Clean water is essential for life. However, you may have heard about water crises around the world and wondered what exactly a water crisis is. And how bad can it be? After all, water covers 71% of the earth, so it must be plentiful, right? Wrong. According to the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), only 0.5% of the earth’s water life-sustaining freshwater is available for our use. When additional factors such as lack of infrastructure, pollution, and changes in weather patterns are added, the state of the current water crisis becomes clearer. A water crisis is when a region’s need for water is higher than the available potable (drinkable), unpolluted water within that region.  A common term for water crisis is water stress. Access to unpolluted water keeps people healthy and productive. It allows communities to stay nourished as it’s used for irrigation to grow produce and provides hydration for livestock. Clean water also allows for sanitation to prevent disease. In addition, it gives women and children opportunities for education and meaningful work rather than spending hours every day on water collection. When clean water is accessible, people, communities, and nations thrive. But, when there is a water crisis, these clean water benefits can’t be realized. So how bad is the current water crisis, and who is affected by it?

Why Do We Have a Water Crisis at All?

The World Health Organization reports that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Why is this happening? They offer a combination of contributing factors, including:
  • Climate change: Our weather patterns are changing, leading to droughts, floods, hot areas getting hotter, and the cold regions getting colder.
  • Increasing water scarcity: Two primary reasons for water scarcity are increased freshwater use along with the depletion of usable freshwater resources.
  • Population growth and demand for water: The need for water increases as our population increases. And our world population of 7.5 billion is expected to increase by 2.3 billion people by 2050.
  • Depletion of groundwater: Groundwater is underground water stored in soil and aquifers. NASA discovered that groundwater is being rapidly depleted.
  • Demographic changes: Humans have a huge impact on the environment, which leads to demographic changes. Urbanization, migration, and an increased number of households are demographic factors that impact water resources.
  • Insufficient or aging infrastructure of treatment plants, pipes, and sewer systems: Leaking pipes waste 6 billion gallons of treated water each day in the U.S. Disrepair led to the failure of the Oroville Dam Spillway in 2017, causing water waste and flooding.
  • Incorrect water pricing: The cost of water doesn’t reflect its service cost, which has led to insufficient investment in maintaining water infrastructure.

How Bad Is the Current Water Crisis?

Imagine waking up for the day without water — or only disease-causing polluted water — to use. How would you brush your teeth, shower or bathe, quench your thirst? You couldn’t. Or, if you did use it, you could get seriously ill. If this was your reality day after day, life could get quite discouraging. Unfortunately, most people don’t have to imagine because this is the reality for nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, four billion people, who endure at least one month per year of water scarcity. Unicef reports that women and girls spend 200 million hours per day collecting water. That’s the equivalent of 8.3 million days or more than 22,800 years. We know that families and entire economies suffer when women are kept from attending to their families and out of the workforce, and girls cannot participate in school because they have to spend up to eight hours per day on water collection. Staggering statistics like these can be dismissable, but they are important because each number represents a human being. Try picturing the face of a real person as you read a few data points from the World Health Organization about the problem of the current water crisis.
  • At least 2 billion people globally drink water contaminated with feces.
  • About 829,000 people die yearly from diarrhea-causing diseases (cholera, dysentery, typhoid, etc.) due to a lack of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene.
  • By 2025, 50% of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
  • 2.2 billion people don’t have access to safely managed water — that’s one in three people worldwide.
  • More than 25 million Americans use drinking water that doesn’t meet federal health standards. More than 25% of those affected are in Latino communities, and low-income counties have more than twice as many health violation points as wealthy counties.

Are Americans Affected by the Current Water Crisis?

Who is affected by the current water crisis? Everyone. For the most part, Americans expect to turn on the faucet and instantly have safe water available; we picture the water crisis as a third-world only problem. But it’s a global problem that affects people living in the United States as well, and the southwestern states are a prime example. For the past twenty years, water usage has surpassed supply from the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people in the southwestern U.S. It also provides water to irrigate five million acres of farmland. The Colorado River feeds into two reservoirs: Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Lake Mead is currently 35% full, and Lake Powell is only 32% full — down 10% from 2020. For the first time, in August of 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation declared an official water shortage for the Lake Mead reservoir. While U.S. demand for water continues to rise, it is projected that in 50 years from now, water supplies may be reduced by one-third of the current supply.

Join Healing Waters To End the Water Crisis

Healing Waters is on a mission to end the global water crisis, and we invite you to join us. Everyone deserves access to clean water. It’s a necessity for life and a fundamental right. If you would like to learn more about how to get involved, contact us today!
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