Ongoing water crises in India, Pakistan and the U.S. to affect billions

By Ion Ilasco

Ongoing water crises in India, Pakistan and the U.S. to affect billions

Water is essential for human life and wellbeing. About 70% of our planet’s surface is covered by water yet only 3% of the world’s reserves are fresh water and less than 2% is available to us for consumption. This fact leads to water scarcity where the demand for freshwater is higher than the available resources. There are currently several acute crises around the globe with India, Pakistan, and several African countries being among the worst affected.

Water scarcity

Climate change, irrational utilization, and pollution are just some of the factors that reduce the quality and availability of freshwater. In circumstances when the water demand is greater than the available resources to cover it, we encounter water scarcity.

According to UNICEF, even those states with adequate water resources may experience water shortages due to contamination, pollution, or institutional failure.

Persistent occurrences of similar shortages lead to the emergence of water crises. Currently, almost 25% of the global population faces some kind of water crisis while another 771 million people lack access to clean, safe water.

Fig. 1. Regions affected by acute water stress

Source: GRID-Arendal. Vital Water Graphics 2 – Increased global water stress.

Ongoing water crises

Water crisis in the Middle East and North Africa – this region is the most water-scarce and conflict-prone in the world. The average temperature here rises twice as fast as the global average with some countries, such as Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, recording temperatures close to 50°C. During the last 50 years, several important regional rivers have lost half of their annual flow making the water crisis even worse. About 66 million people living in Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Israel/the State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are affected.

Water crisis in India – some of the largest water reservoirs in India are quickly drying up. The NITI Aayog, a public policy think tank of the Government of India, has asked stakeholders to take urgent action to counteract severe water depletion. Failure to do that may lead to 21 of India’s major cities, including Delhi, to run out of groundwater by 2030. Currently, nearly 600 million people, or about half of India’s population, face extreme water stress.

Water crisis in Pakistan – this is another country in South Asia that could reach absolute water scarcity by 2025. International bodies position Pakistan among those countries facing acute water shortages and have asked local authorities to take urgent action to remedy the situation. Because the country depends on a single source of water (Indus River), it is highly susceptible to seasonal fluctuations of water flow. The whole population of Pakistan (220.9 million people) is subject to suffering from water scarcity.

Water crisis in the United States – in 50 years, many regions in the US may face severe water shortages, about a third less than current levels. Scientists warn that ongoing climate changes and the irrational use of water may cause the Colorado river to dry up and push 83 basins around the country into severe water scarcity. About 40 million people who rely on the water provided by the Colorado River risk being affected by severe water scarcity in the years to come.

Climate change and the irrational utilization of water resources are pushing an ever-increasing number of people into water scarcity. While this phenomenon is observed in many regions around the globe, the Middle East and North Africa, India and Pakistan are considered the most affected areas. Currently, about 887 million people in these regions suffer from some form of water shortage.

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