Global Water Crisis Essay

The insufficient supply of safe drinking water has been viewed as the major cause of water related epidemics in the world today. Many people have lost their lives from diseases that are directly associated to unsafe drinking water. Contaminated water have affected the normal and reproductive lives of so many people mostly in the developing world. Contaminated water has caused many health problems in the whole world. In the developing countries especially in rural areas majority of people do not have access to safe water for drinking and are only surviving on polluted water.

The main factor of diminishing clean and safe waters supply has been the ever increasing world’s population growth which has increased the use of renewable water resources. The world’s population has been predicted to increase even further if the current population growth rate is not rectified. Hence, coupled with industrialization and urbanization, the result may be an increase in the demand for water which may add detrimental consequences to the environment. According to a joint report by WHO/UNICEF (2008), it states that “The number of people globally who lack access to an improved drinking water source has fallen below one billion for the first time since data were first compiled in 1990.  At present 87 per cent of the world population has access to improved drinking water sources, with current trends suggesting that more than 90 per cent will do so by 2015”. The statement confirms justifies the thesis statement that the sustainable access to safe drinking water is the current global water crisis. The report also noted that a sustainable and equitable water management should be undertaken having in place an integrated approach, the assessment of the resource is the basis for a sound decision making and the national capacities to undertake such assessments should be encouraged and enhanced at the grassroots and through international levels. This is can be paramount to provide a better understanding of the state of the world’s fresh water resources globally.

Literature review

According to Pierre (1995), “Water is undoubtedly the most precious natural resource that exists on our planet”. The water occurrence in the world is unevenly distributed both spatially and temporally. A rough estimate of the distribution of fresh water on the earth’s surface is as follow; the polar ice and glaciers is approximately 29 x 106 km3 which is 77 % of fresh water. Ground water of depths up to 800 m is approximately 4.15 x 106 km3 which accounts for 11 % of available fresh water. The ground water of depths below 800 m is approximately 4.15 x 106 km3 which is approximately 11%. The fresh water held in lakes, rivers and streams is approximately 0.12 x 106 km3. The water held in soil moisture and ground seepage is approximately 0.12 x 106 km3 and the water held in the atmosphere as water vapor accounts for 0.013 x 106 km3. . Thus the total quantity of water on the earth’s surface amounts to 97.2 % seawater and 2. 8 % freshwater, which amounts to 1.38 billion km³.  Most of the freshwater appears as ice. Only 0.3 % of the world-wide stores of water are available as drinking water.

Table 1. Showing the estimate of global water distribution.

Water source

Water volume in cubic miles

Water volume in cubic kilometers

Percent of fresh water

Percent of total water

Oceans, seas, bays




Ice caps, snow, glaciers





Ground water




Fresh water





Saline water




Soil moisture





Ground ice &permafrost









Fresh lakes





Saline lakes









Swamp water










Biological water





Secondary source: Earth forum, Houston Museum of Natural Sciences.

Evaporation from the oceans is the primary mechanism supporting the surface-to-atmosphere portion of the water cycle. After all, the large surface area of the oceans (over 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by the oceans) provides the opportunity for such large-scale evaporation to occur. On a global scale, the amount of water evaporating is about the same as the amount of water delivered to the Earth as precipitation. This does vary geographically, though. Evaporation is more prevalent over the oceans than precipitation, while over the land, precipitation routinely exceeds evaporation. Most of the water that evaporates from the oceans falls back into the oceans as precipitation. Igor (1993), noted that “onlyabout 10 percent of the water evaporated from the oceans is transported over land and falls as precipitation. Once evaporated, a water molecule spends about 10 days in the air. The process of evaporation is so great that without precipitation runoff, and discharge from aquifers, oceans would become nearly empty”.

In the water cycle, the hydrologic budget accounts for the various phases in the water cycle within a catchment with the main aim of ascertaining the relative magnitude.

The change in water storage Δ S (Change in storage) = Precipitation ( P) – ( Evaporation (E) + Evapotranspiration (T) + Ground water flow out of catchment (G) + surface runoff (Q).

There are three basic climatic groups which show the dominance of a combination of air mass source regions; the low latitude climates are controlled by equatorial and tropical air masses. The tropical moist climates (rainforests) have heavy precipitation in all months with the total annual rainfall being more than 250 cm (100 in) with steady temperatures of approximately 27o C  (80oF) having an average  temperature of 18o C.

The wet-dry tropical climates (Savanna) have temperature range of 16o C with annual precipitation less than 0.25 cm, whereas the dry tropical climate (Desert biome) having temperature range of 16o C and annual precipitation of 0.25 cm.

The second group consists of mid latitude climates. The dry mid latitude climates (Steppe) is a semi arid climate with temperature range of 24o C, having annual precipitation of less than 10 cm in the driest regions 50 cm in the moister regions. The Mediterranean climate (Chaparral biome) consisting of wet winters and dry summer have temperature ranges of 7o C with an annual precipitation of 42 cm. The dry midlatitude climates (Grassland biome) have annual temperatures that range widely having warm to hot summers and winters are very cold. The temperature range is 31o C and the annual precipitation of 81 cm. The moist continental climates (Deciduous forest biome) have temperature range of 31o C and an average annual precipitation of 81 cm.

The other group comprise of the high latitude climates. The boreal forest climate has temperature range of 41o C, low at -25o C and high at 16o C. The average annual precipitation is 31 cm. The Tundra climate (tundra biome) has temperature ranges low at -22o C and high at 6o C. The average annual precipitation is 28 cm. The highland climate (alpine biome) has climates that are cool to cold. The temperature range is low at -18o C and high at 10o C. The average annual precipitation is 23 cm.

The data on availability of safe drinking water for use by humans can make concerned parties on issues related to water to analyze the extent to which climate change, population growth and the rising levels of pollution intensify the water crisis, and to know the available water for each person in every country and the amount of water that will be needed to have a sustainable food supply in the years coming years

Current issues on the global water crisis.

The current global trends in population, urbanization, economic development, industrialization, migration have pushed water demand to unsustainable levels. Access to clean water is one part of the growing water crisis. The availability of clean water has been hampered by the ever increasing rate of population growth, industrialization and urbanization making the availability of quality water to pose threats to human existence. Population growth is a major cause of the global water shortages. There has been a lot of concern towards the ever increasing population growth which has resulted to an increase in industrial, agricultural and individual water demands. The demand for water has increased in most parts of the world with some regions having a higher demand for quality and quantity supply of water, over-utilization of freshwater resources has led to failure in the global accessibility of quality and quantity supply of water.

Temperatures changes have increased the rate of melting of snow, ice and glacier resulting into low water supplies in farms and cities. Climate change has also contributed to desertification which has aggravated the availability of water therefore the water quality has deteriorated in many countries especially the developing world due to salinity,the combination of lower precipitation and higher evaporation in many regions is reducing  water quantities in rivers, lakes and groundwater.

Increased urbanization in the developing countries has led directly to poor heath as the work necessary to develop infrastructure required to deliver clean water and sanitation has failed. Hence therefore the inadequate water has led to poor and low quality of life and, in some cases, social unrest.

Pollution is another cause of global water crisis. It involves the release into lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans of substances that become dissolved or suspended in the water or deposited upon the bottom and accumulate that interferes with the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. It also includes the release of energy in the form of radioactivity or heat. Crankcase oil drips and disposal.

Threats caused by water pollution include; the effects on the ecosystem such as the shifts in biodiversity of fauna and flora in the polluted ecosystem, changes in food chains and food webs, imbalances in the microbial population, and the depositions of toxic chemicals in soil leading to soil infertility.

Effects on animal health includes the  death of aquatic and terrestrial animals, reduced reproduction rate, increased incidences of diseases, imbalances caused by secondary food chains, accumulation of bioaccumulative and non-biodegradable pollutants in animal bodies, organochlorine pesticides such as DDT can lead to bioaccumulation and biomagnifications. The pollutants e.g. nitrate pollution can be carcinogenic to human beings; polluted water can cause skin disorders when in contact with pollutants. Pathogens can lead to increased incidences of constipation, diarrhea and intestinal infections. Dangers can be posed to unborn babies in pregnant women this can lead to still births, giving birth to deformed children and abortions. There may be an outbreak of water borne related diseases such as hepatitis, jaundice and gastroenteritis due to use of polluted waters. Other health effects to humans may be reduced borne development and muscular development, impotency and changes in psychological cycles of a human body.

Scarcity of water can cause famine. This situation can worsen since the population growth rate is ever increasing and lack of sufficient supply of food to feed the entire population can become a disaster i.e. an outbreak of famine.

Data analysis

Data analysis in all aspects of water and relevant socio-economic conditions need to be strategically collected and more systematically monitored to ensure adequate attention to the issues mentioned above. Use of data should be adequate within projects. The collection and analysis of data on the hydrologic cycle, groundwater, water quality, and precipitation are more important for successful water project implementation; hence therefore it needs to be taken on board more commonly.

Emerging trends in the global configuration for water call for adjustments and a more strategic approach by countries and financing agencies to better planning in order to be effective. Future directions need to be created on strong partnerships, better knowledge creation and dissemination.


There are possibilities that can alleviate the global water crisis; I believe that with technology, humans can have access to ground water. The technological advances in geology have been implemented in many regions by well drilling and pump technology. Technological methods can also be used to purify water e.g. desalinization of saline waters. According to FAO (2003), “Unreliable water deliveries have often been the main reason for farmers to turn to groundwater, leading in many regions to overexploitation. In many areas, over-abstraction of groundwater is severe and water levels are declining at rates of 1-3 meters per year”.

Water is a valuable natural resource and when referring to its ecological value we need to review water characteristics from the ecosystem perspective and to emphasize on its meaning and scope for humans, plants and animals, and for life as a whole in a comprehensive global approach. Thus, market approach to the management of water resources through privatization and putting water matters to be business. This could reduce or mitigate the political force and security pressure that interferes with international matters.

Some countries have regulations on population growth. This is another important strategy that can also mitigate the global water crisis. Slowing down the population growth rate would mean slowing down the pollution rate, better management of the current supply of water and demand.

Water conservation practices such as the use of efficient appliances and fixtures, behavioral changes, and changes in irrigation techniques, can reduce water consumption by greater levels.  It is important implemented general water-saving devices and practices such as low-flow toilets, in the work place it is important to encourage employees to use water wisely by turning off the water while washing hands, creating water-saving landscaping, waste water recycling and reuse.  

Many studies have pointed out that the most efficient benefits in water efficiency are those that can benefit the poor people by encouraging them to increase storage and the utilization of rain water. Rain water that is collected from roofs can be harvested in underground tanks and can make a very important supplier of quality drinking water since roof rain water is of good quality and may not necessarily require any prior treatment before its consumption.

The investments and management of safe and clean water supplies should be linked with a more effective management of the demand for clean water. . Demand management is a key challenge in the face of increasing water scarcity. Cost-recovery in Bank supported water projects has rarely been successful and efficiency enhancing technologies alone do not necessarily reduce water use in the agriculture sector. Fixing and enforcing quotas for water use is a relatively recent approach and deserves careful evaluation in the future. Effective demand management must become an integral theme of development assistance.

There is a vital need to have a greater focus on environmental restoration. It is not always necessary to restore the water-related environment to a perfect state in order to obtain major social, economic, and environmental benefits and reduce vulnerability. Gould and John (1989) suggested that “necessary improvements are needed for degraded environments, even when small, can have big impacts for example the Vietnam Coastal Wetlands Protection project which attempted   to balance environmental protection with the livelihood needs of people dependent on natural resources. The project helped to reduce the coastal erosion area by as much as 40%, this was a success”.

There needs to be greater attention given to improved sanitation. Since Population growth in developing countries has been very rapid like escalating rates of urbanization. An expansion of piped water services and higher household water use can be adopted to lead to an accelerating demand for adequate sanitation. Within sanitation, more emphasis should focus on household connections and cheap technologies. Generally, the connection targets in projects has never been met since  households have not connected to such systems, in part because the willingness to pay has been over-estimated and facilities have been over-designed. In addition, the contribution of water supply and sanitation to health outcomes needs to be emphasized more.

International organizations such as the should expand their commitments to develop and implement coherent social and environmental policies which aim at demonstrating good practices such as environmental stewardship in environmental conservation and managementEnvironmental awareness and education.

Environmental education and awareness concerning matters of water as a precious natural resource can be conducted in a more popular manner like adhering to and observing the, WWD (World Water Day), World Environment Day and others.

For instance the WWD 2010 focused on a theme “Clean Water for a Healthy World” The emphases on the production of waste water. The most important message was that waste and waste water can be re-used in a productive way such as energy production and irrigation. It also noted that in developing countries 80% is being misused due to lack of appropriate regulations and vital resources. It also focused on the impacts of population and industrialization growth rates which have greatly contributed to the addition of new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean and safe water

Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake, still water pollution is an obvious important issue.

In addition, the United Nations through the UN-Water chose a theme ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World” for World Water Day 2010. The overall goal of the World Water Day on 22 March 2010 campaign was to raise the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity. The United Nations Environmental Program- UNEP has the responsibility for taking the lead in 2010; The UN-Water was declared at a session during the Stockholm World Water Week in August 2009.


Availability of clean and safe water for drinking is a very sensitive factor affecting every aspect of human well-being and prosperity. It is very detrimental to human health; water availability is a necessity for the production of food, raising of domestic animals, quenching thirst, prevention of disease and provision of good sanitation and high hygienic standards.

Quality water is also very important for human socio-economic development through health facilities and education, energy production and in industrial use.

In relation to security from global water crisis, there should be put in place measures for the protection from floods and drought which have been natural disasters and have affected many people more regularly. For instance the people living in the developing world where protection and mitigation from natural disasters is not a priority and where a disproportionately high number of victims such as the internally displace people live.
 According to the United Nations (U.N.) Economic and Social Council, Committee on Natural Resources (1994), it states that “to meet the Millennium Development Goals, billions of people will need to have access to water over nine years”. Finally International organizations should encourage environmental education or awareness. Such as the UN declared 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action and the launching of a Water for Life campaign in an effort to address the most detrimental humanitarian results of the current, and increasing, global water crisis.