Water is life, there is no doubt of this fact. Water is the most valuable resource in the world. The sustenance of life in all living things is solely dependent upon the availability of water. Therefore, the demand for water increases as the world population increases. Population distribution is a determinant of the strain put on the available water resources. The management and control of human activities affecting water supply are critical. It is essential to identify and find solutions to the water problem as the population increases.
According to the United Nations 2010 Revision of the world prospects, the demographic estimates and projections of the world population is 7 billion people on the 31st October 2011(World Population Prospects, 2010). Given that the world population is increasing at the rate of 1.10% per year, the needs for solutions to the current water crisis are significant. Industrialization and urbanization have increased as time goes by with the increasing demand for water resources. However, the effects of high pressure on the available water resources have a negative effect to the environment. According to the World Water Council, 66% of the water consumption is used for irrigation and up to 90% in arid areas. 34% of water consumption is used for domestic purposes while 10% is consumed in arid regions. 20% is used for industry purposes while 4% evaporates from water reservoirs (World Water Council).
The water consumption per capita is growing as the population increases. The demand for water to farm and produce agricultural products is significant. The ability to feed the world population is getting impaired greatly by the scarcity of water. The increase in human activities as a result of the exploding population growth demands more water for industrial functions and process among the other uses. The current trend in population growth will significantly affect the availability of adequate water to sustain the ecosystem and human life on the planet.
The available water resources are hardly sufficient to sustain the world population. Rainfall being a significant source of water has decreased over the years. This is a result of global changes in climate. The needs of the population cannot rely on rainfall; therefore, other sources of water are required. Agricultural practitioners have continued to depend on irrigation significantly. The prolonged seasons of drought have made it necessary to find an alternative method for farming, which is irrigation. Irrigation requires a constant water supply; therefore, availability of water bodies like rivers, lakes, oasis or streams is crucial. Given that two thirds of the world is composed of water. An estimated 97% of the world’s water resource is in the oceans. This water, however, is salt water and can hardly be used for human, agricultural or industrial consumption. The remaining estimated 3% of the world’s water resources are found on land (Environmental Literacy Council). The significance of water found on land is that it is essentially fresh water adequate for consumption.
The management, control and protection of water require an in-depth understanding of the hydrologic cycle. The necessity of water management in lieu of current demographic trends is vital. Water preservation and harvesting should be practiced at all levels. The concepts of moving and directing water resources for irrigation purposes are no longer the primary objective of water management today. In the past, water bodies were used as disposal sites, where it was misconceived that water would disperse industrial waste rendering it harmless (Environmental Literacy Council). However, in the current era water considerations extend to municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes. The provision of quality water to all while maintaining and preserving the available ecosystems is the main objective of water management.
The need to provide quality water while preserving the aquatic ecosystems and the environment is constantly challenged by the factors influenced by human activities. Population growth has strained the available resources leading to an extensive inappropriate disposal of waste materials. The pollution of aquatic ecosystems and water bodies has influenced the available water resources negatively. The disposal of industrial and domestic wastes in water bodies has led to the degradation and death of aquatic ecosystems. It impacts adversely on the availability of sufficient quality water for human consumption. Water pollution leads to manifestation of diseases and destruction of ecosystems which make man suffer more. However, pollution of water bodies can be avoided by implementation of strict waste disposal policies, laws and regulations on waste management while instituting environmental, regulatory bodies.
The environment contributes to the hydrologic cycle significantly. It is critical the maintenance of the earth’s ground cover is not overlooked. The maintenance of forest cover helps in maintaining the water cycle which culminates to rainfalls and humidity levels in the atmosphere. The demand for land and space has led to the destruction of forests. The industrial need for wood in processing of materials and building purposes strains the forest cover in the world. Deforestation has affected the available water resources immensely. Forests are the catchment areas of significant water resources like rivers and streams which drain into lakes and oceans. The destruction of forests diminishes the water cycle; therefore, leading to drying up of rivers, drought and high temperatures.
The population increase has led to people encroaching into forests looking for space and arable land for agricultural purposes. Deforestation can be remedied by replacing the cut trees. The utilization of idle arid land, where drought resistant crops are planted, can ease the land problem. Protection of forests and enforcement of laws which protect forests from exploitation and misuse will reduce deforestation.
The establishment of urban regions has led to the concentration of industries in given areas. These have attracted the population migration from rural areas to the urban ones. Population increase in urban areas has strained the available resources leading a high demand for water, pollution and environmental degradation. The infrastructure in urban areas leads to waste materials being disposed of in water bodies or aquatic ecosystems like marshes. Industrial wastes drainage into rivers has significant adverse effect to the aquatic systems available. As the population increases in an urban area, so does the need for water. The minimal amounts of water available are used for varied applications leading to a spread of disease and toxic materials.
The effects of urbanization on available ecosystems can be mitigated by the implementation of a defined disposal system which is strictly monitored and adhered to at all time. A waste management policy should be established to control and regulate waste disposal in the urban area. The water management body should supply and monitor water usage while treating water to avoid disease outbreaks. Industries should not be localized at an urban area but should be spread across the region. This will prevent a significant demand being put on the available, minimal water resources.
Population increase has led to increase in the demand of the essential needs of life. These are mainly food, clothing and shelter hence space. The world resources are hardly enough to sustain the budding population. In some regions, water and food are scarce which leads to massive deaths and malnutrition related diseases. The available water resources are polluted and contaminated leading to the spread of diseases like cholera, typhoid and dysentery among others (Goel, 2009). The aquatic systems in these regions die away due to the overexploitation and pollution. The indigenous species of animals and plant life found in the destroyed forests are lost forever. The effects of climatic and seismic activities like floods, tsunamis, droughts and earthquakes significantly affect the organisms in essential aquatic ecosystems.
These aquatic ecosystems may be displaced or destroyed leading to the extinction of significant species. Man’s activities in an attempt to satisfy the increasing population have seen the activities like mining extending to the water bodies. Oil and chemical spillages in water bodies have seen to the death of millions of aquatic organisms and ecosystems. These have affected adversely the lifecycle in the aquatic ecosystems compromising the species propagation and food supply.
Over the past one hundred years, the earth’s temperatures have risen by 0.5 degrees. The rise in temperatures may seem minimal but, in the long run, they may increase by 2 degrees. This may have catastrophic effects on global climatic conditions. An increase in temperature of this magnitude is sufficient to melt the principal icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica. The resulting features would be the shifts in climatic patterns (Farabee, 2010). The increase in atmospheric temperatures can be attributed to greenhouses. The greenhouse effect is to increase levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Growth in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere culminates in increased temperatures.
An increased atmospheric temperature has the effect of heating the icecaps leading to an increase in water levels in the oceans. High temperatures lead to high evaporation rates which culminate to heavy rain falls in the coastal regions. The effects of high temperatures on land would be extended periods of drought and drying up of water bodies. This would lead to insufficient water for human consumption, irrigation and industrial usage. The population and environment would suffer consequently. Greenhouse gasses impair the ability of the atmosphere to absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun which leads to increased release of heat. The resulting effect of greenhouses is, therefore, global warming. However, this can be mitigated by reducing the amounts of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere while looking for alternative sources of fuels and farming techniques.
It is evident that as the world population increases so does the demand for natural resources significantly water. The need for population control is apparent since the available resources are diminishing as time goes by. The preservation and expansion of ecosystems which aid in generating water like forests is necessary. The obligation and responsibility to protect aquatic ecosystems should fall on all human beings. Water resources are continually abused and diminishing. The effects of deforestation have led to drying up of rivers and diminishing of essential water bodies. Shifts in climatic patterns have led to erratic weather behavior. This is indicated by the prolonged periods of drought where agricultural produce diminishes or fails.
The reduction in rainfall creates the necessity to emphasize irrigation and growth of crops which require less water. Rehabilitation of destroyed ecosystems like replanting of forests is essential. This will provide ground cover and reduce the high rates of evaporation. Forests are critical in maintaining the hydrologic cycles. Rural urban migrations should be discouraged while measures are taken to control the concentration of industries in one urban region. Protocols are necessary in avoiding oil and chemical spillages in water bodies. Water is invaluable to all life. Therefore, water pollution should not be tolerated at any level. Stringent measures and actions should be taken to prevent water pollution. As the population increases, the demand for clean water also increases. Thus, the provision of adequate water for all is a priority. Water management systems should be implemented to ensure that water is not abused, misused or wasted.
The contribution of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, population division, population estimates and projections section, is invaluable in providing data on global population. The World Water Council and the Environmental Literacy Council have provided insight into the water distribution data and information.