Water is one of the world’s most valuable and abundant resources. Yet, water scarcity exists in many countries and is a growing threat to millions of people around the world.
Water scarcity arises when the demand for clean and safe water outweighs the supply. And as global populations steadily increase, so too does the need for more water. Around the world, over 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water while over 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity.
The United Nations describes water scarcity as “The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human wellbeing, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”
Without reliable sources of water and water management systems to support them, rural and remote communities, the work of farmers, hospitals, schools, and other essential community development services come to a grinding halt. The search for water has a significant impact on the lives vulnerable families, with hours taken each day to travel to a clean water source. It can hinder the education of children and young people, limiting employment opportunities and pushing them further into poverty.
people are living without adequate sanitation facilities
schools lack access to water and basic sanitation
of water-deprived households involve women and girls carrying the burden of water collection
hours are collectively spent by women around the world, collecting water
What causes water scarcity?
There are a range of circumstances and events that can cause or contribute to water scarcity. These include:
Combined, these factors are causing a global water crisis that is adversely impacting the health and development of men, women and children in the world’s most vulnerable communities. Globally, around 785 million people lack access to safe and clean drinking water. (World Health Organisation)
Water and sanitation
Clean water and sanitation are essential to the growth and development of communities.
Water scarcity has a direct and immediate impact on the level of sanitation that exists in a community. In addition to water scarcity, poor sanitation in developing countries is a result of old and dilapidated water infrastructure along with a lack of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) awareness.
Without safe water, maintaining hygiene, sanitation practices, health and wellbeing is challenging. Using water from contaminated sources and open defecation practices are more widely practiced in communities facing water scarcity, which increases the likelihood of catching waterborne diseases. It is estimated that around 4.2 billion people are living without adequate sanitation facilities.
The effects of water scarcity on health, education and equality
Water and sanitation have a significant impact on the functioning of institutions, like healthcare facilities and hospitals that contribute to a community's overall health and development. For instance, without proper WASH facilities, healthcare facilities lack the necessary sanitary conditions to effectively treat their patients and are often overwhelmed by high numbers of people suffering from waterborne diseases.
At least 1 in 3 schools lack access to water and basic sanitation. Without these basic facilities, children are often forced to miss out on classes or even drop out of school, with the search for water a time-consuming part of their daily lives.
Water scarcity contributes to inequality, particularly for women and girls who are among those most affected by water shortages and crises. In 80% of water-deprived households, women and girls carry the burden of water collection. Today, women around the world will spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water. This often leaves women with less time for education, work or caring for their families which reinforces the cycle of gender inequality.
Water scarcity solutions
Though usable water sources like rivers, lakes and aquifers can replenish naturally over time, the constant demand leaves millions struggling with water shortages. Southeast Asia and Africa are home to some of the nations that are most affected by water shortages.
Most of the communities that are affected in these regions rely on agriculture as a source of livelihood and income. However, there are solutions to the global water crisis, including:
How are we tackling the water crisis
We recognise that access to WASH is a human right and that it is crucial to the overall development of a community – especially one that is vulnerable to poverty.
WASH activities are an integral part of our community development programs. We work closely with communities to raise awareness and improve infrastructure relating to water, hygiene and sanitation.
Our WASH programs include:
How water changes lives
In Zimbabwe, 12-year-old Thandolwayo dreamed of finishing her education and becoming a nurse. However, due to water scarcity she would walk seven kilometres each day, risking attacks from crocodiles, to collect contaminated water for her family. Our program helped her community to gain reliable access to clean water and put Thandolwayo back on the path to realising her dream.
Hope is important because it makes me work harder so that I achieve what I want to be when I grow up. I want to live a good life in the future.
Although the Solomon Islands are surrounded by water, the country faces the challenges of recurring drought and water shortages. Peter, 16, who lives with a disability had to miss classes to walk long distances every day in search of water.
We worked with Peter’s school to develop a reliable water management system that means that there is now water on tap in the school for drinking, washing and cooking. Peter can now focus on his education.
“I think the future is in our hands because we are the future for the world and if we cooperate with each other and work together and discuss together, I think we will make a better world in the future, that’s my dream.” - Peter
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