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article imageThe realities of scarce water resources around the globe

By Karen Graham     Jun 30, 2017 in World
Water is the one resource that all life on Earth needs to survive - That's a fact. However, water has taken on a greater role, and not just in the political and economic scheme of things, but in how it is intertwined into the very fabric of our lives.
Earlier this year, the drought in Kenya and neighboring countries became so severe that the Kenyan government declared a national emergency. In Kabul, Afghanistan, the population has grown so large that water resources have been strained, and an added drought has made finding ground water difficult.
Kabul is a city that was designed to hold one million people but, it is now home to over 4.2 million residents. Officials told Reuters in February this year that well digging has spiraled out of control, with little or no regulation of how the ever more scarce water is exploited.
More recently, Digital Journal reported on the severe drought in South Africa and the shortage of water in Cape Town. In May, the city of 4.0 million residents had less than 10 percent of its usable water left in city reservoirs.
An Afghan man walks with a donkey as they head to collect water in Kabul  on January 27  2017
An Afghan man walks with a donkey as they head to collect water in Kabul, on January 27, 2017
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story on the drought affecting the northeastern and eastern areas of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, near Beijing, China. It is said to be the largest and most severe drought on record. Crops have wilted and died in the fields and farmers and herdsmen are desperately trying to find enough water to keep their families and livestock alive
A scarcity of water and its political implications
It has already been discovered that water and politics don't mix very well. We have seen it in the use of water by out-of-state companies in the U.S. going into a California community and bottling water to sell nationwide while the state was in the middle of its biggest drought on record.
This same thing has happened in India and other countries where politics and big business override the objections of local communities trying to protect their water sources against the bigger economic demands of the government. More recently, in New Zealand, water, once an abundant resource, is becoming scarce and has become a political football in some communities.
With Somalia on the brink of famine  women fleeing to displacement camps in search of food and water...
With Somalia on the brink of famine, women fleeing to displacement camps in search of food and water are falling victim to rape and sexual assault
, AFP/File
Gareth Morgan's election policy, coming after strong debate over water consents to take and export New Zealand water for free, has taken center stage at the national level. In an editorial in the Taranaki Daily News, the writer says that while the arguments for and against Morgan's policy on water are complex, "it's hard to argue against the most basic laws of economics - supply and demand and scarcity."
Water scarcity's economic effects are huge
The first thing that comes to most people's minds is the impact of water scarcity on agriculture and farming, and this is correct. But many people don't realize the worldwide economic effects of drought and water scarcity on food sustainability globally. It is huge.
Going back to Inner Mongolia, in China, the estimated economic losses for the vast municipal area of Hulunbuir, also known as Hulunbei’er, from the recent drought has been 5.3 billion renminbi, or $780 million. And in China, desertification is spreading, despite the efforts of the Beijing government to mitigate the damage.
The Oshiwara River in Mumbai are severely polluted with solid and liquid wastes generated by Mumbai....
The Oshiwara River in Mumbai are severely polluted with solid and liquid wastes generated by Mumbai. Most of India's surface water is not safe to drink.
Jan jörg
But perhaps the most damaging result of water scarcity is the impact it has on the human population. With groundwater resources drying up and aquifers being depleted by over-exploitation, people are dying by the hundreds every day. When those of us in developed nations go into the kitchen to get a glass of water out of the faucet, we really don't think about the child or woman standing in a long line at a village pump, hoping that by the time they reach the front of the line, there will be enough water to fill the container they are carrying.
The world is between a rock and a hard place
A changing climate is being blamed for the extreme droughts and other extreme climate events we are seeing today, but we also have to take responsibility for much of the water scarcity we are facing. One very obvious fact comes to mind - Cities are now overpopulated while the infrastructure has not been updated to fulfill the needs of residents.
California s Imperial Valley uses water from the Colorado River to grow crops. But increasing demand...
California's Imperial Valley uses water from the Colorado River to grow crops. But increasing demands on the river's waters have become a major issue.
U.S. Government/NOAA
Our over-use of water supplies in our natural aquifers has lowered their levels of clean drinking water drastically, and like in India, many of them are polluted with dangerous toxins. Agriculture has come a long way technologically, especially with programs that allow farmers to water their crops based on program needs, but the technology has not reached the greater part of humanity.
Countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and other regions of the world are still grappling with the basics of survival in our fast-changing climate, leaving them little time to figure out mediation techniques. However, we are reaching the point where international cooperation will be required in tackling our global water shortages, and that time is upon us.
More about Water, Scarcity, Drought, Energy, Economics