We all know water is important for survival. Even though 75% of Earth is surrounded by water, water scarcity is a major issue. Only 3% of our Earth’s water is freshwater and only 1% is available to us in the form of rivers, lakes, and streams. A lot of people do not have access to this water. Places that lack access to these areas are what we called water-stressed or water-scarce areas.
Over 2 billion people live in countries that experience high water stress. Does this mean people use more water or is it because of the geographical area or is it climate change? In reality, many factors cause water scarcity. It can be due to high population density, industrial activity, or less rainfall. As per the World Resource Institute (WRI), water withdrawal has doubled since 1960 and is not going to slow down. Water withdrawals impact internal renewable water resources such as river basins and recharging groundwater aquifers.
Therefore, analyzing the consumption pattern of internal renewable water resources will give us more insights into what factors have an impact on water scarcity. The key factors that will be considered are water consumption per capita, total water consumed annually, and water availability. In our analysis, open data available on ourworldindata.org was used.
Water Scarcity by Per Capita Consumption
First, let us start by analyzing the per capita consumption of water for big developed and developing countries.
Here we can see that the United States water per capita consumption is much higher than countries like India and China put together. This means that on average a US citizen-consumers much more water than an average Indian or Chinese citizen.
Water Scarcity by Total Annual Consumption
Now let us look at the total annual water consumption for these big developed and developing countries.
Here we can see that the roles are reversed. India and China have much higher total annual water consumption than the US. Immediately, this might look obvious. India, China, and the US all have moderate to high population. Therefore, more people means higher annual water consumption. However, we need to look at one more data point, which will help us understand why water scarcity is a threat when you have a high population. This data point is total annual water renewable water resources.
Water Scarcity by Water Availability
Total annual water renewable water resource is nothing but the maximum volume of water available in a country. This is the water that is available for the people of the country each year.
When we look at this table, we see that Brazil has almost 8 times more water available in a year than India and 1.5 times that of the USA and China. This is a major concern for countries like China and India because not only do you have less water available in a year, you also have the highest population in the world. This means China and India will naturally be prone to water scarcity.
Water Scarcity – A Continuation in India
Water scarcity is caused by a combination of water availability, water consumption, and population. It should be noted that each of these parameters is affected by other factors. For example, water availability can be affected by rainfall, and water consumption can be affected by improving living standards. Hopefully, this blog gives you an overview of how water scarcity can occur in a given location. However, if we want to do a deep dive, we will need to analyze a country such as India or China, where all the 3 major water scarcity parameters (water availability, water consumption, and population) are present.
So, for my next blog, I will take the case study of India and explore how water scarcity can start to develop and what we can do as individual people to prevent this from happening.
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