Water Scarcity: A Definition
In considering water scarcity, a definition might first consider both words within the term. While water is obviously the compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H2O, essential to life, Dictionary.com defines scarcity as an “insufficiency or shortness of supply; dearth.”1 A basic definition of water scarcity is when the supply of water is insufficient to meet the demands for it.
According to World Resources Institute,
“Water withdrawals globally have more than doubled since the 1960s due to growing demand—and they show no signs of slowing down.”2
A recent study revealed 17 countries, representing a fourth of the world’s population, “face ‘extremely high’ levels of baseline water stress.”3
It’s estimated 4 billion people—70 percent of the world’s population—experience water scarcity at least one month of the year, and the demand for these limited resources is only expected to grow.4
Already pressing in many parts of the world, the demand for water will continue to increase as it’s needed for food and energy production as well as industry to meet the needs of growing populations.5 According to an MIT study, by 2050, half of the world’s population “may be living under at least moderately stressed water-resource conditions.”6
There are two main types of water scarcity: physical and economic.
Physical scarcity occurs when there is water shortage for ecological reasons, while economic scarcity is a result of inadequate water infrastructure, though both are often contributing factors to water shortages.7
“Roughly 20 percent of the world’s population now lives in physical water scarcity. 1.6 billion people around the world live in areas of economic water scarcity, with 780 million people living in areas with no basic water services.”8Fluence News Team report
Lack of water also affects sanitation.
The causes of water scarcity include the overuse of water, the pollution of water and the advent of conflict—which may hamper people’s access to available water, lead to destruction of infrastructure, disrupt water supply and cause both drought and natural disasters.9 In some areas, there are multiple factors that compound and exasperate the water crisis. Drought or overuse of water may lead to conflict. Natural disasters may occur in areas already struggling for a sufficient water supply. People may travel long distances only to fight over water that is polluted.
The lack of water impacts people’s lives in various ways, and it can affect their very survival. The suffering caused by water scarcity compels organizations such as GFA World to respond with initiatives that provide clean water to those in need.
1 “Water scarcity.” ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/water_scarcity.htm. Accessed Novembe“Scarcity.” Distionary.com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/scarcity. Accessed November 23, 2021.
2 Hofste, Rutger Willem, et. al. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
3 Hofste, Rutger Willem, et. al. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
4 Mekonnen, Mesfin M., and Arjen Y. Hoekstra.. “Four billion people facing severe water scarcity.” Science Advances. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1500323. February 12, 2016.
5 “What is Water Scarcity?” Fluence News Team. https://www.fluencecorp.com/what-is-water-scarcity/. October 6, 2017.
6 C. Adam Schlosser, Kenneth Strzepek, Xiang Gao, Arthur Gueneau, Charles Fant, Sergey Paltsev, Bilhuda Rasheed, Tony Smith-Greico, Élodie Blanc, Henry Jacoby, and John Reilly. MIT Joint Program. “The Future of Global Water Stress: An Integrated Assessment.” MIT Joint Program. https://globalchange.mit.edu/sites/default/files/MITJPSPGC_Rpt254.pdf. January 2014.
7 Felter, Claire, and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem that’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
8 “What is Water Scarcity?” Fluence News Team. https://www.fluencecorp.com/what-is-water-scarcity/. October 6, 2017.
9 “What is water scarcity?” Conserve Energy Future. https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-water-scarcity.php. Accessed November 19, 2021.