Desertification is changing the landscape of several countries and could cause the displacement of millions of people in the next decade. Image credit: Getty Images.

Although two thirds of our planet are covered by water, more than a billion people do not have access to drinking water.

We all know that water is a finite resource and that more than a billion people worldwide do not have drinking water to drink, bathe, cook or meet their basic needs.

People need to know that more than 97% of the water on the planet cannot be consumed or used for cleaning and personal hygiene, because it is salty.

Of the fresh water that remains, most of it is frozen and another substantial part is underground.

The water that exists in the reservoirs and enters the distribution networks for use by people corresponds to less than 1%.

To make matters worse, agricultural production requires a large amount of water to develop satisfactorily; a good percentage of the available water is also required by industries and another good part of the water that could be used ends up being contaminated by industrial waste and waste from landfills and dumps, among others.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, based on existing trends, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places could cause the displacement of 24 million to 700 million people by 2030.

What is causing the water crisis in the world to worsen?

Population growth, increasing consumption, pollution and degradation of water reserves, intensification of economic activity, climate change, droughts, pollution, poor distribution, the absence of basic infrastructure, all combined with a combination of factors related to human action are aggravating the water crisis in the world.

Inhabitants of almost 400 regions of the planet are already living under conditions of “extreme water stress”, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a research centre based in Washington.

The fear is that the scarcity of water could cause the displacement of millions of people, generating conflicts and political instability.

From Mexico to Chile, to areas in Africa and to tourist spots in southern Europe and the Mediterranean, the level of “water stress” – the amount of water extracted from terrestrial and surface sources compared to the total available – is reaching worrying levels.

Nearly a third of the global population lives in countries experiencing “extremely high” water stress, including 1.7 billion in 17 nations classified as “extremely lacking in water,” according to the WRI.

While the countries of the Middle East are considered to be the ones with the greatest water stress, the study also highlights that India has been “facing critical challenges regarding its use and management of water that affect everything from health to its economic development”.

Pakistan, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and Botswana are also considered to be extremely lacking in water.

Children in South Sudan. Image credits: John Wollwerth.

Positive experiences

Where socioeconomic factors are the main drivers of water stress in the world, they can be mitigated from good water management.

Singapore, for example, has built a sustainable water supply that the government calls “Four Taps”: a large-scale water collection system (especially for the small area of ​​the island); water imports; high quality reclaimed water known as NEWater; and desalinated water.

Israel is another world leader in advanced water technologies and resource management.

Other good initiatives are water efficiency labels and incentives for saving water. In addition to the regulation of reuse water, it can take advantage of much of what is wasted today.

Imagine how many billions of litters of drinking water are used in flushes, showers, gardens, agriculture, industries and more.

How can we act to deal with water scarcity in the world?

Among the many options, we can mention the following:

  • Grow crops that require less water
  • Decrease livestock
  • Explore formulas to maximize efficiency
  • Rethink agriculture, such as drip irrigation, for example
  • Conserve groundwater sources
  • Recycle water, treated wastewater can be used in agriculture and industry
  • Desalinate sea water
  • Doing our part, we can all help conserve water by better managing the way we use it

Do you have any ideas that could help save water, or guide people to make more rational use of water? We will be happy to read your opinion and know your suggestions. Thank you!


  • Every subject – School Content for students and teachers
  • BBC News Brazil
  • Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development
  • National Water Agency – Brazil

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