According to National Geographic, about 30 percent of the world’s freshwater lies in underground water reserves, which include basins and aquifers. However, many basins and aquifers around the globe are in danger of running dry. Increasing populations, inefficient irrigation practices, and general governmental mismanagement are depleting water supplies in many regions. By 2030, the United Nations believes that there will be a global shortfall in water, leading to hard droughts, crippling water crisis, and even armed conflict. In some parts of the world, city’s are in danger of collapsing, quite literally.
Take China for example – Beijing specifically – where depleting water sources are causing the ground to literally sink. According to the article, the ground is giving way at a rate of about 4 inches per year, as aquifers below ground continue to deplete. Not only can this lead to a more dire water crisis, but also major disruptions in the city’s infrastructure as railways, tunnels, and buildings begin to unlevel. Beijing is currently the world’s fifth most water-distressed city, and it is likely to get even worse if consumption rates continue to increase. Other cities like Shanghai and Mexico city have seen similar occurrences, as well as regions like southern California.
A water crises can cause an economic downturn. Lead Economist at the World Bank, Richard Damania predicts that inadequate water supplies will surely lead to economic instability. In some parts of the developing world economic growth can drop up to six percent due to drier conditions. This is in direct correlation with climate change, where drier areas on the planet can see devastating consequences. When no water is left to irrigate plants and crops the agricultural industry will be turned on its head.
Farmers are now pumping more water into their crops than ever before. Inefficient irrigation systems and techniques consume more than two-thirds of the groundwater available for the planet. Aquifers that once served as backups are being used at alarming rates to replace depleted dams and dried out rivers. However, farmers have no choice but to look to these resources. In the United States, Great Plains farmers have been using water at unsustainable rates for six decades.
Human beings require fresh-water to survive. With limited supplies and depleting resources, humanity could soon face its most difficult crisis yet. However, as better irrigation practices are implemented, new efficient technologies are discovered, and everyday usage practices are changed – we can maintain ourselves for a better future.
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