Severe water shortages worldwide are expected to be even worse than widely believed, according to a study published in Science Advances. The shortages will affect a staggering 4 billion people worldwide — two thirds of the world’s population. Lest you believe that you are safe because of where you live, first world and western nations are not immune to the issue, look no further than the western United States for example. The bulk of the problem is centered on India and China however, the two most populous nations in the world.
The study defines water shortages as difficulty getting fresh water for one month of the year. Imagine going an entire month without the ability to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, or even drink the life-sustaining liquid.
The study used computer models and accounted for changes in the standards of living, increased irrigation, and population growth. It considers a severe water shortage as an area’s demand being more than double what is available. Of course, if demand exceeds supply, then there is by definition already a shortage, meaning that the study only highlights where the problem is drastic rather than just a problem.
“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins,” Dr. Arjen Hoekstra, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement. “That paints a more rosy and misleading picture, because water scarcity occurs during the dry period of the year.”
Water shortages are a problem not only from a basic health standpoint, but also from a geopolitical one. After all, if one nation or area is suffering from a lack of any particular resource, especially one as important as water, it can lead to political instability and unrest. In extreme cases, it can even lead to wars, both civil or international. In fact, water shortages are one of the most important issues facing our world today.
“The fact that the scarcity of water is being regarded as a global problem is confirmed by our research,” Hoekstra said. “For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”
The problem is not limited to its effect on human populations either. As water is drained from rivers and lakes, biodiversity can be reduced drastically. After all, if a lake disappears (as happens with increasingly alarming frequency) then the fish, wildlife, and plants dependant on it will die out or, if they are able, migrate elsewhere. But just like with people, when a migration of animals occurs it puts increasing pressure on the new area as well, creating something of a domino effect.
Climate change is a major culprit as well. Sadly, millions of people worldwide, especially in the United States, are continuing to bury their heads in the sand on the issue, believing it to be a hoax despite the evidence being literally everywhere.
“The results imply the global water situation is much worse than suggested by previous studies, which estimated such scarcity impacts between 1.7 billion and 3.1 billion people,” the study concludes.
You can read the entire study here.