The Water Problem

Water is crucial to human survival, yet fresh water sources are increasingly depleted. The gap between demand and supply of water is expected to reach 40% by 2040, and surface waters are incapable of filling the gap in supply. This means that the remaining water needs must come from underground aquifers. However, a study by the University of California found that 1/3 of the worlds 37 largest aquifers are depleted and not receiving enough rainfall to replenish freshwater supplies.

Loss of fresh water is important for a number of reasons. First, loss of water leads to destabilization of countries and to humanitarian disasters. There are many scholars that have pointed to Syria as a prime example of this, where serious drought caused migrations of rural populations to cities. Failures to deal with these migrating populations led to hunger, protests, and a civil war. Syria is not a unique circumstance, either, as multiple countries in the Middle East and Africa face severe famine and drought in the coming years and other Asian nations face similarly bleak forecasts.

There is also serious cause for concern in the United States. The Ogallala Aquifer covers a broad swath of land from South Dakota to Texas and supplies water resources to about 1/5 of U.S. cattle, corn, cotton, or wheat. The Ogallala Aquifer is also seriously depleted, with estimates of how much water has been removed between 30-50%, and another 50% expected to be removed in the coming decades.

How we treat our fresh water sources is an increasing cause for concern that should be addressed immediately. Lack of water affects all areas of politics and governance, and if large populations suffer from famine or drought, political systems around the world will suffer the consequences. We must act now to ensure that fresh water sources are conserved in meaningful ways. We must also ensure that access to water is a basic human right. Failure to do this will result in grave consequences in the future and immeasurable harm to people in the present.