Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Earth Day reminds some of us making a chocolate layered dirt and worms dessert in school as children. Some are reminded of the phrase, “Ok, Boomer,” echoing in their ear. And for others, memories of the very first Earth Day come flooding back. Whatever the memory the annual day brings, it’s a reminder of our responsibility to create a sustainable life and future. 

On Earth Day, many organizations and companies make their voice known about one particular environmental issue that is close to their heart. Some might be deforestation, climate change, or the genocide of animal species. At Connect For Water, our Earth Day Focus is what we know best: water. Because our company ethos is to fight the water crisis, we thought it appropriate for our Earth Day focus to be on water scarcity. But before we dive right in, we must define what it is -what is water scarcity?

Water Scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region.

Science Daily

Water Scarcity can mean scarcity in availability due to physical shortage, or scarcity in access due to the failure of institutions to ensure a regular supply or due to a lack of adequate infrastructure.

The United Nations

To put it simply, it means that mankind is using up more water than the earth has time to give. 

Different Numbers, Same Problem

Before we go any further, we recognize that there are different ways to calculate water scarcity. However, understanding that the problem remains the same is crucial. 

It’s ironic that the earth is facing a water scarcity with 71% of its surface area being in water. It makes the nickname “Blue Planet” appropriate.  The unfortunate truth, however, is that while only 3% of that water is fresh and consumable, less than 0.5% of consumable water is accessible.

So what does 0.5% look like? If measured in galons, the earth has 326 trillions gallons of water. 3% of that is 9.7 trillion gallons, 0.5% is 1.6 trillion gallons, and according to the Bureau of Reclamation, that equates to 2.2 million gallons for each person. 

Humanity’s Water Consumption

At first glance, 8.5 million liters (2.2 million gallons) for each person on earth doesn’t seem to be too much, but when you add up the water usage of each person, things get a little tricky. Human water usage goes beyond drinking water, showering, and flushing the toilet – it involves productions and infrastructures with agriculture at the top of the list. High Tide Technologies states that on average:

Farms around the world account for 70% of all water that is consumed annually. Of that 70% used by farmers, 40% is lost to the environment due to poor irrigation systems, evaporation, and overall poor water management. 

That’s a lot of water and unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The garment and textile industry takes second place using 79 billion cubic meters of water per year to produce garments and textiles. The list continues with meat production in third place, the beverage industry in fourth, and automotive manufacturing in fifth. 

Global Warming’s Effect On The Water Cycle & Water Scarcity

Unfortunately, another reason for water scarcity is global warming with its effect on the water cycle. The water cycle, as we all have learned, is essential to life on earth. It affects our weather, ecosystem, water levels, and much more. But due to higher temperatures, massive deforestation, and pollutants, the cycle is changing for the worse, in a way that will greatly affect our water supply. 

The Water Cycle As We Know It

Step 1: Evaporation
Water evaporates from bodies of water such as the ocean, sea, lakes, and rivers. Transpiration, which is when water evaporates from trees and other vegetation, also happens during this stage.

Step 2: Condensation
Evaporated water turns into water vapor that rises up into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. It then changes into the form of ice before falling in the form of rain or snow.

Step 3: Precipitation
Rain comes down due to temperature change, and if the temperature is below 0 degrees, the rain becomes snow. In some instances, it comes down as sleet or hail.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
As water pours down in either rain or melted snow, the liquid covers the surface of the earth, filling bodies of water and hydrating vegetation.

Step 5: Infiltration
The leftover water infiltrates deep below the topsoil, filling aquifers that help replenish different bodies of water. It is the top soil that allows for the moisture to be trapped. This water is drinkable and is considered to be the earth’s backup water supply.

What Is To Come

Step 1: Evaporation
Due to higher temperatures, evaporation quickens, adding moisture to the air which sucks up water from bodies of water and vegetation even faster.

Step 2: Condensation
The evaporated water rises into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. Due to temperature and wind changes, condensation will be heavy in some places and lighter (and sometimes next to none) in others.

Step 3: Precipitation
Because of the change air in temperatures, the areas where precipitation will occur will be drastic, leaving some areas too wet and others too dry. When precipitation occurs, heavier and warmer rain will increase as well as heavier snow falls.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
Because the water will be warmer, heavier runoffs will be experienced causing landslides that, aside from too much rain, will destroy crops, animals, and infrastructure. Topsoil will also be stripped away. The runoff will carry pollutants that will contaminate bodies of water including humanity’s drinking water. The temperatures of oceans, lakes, and rivers will increase resulting in an overgrowth of algae that will suffocate fish and destroy marine ecosystems. The ocean will increase in acidity causing major changes in ocean currents that can alter weather patterns across the globe.

Step 5: Infiltration
Because topsoil will be stripped away, the ground will not be able to retain moisture for vegetation, and the aquifers will no longer be able to hold water to help replenish bodies of water. This will lead to droughts. We are then left with a cycle of flooding and drought. Every time it floods, more soil will be stripped away, causing evaporation to quicken each time, leaving the ground worse than before.

Consequences of Water Scarcity

Consequences of water scarcity are as vast as they are disastrous.

We know that water scarcity combined with climate change results in a disastrous cycle of extreme drought and downpour. It can also result in severe weather changes such as heat waves,wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados. 

However, the consequences of water scarcity itself can result in much, much more. The lack of drinking water is obvious. As a result, a drastic change in the economy follows suit as prices in water and food increase. This will cause third world countries to suffer first. Poverty and hunger will also increase at an alarming rate. There will be destruction of habitats as well as mass migration, forcing everyone to move to a water supply. Other issues consist of sanitation issues and the spread of disease. The United Nations International Children’s emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that “When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting disease like cholera surges. Scare water also becomes more expensive.” 

Living in an inhabitable world is worst case scenario.

Be The Solution

Luckly, we have a chance to stop water scarcity before it’s too late, but we must act quickly. 

First and foremost, we must educate ourselves and those around us on water scarcity. We must know its causes and effects to understand how to fix it. We then must change our lifestyles to become water conservationists – doing everything in our ability to conserve water. One of our authors, Julia Hall, wrote an article titled article titled 4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water. There, among other sources, people can get conservation ideas. Other solutions include being innovative and part of teams that create new conservation technologies, being vocal in community organizations and political powers.

If you want to learn more about water conservation, we encourage you to follow us on our social media sites and stay informed by signing up for our newsletter!