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Water Scarcity


     Water is precious to all human life. Sometimes we may not realise this when we are accustomed to it gushing out at the flick of a wrist, but in some places in the world, it is offered as a religious sacrifice (University of Bergen). While the world is indeed mostly covered with the stuff, drinking water is by comparison, rarer than you might expect. Water that is neither salted nor frozen makes up only 0.65% of the world’s water. This accounts for all groundwater and surface freshwater, whether it is clean or not, meaning that much less of even this amount is suitable for drinking (SPGE).

(created with data from SPGE)

     As you probably already know, people in certain parts of the world do not have regular access to safe drinking water. What you may not know, however, is that the problem affects 748 million people, which is a little less than a tenth of the world’s population (One Drop). Of these 748 million, 450 million simply do not have enough water, and the little they do have is not necessarily safe for drinking (SPGE). As for the rest, they have plenty of unsafe water.

     Unsafe water is of course, no small nuisance. Every day, about 9,000 adults and 6,000 children die of diseases they received from drinking untreated water (SPGE). In addition, amongst the living, some, often women, have to walk tremendous distances each day to bring water back to their homes. Such water walks can take them up to six hours, which greatly limits their opportunities for independence and economic advancements (One Drop). As such, it should come as no great surprise that countries’ quality of life indices correlate with their water accessibility indices, which are measured on a scale from -2 to 2. One can see this effect in the chart below, where each dot represents a country and its size alludes to its population:

(created with data from Numbeo)

     The people with the most water difficulties tend to live in developing countries. Where money is scarce, water becomes scarce for several reasons. For one, if agriculture serves as an economic lifeline in a region, irrigation can compete with people for water (One Drop). More commonly, however, it is a lack of proper water sanitation that causes the most problems. Such lack is often caused a combination of the expensiveness of treatment systems with water pollution affecting the overall environment. Unsurprisingly, as one can see in the similarly constructed chart below, such water pollution has a sharp correlation with access to drinking water:

(created with data from Numbeo)

     Ultimately, in face of this particular world problem, we are less than helpless. As Pembroke Hill’s Director of Leadership & Community Engagement Ms. Callie Duhig suggests, distance should not stop people from having an impact elsewhere on the globe. In one event she helped organize, for instance, students and other members of the community did a charity walk to experience the distance some go daily to fetch water. The proceeds of the event went to a project of the 501(c)(3) organization Charity Water to build wells to save people from having to make that walk. Another notable 501(c)(3) that my school community has supported is Water.org, which offers affordable loans to people to help them create their own wells sanitation infrastructure. If you wish to bring about better water security to those who need it most, one of the best things you can do right now is take a look at these reputable organizations’ websites to see how you might donate or in other ways help. 

     A more subtle way to help though is through water conservation. While it has a much less direct impact on those struggling to find drinking water, it is all the same senseless to waste good water, which furthermore costs money. As estimated by the water management agency SPGE, the average American uses about 300 litres a day, whereas the average European uses around 100-200 litres, and those facing scarcity get by on as little as 5-10 litres. You’ve probably already have heard of tips such as taking short showers and not leaving the faucet on; to conserve water is quite verily a matter of making those and other practices into habits. Other habits that you might consider adopting include a variety of matters. For one, you might consider flushing toilets, taking showers, and washing cars only when necessary and running dishwashers and clothes machines only with full loads. Furthermore, when it comes to water used for showers or for washing food, you can collect such water and reuse it to water plants, which you can furthermore do at night to avoid evaporation. One other measure is to change faucets and showerheads to more efficient versions, which combine more air with the water so as to decrease the amount of litres of water dissipated per second while still maintaining a steady stream (La France au Cap). Through all these measures, you can decrease your water bill and help conserve water in your local region. At the same time, however, this is far from the definite list of tricks and strategies. If you practice water conservation in a way not already mentioned, I encourage you to comment below what it is that you do so that our greater community can benefit from your knowledge.

–Ben Bracker

Sources

Duhig, Callie. Interview 19 Apr. 2018.

Numbeo. Numbeo, 2018. Web API.

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/

“Pénurie d’eau au Cap : les bonnes pratiques” La France au Cap. Consulat Général de France au Cap, 2018. Web.

https://lecap.consulfrance.org/Penurie-d-eau-au-Cap-les-bonnes-pratiques

“L’eau dans le monde” La Société Publique de Gestion d’Eau. SPGE, n.d.. Web.

http://www.spge.be/fr/l-eau-dans-le-monde.html?IDC=1300

“Religion and Water” Bergen Summer Research School. University of Bergen, n.d. Web.

http://www.uib.no/en/rs/bsrs/95760/religion-and-water

“The Water Crisis. One Drop. One Drop, n.d.. Web.

https://www.onedrop.org/en/news-event/the-water-crisis/

Valo, Martine. “La crise de l’eau illustrée en 5 graphiques” Le Monde. Le Monde, 2015. Web.

http://www.lemonde.fr/ressources-naturelles/article/2015/03/20/la-crise-de-l-eau-illustree-en-5-graphiques_4597592_1652731.html#meter_toaster

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COMMENTS: 20
  1. April 26, 2018 by Abhay.Katyal Reply

    Hi Ben, I really liked how you presented the information on your website through little text and more visuals. You provided meaningful solutions and you showed us what countries are affected the most through the visuals you chose. Overall, I really enjoyed reading your website!

  2. April 26, 2018 by kimberly.banion Reply

    Hi Ben! I’m curious about the factors that went into quality of life indices in your research. Was there one factor you found especially interesting in the overlap between one’s quality of life and one’s access to clean water?

    • April 28, 2018 by BBracker Reply

      Hello there! Admittedly, when I made the graphs, I just took the QOL at face value from the Numbeo API. Looking into this more (https://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/indices_explained.jsp), I can see that water accessibility and pollution are indirectly featured in the QOL calculation via the pollution index. However, given the sheer number of other factors involved (purchasing power index, house price to income ratio, cost of living index, safety index, health care index, traffic commute time index, and climate index), I do believe that there is more to the correlation than simply this inclusion. One relation I looked at in particular was that between water accessibility and healthcare because I was wondering if those who were contracting waterborne diseases were receiving treatment. While there was some correlation between increased healthcare and increased water accessibility, the correlation was much weaker. Now that I think about it though, I suspect that the stronger ties lie in the economic factors, especially seeing as how they make up such a large portion of the QOL index calculation.

  3. April 26, 2018 by Julia.Cohon Reply

    HI Ben! Great work on your catalyst conference project! How do you think students in high school can help with this change? What do you believe are the most effective ways to help increase the amount of water that we use in our lives?

    • April 28, 2018 by BBracker Reply

      Increase? You mean for those who don’t have enough? I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.

  4. April 27, 2018 by Alison Selman Reply

    I really like this article! Your school seems to be making a positive contribution. I live on a great lake and thus have plenty of clean water at my disposal, so I was wondering how would me turning off a faucet help the global problem?

    • April 28, 2018 by BBracker Reply

      Like I said, local conservation admittedly doesn’t have as much of a direct impact on helping people across the globe. That’s why we have organizations such as the ones I mentioned. Still, if not a matter of maintaining a good mindset, then even then, why waste the money? Plus, while it may not be an issue next to a great lake, I imagine that there are parts of the United States where drought could strike in the future, especially when one considers the potential of climate change to shake things up. In short, you have little to lose, money to gain, and depending on where you find yourself, having extra water may one day come of great use.

  5. April 28, 2018 by Nakul.Bajaj Reply

    I think the QOL and Accessibility correlation was really cool to see, but I was especially interested to see the correlation between Pollution and Accessibility. I think water scarcity and distribution is a real problem and I thought your final paragraph with suggestions about what we can do as citizens resonated with me quite well.

  6. April 29, 2018 by Esther Bedoyan Reply

    Your graphs do a really thorough job of showing the linear relationships between quality of life, pollution, and accessibility to drinking water. It’s also very clear that lack of accessibility to water is a major problem for a huge number of people, because in your first graph, several larg circles (representing a large population) are near the lower end of the quality of life and accessible water scale. Good job!

  7. April 29, 2018 by Madoka.Kumamaru Reply

    I really enjoyed your website! I liked your use of statistics to really put the issue of water scarcity into perspective, and I think your visuals assisted in that as well. Water scarcity is a critical issue, and I think your call to action as well as your school’s involvement in Water.org is something we can all learn from.

  8. April 29, 2018 by Naoya Okamoto Reply

    Your article gives me hope for a future where everyone can have access to clean drinking water. It’s made me think about how I use water in my own life.

  9. April 29, 2018 by Jimmy Chen Reply

    The graphs are very powerful. The strong relationship shows how important water is for us, but we don’t really think about it.

  10. April 29, 2018 by Jason Chen Reply

    The graphs are so cool!

  11. April 29, 2018 by Justin.Chen Reply

    This article is well planned and heavily thought out. One can clearly see the distinct advantages those have in some countries compared to others. Amazing website!

  12. April 29, 2018 by Melle.Koper Reply

    Great article, makes me realize how privileged I actually am with access to clean water.

  13. April 30, 2018 by Huy Tran Reply

    Amazing aritcle. The graph is actually amazing. A lot of work is definitely spent on the coding.

  14. April 30, 2018 by Ananth J Josyula Reply

    Eye-opening article! I guess it really is important that we limit out water use especially from showers and do our part in conserving this vital resource

  15. April 30, 2018 by Mandy Friedlander Reply

    Wow. I really loved your graph because I was shocked by the statistics you presented. It really puts things into perspective for people who don’t acknowledge the struggles of others around the world. It makes me realize how privileged I am for what I have.

  16. April 30, 2018 by Cole.Biafore Reply

    It’s amazing how strong of a correlation you got from your data! Not only do both of your scatterplots really show the data in fashion that is both easy to read and informative, but they are great predictors for water accessibility! Obviously this is a really important problem that we need to address, but this data does a great job at showing why it is an important issue. This was really interesting to read!

  17. April 30, 2018 by Audrey.Acken Reply

    This article does a great job demonstrating how important water is in our lives, and how big of a problem unsafe water/lack of access to water is in our world. I think it’s really cool that your school is working with organizations like water.org to help address this issue, and your call to action really left me thinking about how water plays a role in my daily life.

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