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Population Expansion: How it Affects Water Scarcity

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Water, as a resource, is a necessity for every living being, which extends further to public health and human development. Today, various problems with water supply exist, and they continue to be more pressing and concerning.

Several factors can be considered when it comes to understanding the problem of water scarcity may include the following climate change, natural calamities, waste and overuse, and the global increase of freshwater demand. However, these factors explain a little about the problem.

According to the findings of the FPESA or the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment of the Worldwatch Institute, assuming that climate change is the root of the growing water scarcity is a false claim. 

The other overlooked factor points to the ongoing rapid growth of the human population. Based on the findings, this massive global trend poses a more substantial negative impact on water supply more than climate change does.

With that, how does the population expansion contribute to our problem of accessing clean and available freshwater, how little do we have left, and what efforts should we make to help counter it?

The Present Population

Presently, the world’s population has reached 7.8 billion, and it is still counting. To put things into perspective, while the planet earth is composed of 71% water, 2.5% of that are rivers, lakes, or freshwater, and only 0.3% of the entire figure is composed of potable water.

According to NGWA or the Groundwater Association, we use up to 321 billion gallons of surface water every day and nearly 77 billion gallons of groundwater per day. To put those figures together with the fact that the population is increasing every day, it’s not a shock to discover that water scarcity is a pressing problem.

Moreover, it’s important to note that it’s not just humans that need water. Plants, animals, infrastructures, and industries also need water to sustain themselves. With that, it’s important to assess why the Earth’s exponential population growth negatively impacts us.

How Population Expansion Affects Water Supply

When it comes to understanding water supply problems, knowing the role of population growth becomes imperative since it reveals to us the demand for water and water consumption. Logically, as the population increases, water demands also increase.

For instance, in Beijing, people are experiencing a massive increase in demand for water due to their high population growth and internal migration. In the United States, both industrial and urban areas pose a high water demand. Consequently, their need points to a gradual shortage of water supply.

How Population Increase Affects Our Access to Freshwater

One of the impacts of overpopulation is the pressure it brings on existing resources to cater to the needs of the increasing population. In the world, an estimate of 50% of the population belongs to areas that are “water-stressed,” a term defined when the demand exceeds the supply.

With that said, it’s apparent that these areas, for instance, are most likely to be hit much harder by water scarcity as opposed to others. Moreover, these water-stressed areas could consequently affect other regions in the long term since they will need to obtain water from other sources.

Experts predict that by 2050, the Earth’s population will reach nearly up to 10 billion. With that in consideration, experts reiterate that, perhaps, the enemy is not overpopulation as it is inevitable. Experts are more worried about overconsumption.

People often reveal a sense of misinformation when it comes as a surprise to them when they find out that water is a finite source. Even if its availability is scattered all over the planet, there will still be specific populations that will suffer from pressing water scarcity.

Water Scarcity is Not Just an Overpopulation Problem

While overpopulation is among the factors that contribute to water scarcity, climate change still has a hand in affecting our current supply. In assessing how climate change affects our water reservoirs, and finding ways to counter it, it’s necessary to consider the most pressing causes.

Quoting Fred Pearces, a specialist in global population: “Rising consumption today far outstrips the rising headcount as a threat to the planet…The world’s richest half billion people — that’s about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,”.

As such, this shifts the discourse on how we see the problem, considering that our efforts in addressing the problem should also account for the sociopolitical factors. Moreover, Pearce adds, “the poorest 50 percent of the population are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions.”

More importantly, considering that carbon emissions and overpopulation are two of the most pressing factors that contribute to this massive problem, our collective efforts should not just focus on targeting one of them. 

The increase in the occurrence of hurricanes, floods, drought, and other natural calamities can be traced to climate change. The effects of these disasters have a ripple effect, such as limited access to clean water, increased need to rehabilitate crop yields, wildfires, and even water contamination. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund, by the time we reach the year 2025, ecosystems around the world will suffer more, and at least two-thirds of the world’s population is more likely to face more water shortages. 

What Should We Do

On the brighter side, there are still many things that we can do to help prevent these negative impacts. Efforts such as consuming less meat and fish can go a long way if done collectively. We can also cut back the production of microplastics and methane done by the agricultural industry.

You can also follow a change in lifestyle habits such as regularly checking if your home is free from leaky pipes, or cutting down your water use at a minimum. Other means such as encouraging others to do small yet impactful efforts can go a long way in preventing water scarcity,

Big differences should always start from small efforts. When it comes to promoting water conservation, the thought of overpopulation and climate change shouldn’t cripple our actions, but rather empower them.

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