The Problems With Water Resources – The Result Of Our Own Actions

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If life starts approximately a billion years ago, then we will have to wait for 400000 years to see the development of the first nerve cells. This is where life, as we know it, begins. A brain of only a few milligrams makes it impossible to determine any sign of intelligence yet but acts more like a reflex — one neuron you are alive, two neurons you are moving, and with movement, interesting things begin to happen.

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Animal life on Earth goes back millions of years, yet most species only use 3 to 5% of its cerebral capacity. But it isn’t until we reached human beings at the top of the food chain that we finally see a species use more of its cerebral capacity.10% per cent may not seem like much, but it is a lot if you look at all we have done with it e.g. aeroplanes, robotics, the arts, the light bulb, space travel, architecture and wastewater engineering to name a few. However, there is a special case.

The only living being that uses its brain better than us is the dolphin. It is estimated that this incredible animal uses up to 20% of its cerebral capacity. This allows it to have an echolocation system that is more efficient than any SONAR invented by mankind. But the dolphin did not invent the SONAR, it developed it naturally. This is then the crucial part of the philosophical reflection we have today — are humans concerned more with having than being?

An Inverse Relationship with our Environment

For primitive beings like us, life seems to have one single purpose — gaining time. It is going through time that also seems to be the only real purpose of each of the cells in our bodies. To achieve that, the mass of the cells that make up human beings has only two solutions — to be immortal or to reproduce. If its habitat is not sufficiently favourable or nurturing, the cell will choose immortality i.e. self-sufficiency and self-management. On the other hand, if the habitat is favourable, it will choose to reproduce. That way when cells die, they hand down essential information and knowledge to the next cell, that hands it down to the next cell and so on. This is how the human population is currently sitting at more than 7638,82 million globally. It is believed that our population growth creates the ongoing technological advancement we require to better understand and harness nature, and therefore ensure our survival. However, the economic and political imbalances of the current world dictate that the survival of one ought to come at the expense of another’s integrity and right to life. Just like always used to say, we claim that there is nothing that can be done to avoid 40000 people from dying of hunger daily, while we bring 50000 a day into the world and blindly call this love. Moreover, we systematically and wilfully destroy the environment we depend on. maintains that nothing has been crueller to gentle Mother Nature than man — depleting Her ozone layer, launching onslaughts on Her ecosystems, wiping Her forests clean and misusing and taking out of Her water resources much more than we can give back.The demand for water outweighs its supply due to a steady populations increase, environmental ruin and mismanagement of water resources. It is also forecasted by that the population growth will peak in ca. 2050 and that climatic changes will further decrease (in a few decades) rainfalls and lead to much worse soil degradation and abnormal weather patterns. Are we then not working against our environment? Are we not having an inverse relationship with it?

A Deeper Look into our Water Problems

Our water resources are vulnerable to climate and irrigated agriculture. Extreme temperatures continue to swallow surface run-off, often at times when the demand to irrigate crops is high. Also, irrigation expansion will, in the future, impose a critical change in the demand of water; In Bangladesh alone, the research predicts a 7-million ha increase in irrigated area by 2020.

Besides agriculture, urban areas have an increasingly high water demand, owing to population growth. Economic growth continues to place high industrial water demands onto our water resources. These consumption areas may require us to trade irrigation water off for use in the domestic and industrial areas. It is believed that the water policies of predominantly agricultural nations give low priority to the agricultural sector by following this water-usage order: domestic and municipal, non-consumptive uses, sustaining rivers and dams and uses such as irrigation, industry, environment and recreation. The re-allocation of water use could result in less strenuous water demands and unlock much-needed resources in other areas.

Water resources such as rivers continue to face significant pressures from the industry. High water stress, both in quality and quantity, has caused a general increase in the withdrawal thereof. It is stated that by 1995, Europe has been withdrawing ~476 km3 per year, using 45% of this for industrial purposes. However, other continents and parts of Europe withdraw water for different purposes and therefore their industrial sectors do not demand as much. For instance, estimates that while Western Europe sees a decrease from 236 to 190 km3 per year, the water withdrawal in Eastern Europe will jump from 180 to 470 km3 and that the water stress levels will increase from 19% at present to 34-36% by 2020. Most of all, it is alarming how some major European rivers are facing decreasingly lower annual discharges e.g. the annual discharge of the Balkans rivers has already dropped by 70%. Does it not seem like abstracting water for irrigation use is proving to unsustainable? There surely is a pressing need for us to make a difference, lest we destroy ourselves.

Water quality is also increasingly compromised — both municipal and industrial pollution and salinity pose a threat to human health. The more groundwater we abstract, the more our aquifer levels decrease. This results in excess expenditure on water pumping and degraded water quality when natural and anthropogenic become heavily concentrated in the remaining water reserves. Also maintain that the overuse of fertiliser and unconstrained agricultural methods decreases the quality of water in our rivers, damages the soil and ecosystems. Disposal of brine and toxic effluent into the sea, pollution by industry and poorly treated or untreated wastewater release can spoil our marine water resources.

Some focus on the water required for drinking and basic sanitation is important in analysing how water quality affects human health. For those living in average climatic conditions, 3 litres per day is adequate for survival, whereas, in arid and hot ones, 5 litres a day is enough. However, the relationship between uncompromised sanitation and enhanced human health is a clear one.

Water pollution, through malaria, parasitic infections and diahhrea, continues to be fatal, claiming 2.2 million lives per year. So, lowering the risk of disease requires water for basic personal hygiene. Sadly, the lack of institutional and financial resources in middle- to low-income countries makes it hard for everyone to access clean drinking water and to have well-developed human waste disposal technologies, especially when people live in places that where there is sharp population growth, industrialisation and urbanisation.

Advancements in food production cannot keep up with the population growth — according to, the production of grain has been failing to meet consumption for the past 10 to 15 years. As a result, grain stock is declining to critically low levels and therefore 25000 people a day die of hunger and 800 million are underfed. To prevent famine and disease in the coming years, food production must increase. However, this will be linked to an invariable increase in water demand. We, therefore, have major decisions to make — more water or more food for everyone?

Moving beyond Analysis

Problems concerning our water resources are of our own doing. The discussed aspect will limit access to water in every country, creating internal and external competition for the precious resource therein — inside, different sectors will compete for water whereas outside, disputes over shared water resource will intensify. Unless coordination and a balance in the pertinent countries’ water demand are achieved, the decreasing water quality and quantity of the shared resource will worsen intra- and international conflicts.

The struggle of meeting persistent water demands will see our ecosystems suffering dire damages. Reports show that since 1990, some 50% or more of the world’s wetlands have been lost, leading to the extinction of 80 species of fish. Dams, diversion and canals continue to disrupt the flow of up to 60% of the world’s largest rivers, destroying our ecosystems downstream, not forgetting that we dispose of 2 million tonnes of human waste every day into our rivers. Beyond analysis, there is a huge need for us to improve our rudimentary knowledge about aquatic ecosystems and how much water they need an enormous task lies ahead — to maintain and help repair our water ecosystems while satisfying basic human requirements and spurring economic growth.

We all have a role to play in mitigating our water problems. However, the scientific and engineering professions will take centre stage in re-configuring the existing systems and creating new ones to allow us to keep as much water as possible. For example, there is ongoing development of specially-formulated concrete that sucks up natural-disaster water and stores it underground. Nations that run efficient water management systems based on existing scientific principles should distribute the knowledge and resources to others because, in the long run, these nations should realise that they are part of an integrated, global water-resource community and their future access to water depends on what other nations do. For, as always said, we may separate ourselves into nations for survival and security and achieve just the opposite.

To HAVE more or to BE more

The unnatural state of our water resources is evident in our backwardness. Our growth in numbers and our need to have more and ensure our survival has turned us into a pack of wolves — we destroy the sky, the land, our seas, our oceans, our rivers and our aquatic ecosystems. Our hunger for more makes us destroy the best among ourselves. It is all because we have disconnected ourselves from who we were before technological and industrial development. We had perfect chemistry with Mother Nature. We only took out of Her what we required for our basic needs, and life was good. We are also disconnected from who we are — we are blind to realise that the world’s water-shortage problems can be solved tomorrow (in fact right now) just by changing the way we see ourselves and each other. Each one of us is part of a universe, one consciousness, one body. So, to have more and keep resources away from another is the same as keeping it away from you. Therefore, nations, as we see today, go to war over water resources. In the process, we do not give enough attention to our environment, let alone seeing ourselves separate from it. We are inharmonious with it, out of sync. We choose to act in ways that do not give it enough time to repair itself, by wanting and attaining more and not willing to give back as much back to the environment.

We may be seeking answers elsewhere, not knowing that we must just remember that the world has more than enough for everyone’s basic needs to be met. Does humanity then still want to have more or be more?

01 February 2021

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