Today is the World Water Day, a day aimed at raising awareness to water scarcity.
Water scarcity currently affects about 2.5 billion people, or every third person in the world.
This figure is expected to reach over 2.7 billion people in the coming decade. Also expected by that time is between 24 million and 700 million people all over the world who would be displaced due to water scarcity.
Population growth, agriculture, climate change, urbanization, and mismanagement of water resources all contribute to the growing global water crisis. The global population increased by three-fold in the 20th century but water use increased by six-fold. UNESCO predicts that half of the world human population will be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025.
Already about third of the world’s biggest underground water systems are in distress. And the problem is not just the dwindling water supply but also the quality of the water. According to the WHO, more than 2 billion people do not have access to a safely managed water source, almost a billion people do not have access to even a basic water source, more than 260 million people have to walk over half an hour just to access water that isn’t even clean.
About 2.5 billion people lack access to even basic sanitation services. The majority of these people are forced to practice open defecation, or use public pits or buckets.
The WHO reports that at least 2 billion people worldwide consume water from a source that is contaminated with feces. Fecal contamination in the water supply is a major cause of waterborne diseases such as Hepatitis A, Norovirus, and E Coli. Annually, about 5 million people contract diseases related to waterborne pathogens around the world, most of them children.
Along with children, women are also worst affected by water scarcity as they are the ones who bear the burden of gathering water for their families. In both Africa and Asia, women walk an average distance of 4 miles every day, to carry a 20 kilograms container of water, and from a water source which has the potential to make them sick. According to UNICEF, around the world, women and children spend 200 million hours every day collecting water. And an additional 266 million hours each day are lost because they have no toilet at home.
The impacts of water scarcity affect families and their communities. Children, mostly girls, drop out of school and parents struggle to make a living. Without clean, easily accessible water, people can become locked in poverty for generations.