Our Demand For Water Is Constantly Increasing

     

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Water makes up about71% of the world"s surface area. The continual cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation means the Earth"s stores of water may change shape, but will never disappear. Despite this abundance, the availability of water suitable for human use is another matter. Increasing demand for water andthe resultant strain on our finite available water resources have combined khổng lồ contribute khổng lồ the threat of water uncertainties around much of the world.

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The Uncertainty of Water Supplies & the Increased Demand for Water

Water is an essential resource, và it is also non-renewable. If not managed appropriately, clean water supplies will diminish. As global temperatures rise every year và urban populations swell, a lack of potable water has led to water scarcity worldwide.Fourteen of the world"s20 largest cities have experienced water shortages in the past few years. In 2018, Cape Town, South Africa—home lớn more than 4 million residents—came perilously close toexhausting its water supplies.Other cities lượt thích Mexico City, São Paulo, Brazil, & Barcelona, Spain, have undergone similar shortages. India may have only five years lớn solve its mounting water crisis before it becomes so severe that it endangers citizens" lives. In the United States, California has experienced extended periods of drought that necessitate water rationing & pleas for personal conservation measures.If water covers so much of the Earth, why is clean water in such short supply? Most of the Earth"s water is ocean water, which is far too salty for drinking or irrigation. Only3% of the world"s water is fresh. Of that freshwater, much is unavailable for use. About 68% of our freshwater is frozen solid in glaciers & ice caps, and another 30% is groundwater that may not be readily accessible from the Earth"s surface. The rivers & lakes that supply much of the world"s water constitute only about 1/150 of 1% of the Earth"s total water volume.Because comparatively, little freshwater is available for human use, it is a resource we must conserve & apportion carefully. Yet demands on our water supplies continue khổng lồ grow as the world population swells and climate change sends temperatures soaring. Water scarcity will likely be the inevitable result.

What Is Water Scarcity?

Water scarcity is defined as the point at which a water supply cannot satisfy the needs of everyone who relies on it for water. This issue already affects every continent, & in the past century, the rate of water scarcity growth has climbed atmore than double the rate of the human population growth.

Current Picture of Water Scarcity

The United Nations (UN)quantifies water scarcity as an annual water supply of below1,000 cubic meters per person. That works out to lớn about 723 gallons of water per person per day. This number may seem like a lot, but it must cover drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, & the water a person uses indirectly for electrical, industrial, and agricultural needs.The United Nations defines absolute water scarcity as a limit of 500 cubic meters per person per year. If a region is approaching water scarcity but has not yet reached the threshold, it is said to experience water stress.Current statistics about water scarcity around the world paint a worrying picture. According lớn the UN, as of 2018, over2 billion people lived in areas of high water stress, và 700 million people across 43 countries experience water scarcity. About4 billion people — more than half the world"s population — experience extreme water scarcity during at least one month out of every year.

Projections and Impact of Water Scarcity

Predictions indicate that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions that experience absolute water scarcity, & up lớn two-thirds of the global population is likely khổng lồ experience conditions of water stress. UN projections also suggest that by 2030, if the rate of climate change continues unchecked, almost half the world"s population will be living in areas of extreme water stress, và water scarcity will displace between 24 million & 700 million people worldwide.

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Water scarcity causes many global challenges, including drought, famine, undernourishment, desertification, & disease spread in the absence of clean water for sanitation. Communities must work khổng lồ balance their water needs as rapid urban development strains local water supplies.

Why the Demand for Water Has Increased

The world is currently experiencing more water scarcity issues than ever before. Here are a few of the reasons for the increasing demand for water:

1. Rising Food Requirements

The global population has increased steadily over the past few decades, from about 2.5 billion people in 1950 lớn about 7.8 billion people in 2020. One current model, created by a Pew Research Center analysis of UN data, suggests that the human population may top out in 2100 atabout 10.9 billion.As the population grows, the increasing amount of people requires more và more food. The World bank reports that with the global population projected to rise lớn 10 billion, & with people in developed countries consuming more calories và complex foods, agricultural production will have toexpand by 70% through 2050 khổng lồ provide enough food for everyone in the world.Irrigation for agricultural operations requires thousands of gallons of water. Currently, about 70% of the world"s freshwater goes toward agricultural production. As demand for food increases, the strain on the world"s water supply will increase as well, potentially draining critical water resources that communities depend on for drinking và other personal needs.

2. Increased Energy Requirements

Energy demands may also claim a growing mô tả of our finite water resources. The UN reports that90% of the world"s power generation relies on intensive, non-reusable, & unsustainable water models. Projections also indicate that by 2050, global water demand will increase by 55%, primarily because of the manufacturing sector, which is likely lớn increase its water demandsby 400%.Much of the global energy supply comes from fossil fuel production, an incredibly water-intensive process. Extracting petroleum uses large volumes of water lớn lubricate and cool drills và remove debris from the work site. The refining process requires water as well. Coal mining uses water khổng lồ cool equipment surfaces, prevent coal dust from catching fire, và reduce the risk of explosions. Power nguồn plants use water for cooling, and even biofuels need water to lớn grow the initial crops. Hydrofracturing, or fracking, works by injecting large volumes of water & chemicals into the ground lớn create cracks for accessing oil & gas.To minimize water usage while satisfying energy needs, nations around the world may need to lớn turn to lớn alternative sources lượt thích solar, wind, và geothermal power.

3. More Frequent Droughts

As the Earth"s climate warms, one consequence is changing weather patterns. Severe storms are more common inmanyareas, & rising temperatures và lack of rainfall make drought more common in others.How does climate change contribute khổng lồ drought? Higher temperatures increase the rate of water evaporation from the soil, so periods of low precipitation become even drier than they otherwise would be. A cycle known aspositive feedback can then cause drought to lớn persist. Positive feedback occurs when arid soils và depleted plant cover contain no water lớn evaporate, so the area receives less rain than it would under standard climatic conditions.Climate change also disrupts precipitation patterns by interfering with the narrow streams of atmospheric moisture, known as atmospheric rivers, that produce rain & snowfall. Atmospheric rivers trương mục forbetween 30% và 40% of the typical Sierra Nevada snowpack, for instance, which in turn suppliesalmost a third of California"s water. A combination of disrupted atmospheric rivers and warmer temperatures may affect the Sierra Nevada snowpack & diminish available water supplies.Around the world, similar occurrences are taking place. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) predicts continual cycles of drought & flooding. All 17 of their prediction models indicate periods oflonger, more widespread drought throughout the next century. The Southwestern United States could experience megadroughts lasting more than three centuries.More frequent drought means communities must rely on water reserves for their water needs, both for personal household use & for industrial và agricultural requirements. Demands on water supplies will increase, water reserves will become more vulnerable lớn exhaustion, and ongoing drought conditions may make these depleted resources more difficult to restore.

4. Unsustainable Groundwater Pumping

Too much groundwater pumping leads lớn dangerous depletion of existing water supplies. Many regions pump water from underground aquifers more rapidly than the water stores can naturally replenish themselves.

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In the United States, the largest underground water source is the Ogallala Aquifer, which lies underneath much of Nebraska và extends into South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, và New Mexico. It is so large that if it spread across the entire country, it would cover all 50 states witha foot and a half of water. Itsupplies 30% of the country"s groundwater irrigation.Excessive use has diminished the Ogallala Aquifer so rapidly that it may be gone in 50 years unless we find an alternate water source lớn draw from. It would take 6,000 years khổng lồ fill naturally, so its loss would be catastrophic for the water needs of the middle third of our country.

5. Inadequate Water Infrastructure

Insufficient water infrastructure contributes to lớn the loss of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every year. In the United States, leaks in pipes và other water infrastructure cost us2.1 trillion gallons of water annually.Why do these leaks occur? Many pipes và water mains in the United States are aging poorly. Cold weather is particularly hard on older water infrastructure, so in the Midwest và Northeast, brutal winters crack the pipes, which then leak slowly all year long. Even in more moderate temperatures, cracks in older pipes & water mains are common. In 2014, in Los Angeles, a93-year-old water main burst và caused extensive flooding on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus.

Howto Combat Water Scarcity

Fortunately, there are a few different solutions lớn combat water scarcity. Though none of these solutions is perfect, each one represents an important step toward providing adequate clean water for our growing needs.

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1. Desalination

Desalination removes salt from ocean water and leaves fresh, drinkable water behind. The process involves powerful pumps that force water through a series of membranes. These semi-permeable membranes prevent the salts & many other minerals from passing through. The resulting stream is clean, potable water. However, there is also wastewater produced that is very high in salt content.One of the main drawbacks of desalination plants is cost — initial attempts have been prohibitively expensive. Desalination plants can also pollute the air, & the release of the leftover salty brine back into the oceans candisrupt fish populations. Ongoing advances make desalination a promising option for the future, however.

2. Aquifer Recharging

Aquifer recharging offers a potential solution to the rapid draining of groundwater supplies.Typically, aquifers refill slowly as rain or melted snow seeps through cracks in the Earth and collects in these natural underground repositories. Aquifer recharging speeds the process by injecting extra surface water from dams, lakes, or reservoirs —manytimesafter treating it first — into the aquifers, where it remains available for human use. One of the advantages of this recharging is that water in an aquifer is less susceptible lớn pollution from surface runoff và losses from evaporation or leaks.

3. Decentralized Treatment

Decentralized treatment solutions involve developing smaller, spread-out water treatment stations that can treat local water. Relying on local treatment solutions instead of one centralized treatment plant means having less water infrastructure khổng lồ maintain because the treated water will have less distance khổng lồ travel. Outlying communities can get their clean water from a local source instead of having it pumped for miles through pipes that may leak or burst.

4. Infrastructure Monitoring and Repairs

One straightforward solution lớn the problem of aging, leaky water infrastructure is investing in infrastructure maintenance & repairs. Developing & implementing a schedule of monitoring, reporting, maintenance, & repairs can help address tiny weak spots in pipes before they develop into costly leaks và ruptures. Combining a program like this with new technologies lượt thích smart valves & wireless leak-detection devices can also enhance water security.

5. Water Conservation

Exciting new technologies may hold promise for the future, but until we reach those goals, basic water conservation methods help combat water scarcity. We can start by cutting back on lawn watering, taking shorter showers, installing low-flow bathroom fixtures, & eating less meat lớn reduce our reliance on water-intensive agricultural practices. All these steps help conserve water và guard against water scarcity, especially in areas of sustained population growth.

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