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Lurking Global Water Crisis – Threat to All Living Creatures

Let us all wake up to the looming water-related hazards and stress right now and SAVE WATER TO SAVE OURSELVES, before it is too late
From the very childhood, we have been hearing that ‘water is life’. No doubt, water is the basic necessity for the functioning of all forms of life existing on earth. It is the reason behind earth being the only planet to support life. From a tiny insect to a whale, every organism needs water to survive. Indeed, life can't function without water.
Description: Water Scarcity in Some Areas in Indonesia | Universitas Gadjah Mada
During our childhood days, we used to be advised by all elders to save water. “The water is a graceful Gift of God. It breathes life into each and everything around on this planet. Don’t waste water. If we all waste water, a day will come when we will face a serious water crisis and worst consequences.,” my father used to tell me.
During my school days, I was told by my teachers that about 71 percent of the Earth's surface is water-covered, and the oceans and seas hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth's water.
I read in books that Earth’s water is finite, meaning that the amount of water in, on, and above our planet neither increases nor decreases. Out of 326 million cubic miles of water available on the planet, 320 million cubic miles of water are there in the oceans and seas.
My teachers told us that water also exists in the air as water vapour, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture, and in aquifers.
With so much water available on the earth, how could we face a water crisis, I used to ask myself. The advice and sayings of my elders then seemed to me to be inconceivable.
But today, I find my childhood notion that water will always be plentiful as false and sayings and warnings of our elders gradually turning out to be true.
Global Scenario
As the things stand today, we are gradually inching toward serious global water scarcity and insecurity. If we look at the statistics released from time to time by different organisations worldwide, we find that the water crisis currently affects more than 40 percent of the global population. By 2030, global demand for water is expected to soar by 50 percent.
Statistics reveal that 3% of the earth's water is fresh out of which only 0.5% is available as freshwater which is easily accessible to us to meet our daily needs. Rest are unavailable being locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, atmosphere, and soil; highly polluted, or lie too deep under the earth's surface to be extracted at an affordable cost.
80% of the world’s daily water usage comes from surface water and makes up the majority of the water used for irrigation and public supply. As per the report of the U. N. World Water Development Report 2022, about 99% of the earth’s freshwater is indeed groundwater and it is about 60 times more plentiful than surface water.
Globally, we use about 321 billion gallons of surface water per day and about 77 billion gallons of groundwater daily.
What is most alarming is that we will be seriously hard-pressed to support a projected population of 9.7 billion in 2050 with about 3% of fresh water available on earth, and by that year, an estimated 3.9 billion people – or over 40 percent of the world’s population – will live in areas to be hit hard by the severe water crisis.
According to a report, 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water for at least one month per year in 2018. By 2050, this figure is expected to increase to more than five billion.
According to another report, while the world’s population has tripled in the 20th century, the use of water increased six-fold. The World Population Prospects 2022, projected the global population to reach 8 billion on November 15, with India surpassing China as the most populous country in 2023. According to the same report, India’s population will stand at 1.37 billion in 2022, 1.39 billion in 2023, and 1.41 billion by 2025.
The report further projects that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and around 10.4 billion during the 2080s.
Between now and 2050, water demands are expected to increase by 400 percent from manufacturing, and by 130 percent from household use.
Excessive and unchecked use of water, among other causative factors, is one of the reasons for the present water scarcity. The competition for access to limited water resources is increasing with the increase in population and there has been, as a matter of great concern, a 55 percent drop in globally available freshwater per capita since 1960.
Fact Sheet on Global Water Crisis
785 million people lack access to clean water. That’s one in 10 people on the planet.
Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours hauling water every day.
The average woman in rural Africa walks 6 kilometers every day to haul 40 pounds of water.
Every day, more than 800 children under 5 die from diarrhea caused by contaminated water,poor sanitation, and unsafe hygiene practices.
2 billion people live without access to adequate sanitation.
673 million people defecate in the open.
One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals aims to provide universal access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.
Drought, another factor exacerbating water insecurity globally, is the, among all other disasters, major disaster affecting millions of people worldwide. In 2016, 411 million people in total were affected by various types of disasters and 94 percent of those were drought-affected.
According to a report, droughts being the costliest disaster with a great impact on agriculture have caused an average of US$6-8 billion worth of losses in agriculture in the USA annually. In China, it has caused an annual grain production loss of more than 27 million tones over the last two decades; and from the 1950s to the beginning of this century, the annual average crop area suffering from drought has risen from 11.6 million hectares to 25.1 million hectares, a staggering increase by 116 percent.
According to UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification) Report 2022, more than 2.3 billion people are estimated to face water stress and almost 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts. By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought. By 2050, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population and an estimated 4.8-5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today, says the report.
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all water withdrawals globally and over 90 percent in the majority of least developed countries.
Another area of great concern is that the availability of safe drinking water is decreasing and people are forced to drink unsafe water. Unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene cause about 3.5 million deaths worldwide.
Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. Microbial contamination of drinking water as a result of contamination with faeces poses the greatest risk to drinking-water safety.
Scenario in India
 According to a recent report by the government’s policy think tank, the NITI Aayog, India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history, and almost 600 million people in the country are water-stressed and 21 cities –  including Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai – probably exhausted their groundwater resources in 2021.
NITI Aayog estimates that 21 major cities, including Delhi, would run out of groundwater by 2030. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2050.
As per the Composite Water Management Index Report of NITI Aayog, although India has 16 percent of the world’s population, the country possesses only four percent of the world’s freshwater resources. The worst sufferers of this crisis are mostly women who have to manage household chores with little water or walk miles to fetch water.
Three-fourths of India’s rural families sadly lack access to piped, drinkable water and rely on unsafe sources at the risk to their health.
As many as 256 of 700 districts in India have reported ‘critical’ or ‘over-exploited’ groundwater levels according to the most recent Central Ground Water Board data (2017), which means that getting water in these places has grown more difficult as the water table has dropped.
India has become the world’s largest extractor of groundwater, accounting for 25 percent of the total. Some 70 percent of our water sources are contaminated and our major rivers are dying because of pollution. Similarly, wells, ponds, and tanks are drying up as groundwater resources come under increasing pressure due to over-reliance and unchecked consumption. This has exacerbated the water crisis.
In our country, agriculture consumes over 85 percent of our water. With only 40 percent assured for irrigation, our farmers depend heavily either on rains or on groundwater for agricultural purposes, and our efforts to conserve rainwater remain woefully inadequate. A report says that over-exploitation and unchecked use of water in agriculture has seen a catastrophic drop in groundwater levels. Unless we bring about a drastic change in the consumption patterns, in 20 years, 60 percent of India's aquifers will woefully be in critical condition.
According to another study, our country labelled as the largest groundwater user in the world, use around 251 BCM (billion cubic meter) per year, more than a quarter of the global total. With more than 60 percent of irrigated agriculture and 85 percent of drinking water supplies dependent on it and growing industrial/urban usage, groundwater is a vital resource. It is further projected that the per capita water availability will dip to around 1400 cum in 2025, and further down to 1250 cum by 2050.
As per a report, currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress, and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s GDP.
As per the report of the National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development (NCIWRD) of MoWR, the total water availability in the country received through precipitation is about 4000 BCM per annum. After evaporation, 1869 BCM water is available as natural runoff (2017). The report further says that water requirement by 2050 in high use scenario is likely to be a milder 1,180 BCM, whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM. The total availability of water possible in the country is still lower than this projected demand, at 1,137 BCM.
The press release dated 20 July 2017 of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India says that due to geological and other factors, the utilizable water availability is limited to 1,123 BCM per annum, comprising 690 BCM of surface water and 433 BCM of replenishable ground water. However, water available per person is dependent on the population of the country and for India, water availability per capita is reducing progressively due to the increase in population.
As per a Comprehensive Report of JJM released on October 2, 2021, the following are the major achievements since 2019:
1. 8.26 crore (43 percent) rural households (in over 1.16 lakh villages and 79 districts) are getting tap water supply in their homes
2. 5.03 crore tap water connections provided since the JJM launch
3. Goa, Haryana, Telangana, A&N Islands, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and Puducherry have achieved ‘Har Ghar Jal’
4. 1.22 crore (36.09 percent) households in socio-economically backward districts are getting tap water supply in their homes, that is, about four times increase in coverage since JJM was announced
5. 1.15 crore (37.83 percent) households in 60 identified JE/AES endemic districts are getting tap water supply in their homes, that is, about 15 times increase in coverage since the announcement of JJM
6. 3.43 lakh Village Water Sanitation Committees/Pani Samitis constituted/made functional
7. 2.86 lakh Village Adoption Programmes by the National Institute of Food Technology
8. Entrepreneurship and Management students, prepared and approved in different villages
9. 7.93 lakh (76.93 percent) schools and 7.65 lakh (68.21 percent) Anganwadi Centres provided with tap water connections.
As per Money Control, on February 1, 2022, India’s Finance Minister?in the 2022–23 budget, earmarked INR 60,000 crore for the JJM that aims to provide potable water to 3.8 crore households in 2022–23. This was higher than the allocations of INR 115 billion in 2020–21 to INR 500.11 billion in 2021–22.
About 70% of India’s population, approximately 800 million people, lives in rural areas, making this one of the largest service delivery challenges in the world in terms of scale. While access has improved markedly in recent years, with almost 87% of rural households having access to ‘basic water’, the provision of safe water remains a large challenge. Currently, only half of the rural population has access to safely-managed water — far behind even our neighbors such as China and Bangladesh — resulting in one of the highest disease burdens due to water-borne diseases in the developing world, and about two lakh annual deaths from inadequate drinking water.
More than 90% of the urban population has had access to ‘basic water’ since 2000, but only one-third of India’s wastewater is currently treated exposing a great part of the population to the risk of contracting water-borne diseases from the untreated water.
In rural areas in India, out of total available freshwater, about 5 percent is used for drinking and domestic purposes, 10 percent for industrial, and 85 percent for agricultural purposes. Groundwater accounts for 90 percent of the drinking water requirements in rural India and nearly 50 percent in urban areas. For every 1000 liters of water, China produces 0.46 kilograms of rice and 1.08 kilograms of cereal. For the same quantity of water, India produces only 0.23 kilograms of rice and 0.36 kilograms of cereal.
Text Box: UNICEF Report says 1. 1.Four billion people — almost two-thirds of the world’s population — experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year. 2. 2. Over two billion people live in countries where water supply is inadequate. 3. 3. Half of the world’s population could be living in areas facing water scarcity by as early as 2025. 4. 4. Some 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. 5. 5. By 2040, roughly 1 in 4 children worldwide will be living in areas of extremely high water stress.
Indeed, if nothing changes, and fast, things will get much worse and we have to remain ready to face critical conditions in near future.
Both central and state governments are, undoubtedly, seized of the seriousness of the problem and have already initiated several short-term and long-term measures like resource augmentation, supply infrastructure, demand management, watershed development, water supply, and sanitation in rural and urban areas, increase in water efficiency in agriculture without increasing the use of chemical fertilisers and to move, step-by-step, to organic farming, reduction of water wastage by water-intensive industries, setting up of more and more water treatment plants to recycle water, installation of water meters in houses, business places, offices, factories, stopping of over-extraction of groundwater specially by industries, etc., to tackle this ominous crisis.
I have penned down this piece by culling statistics from different sources to just drive home the pressing need for the proactive participation of all individuals in conserving and saving this precious resource. If we take a few simple steps like cutting back on the daily use of water in the kitchen, cooking, dishwashing, shower and bath, toilet, laundry, bathroom sinks, indoor water leaks, lawns and garden, swimming pools, vehicle washing, outdoor water leaks, etc., it will go a long way to tackle the looming water crisis.
During dishwashing and hand washing, we often keep the tap running, don’t we? These running taps waste thousands of liters of water per year. Free flow of water from roadside taps with damaged handles and similar taps provided in localities is a common scene across our country. These running taps waste thousands of liters of water per year. Can’t we replace the damaged water tap to stop the free flow of water from such taps? Such little steps, if taken from our side, will surely go a long way to shrink our water footprint and successfully face the looming water-related hazards and stress.
Let us all wake up right now and SAVE WATER TO SAVE OURSELVES.
(Email: samirmajumdar_2010@yahoo.com)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi