What is water scarcity?
Two billion people live in areas that have water shortages or water scarcity, and a whopping two-thirds of the world could be joining them in just four years.
Source: Cracked earth Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash
Recently, my husband mentioned he had read that water futures were being traded, I thought oh you have got to be kidding me. Surely this is part of a plot of a dystopian YA movie where clever resourceful young people save the day. Then he showed me the article. Because water scarcity and as a result, worry, is real, in December of 2020 water joined the ranks of other commodities like oil and gold being traded on Wall Street. And the reality is, this is a problem that will affect all of us and it will take resourceful people of all ages to tackle it.
How did we get here?
Groups like the UN have long cautioned that we are going to go over a climate cliff driven by the actions and inactions of humans. The undisputable change in climate has led to water unpredictability and destabilization-increased flooding and more droughts. As an example, in California, the most drastic dry spell stretched from around December of 2011 until about march of 2019. In July of 2014, “exceptional drought” spread across 58% of the states' land, leading up to a myriad of water emergencies. Another example is the wildfires that have been raging and wreaking havoc in California and neighboring states.
What does water scarcity mean?
To be water scarce, it means you don’t have enough fresh water to meet the demands of people and the environment in an area. Having access to enough safe drinking water is a worldwide priority and is inevitably tied to human rights. With given challenges of things like changing weather brought on by climate change, pollution, population growth, many countries and cities globally are facing increased water scarcity.
According to the UN, it’s estimated that by 2040 about 600 million children under 18 will be living in water-scarce areas. That is 1 in 4. Approximately one-sixth of humans on earth live in an area severely lacking in water. By 2030, if we do not make an impact on the given climate change scenario, between 24 and 700 million people will be under such water stress that they will be displaced and become water scarcity refugees. As of now, nearly half of us on Earth are living in a fragile balance and experience water scarcity at least 1 month out of the year, which could increase to between the number of people affected could increase to 4.8-5 billion by 2050. A third of the Earths' large groundwater systems are already strained and affected. Over the last 100 years, water use grew at double the rate of population. Water scarcity affects every continent.
We need to stop taking clean water for granted and treat it like the valuable resource it is. We need to manage the demand for it and how that demand is filled.
We need to address this globally in an interdisciplinary manner. We need to address this in a way that equitably acknowledges and addresses social, economic, and environmental welfare and functionality. Widespread public education is key. There have been solutions implemented or proposed and be built on science and resource management.
Environmental policies are and will continue to be key in preserving and rebuilding ecosystems that naturally collect, filter, store, and release water. Water taxes may be set up to discourage excessive, wasteful water use.
Industrial farming is a major user and polluter of water from pesticides and chemical fertilizer use. Policies have been set up to encourage sustainable and organic farming to help make a dent in this area.
A large part of clean water usage, about 70% is used for agriculture. That is a significant percentage.
But, there are other options that mitigate that impact.
Rainfed agriculture produces much of the worlds’ food. It accounts for more than 95% of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa; 90% in Latin America; 75% in the Near East and North Africa; 65% in East Asia; and 60% in South Asia. Water productivity, ‘the amount of crop produced per drop’, tends to be low in rainfed farming systems, and losses from evaporation are high. Crop output can be increased by improving rainfed systems by investing in ways to increase rainfall infiltration and soil water retention capacity to minimize soil degradation and increase the water available for crops.
Overall, enough rain falls to double or more than double rainfed crops but the timing is off from when it is needed. The resulting in loss of water opportunity needs to be addressed. To improve production in rainfed areas, investments need to be made in water management systems unlocking this potential.
Source: Photo courtesy of Gallant International
Dryland farming or dry farming is farming in areas of less than 20 inches of water annually. It focuses on maximizing the moisture in the soil by using growing methods and choosing crops that can make the most of the givens. Moisture control can be achieved by keeping the fields weed-free and making sure there is enough matter to act as a mulch to seal in the existing moisture and prevent any runoff. On flat farms, the soil can be mounded into long furrows that trap moisture around the plants. Terracing can do the same for crops grown on hills. Land management matters-leaving the land empty of a season in arid areas can allow it to rest and absorb enough moisture to be productive the following year.
Drip irrigation is another method designed for efficient water usage. It consists of a slow and even application of water to the plants' root area using plastic tubes directly at the plants' base. The risk of water evaporation and runoff is reduced. A well-designed and managed drip system saves energy, water, and time and maximizes yields. There are 2 main types of drip irrigation, surface and subsurface, the names pretty much tell you what they are. Sub surface systems are mainly used in row crops like potatoes and soybeans and are starting to cross over into high-value crops” like tomatoes and berries.
All these methods mentioned can help make an impact on the amount of water crops consume and ultimately make a dent in the overall global water consumption.
We all can contribute to the effort to respect and preserve our water supply. Fix that dripping faucet. Water at sunrise or sunset and don’t overwater; only water every 3 to 5 days. Install low-flow showerheads can cut your shower water usage in half. Let dishes, pots, and pans soak in water rather than running water over them. Many more easy tips and ideas can be found here:
Source: Photo courtesy of Gallant International
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When you choose our products for adding a little goodness to your homes, you are helping to put a little good back into the world.
Source: Terra Thread Home