Projections & Forecasts For Water Shortages & Water Scarcity Into The Future
Sciencenews.org has a guide outlining:
- Top 10 countries with lowest access to clean water near home
- How water withdrawal is outpacing population growth
- The countries in the world and their level of water stress by 2040
- The top 20 cities with the largest urban water deficits by 2050
- By 2050, some 3.5 billion to 4.4 billion people around the world will live with limited access to water, more than 1 billion of them in cities. Among 482 cities, more than a quarter will face demands that outpace supply …
You can read more at https://www.sciencenews.org/article/future-will-people-have-enough-water-live
Seametrics.com has 18 projections about water supply in the future. Read more at https://www.seametrics.com/blog/future-water/
Cheatsheet.com has a list of 17 cities that will face water scarcity or shortages in the near future. Read more at https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/these-cities-are-about-to-run-out-of-clean-drinking-water.html/
The Importance Of Freshwater
- Water has health, economic, social, environmental and other types of impact
- Every £1 invested in clean water yields at least £4 in economic returns
- Better access to water creates a society that is freed up in many ways
- It would cost just over £21bn a year to 2030, or 0.1% of global GDP, to provide water and hygiene to all those who need it, but the World Bank estimates that the economic benefits would be $60bn a year.
What Will Happen If We Don’t Have Enough Water?
Some parts of the world have never had access to safe and clean drinking water and freshwater to use for other purposes. These places usually have severe problems across the range of society – with death and health problems being front and centre (child deaths and malnutrition as an example).
Reasonably developed cities like Cape Town have recently experienced water shortages and there were a range of negative impacts reported. They were able to address and better the situation for now (with increased water supply levels in their dams) – but will be susceptible to it happening again if they don’t adjust water supply planning and behavior to conserve and ideally increase the water they do have. ‘Day Zero’ where municipal/town water supply is shut off is a reality if they don’t, but they already face significant water restrictions and will rely on above average rainfall to top up their dam water levels.
How To Prevent Water Shortages, & Address Running Out Of Water In The Future?
Having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom.
There are certainly things we can do much better to minimise the chances of running out of water in the cities that do have some left – but we must start doing these things now.
Already water scarce cities and places facing the prospect of ongoing water shortages need to get funding to augment their water supply (clear up polluted water, and/or increase water supply capacity and access to it), and/or also stick to their daily usage/withdrawal limits.
Places like China which has 20% of the world’s people but only 7% of the world’s freshwater supply are getting aggressive – looking heavily into desalination plants to utilise saltwater (and turn it into freshwater). Technology like this as of right now is energy intensive, along with expensive, complex and can face difficulties in planning and setting up. If there is a breakthrough with water augmentation technology to run it on renewable/clean energy, and costs can be lowered, this would change the outlook of freshwater supply into the future.
But, for now, water restrictions and more traditional ways to increase water supply and make better use of it are the best approach (along with protecting groundwater sources and aquifers from depleting – as this is where we get majority of our freshwater from worldwide).