While it is well known that more than 70% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, many people do not realize that only 2.5% of that water is freshwater. Of the freshwater on Earth, only about 1% of it is easily accessible. More than 700 million people around the world lack access to clean drinking water and the number is expected to continue to grow as the population increases. With a growing population, it is a real concern that access to clean, fresh water will not be easily available in the very near future. This causes real concern for the health and safety of everyone and raises the issue of something known as the freshwater crisis.

What is the Freshwater Crisis?

A freshwater crisis occurs when there is not enough water that is safe for humans to consume. It is far more severe than just a water shortage and could happen for many different reasons including climate change, pollution, overpopulation, and more. There are certain world organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), that consider various regions around the world to be suffering from a water crisis currently. The UN is actually predicting that by 2025, more than half of the world's countries will start to experience water stress or even shortages that will lead to a severe freshwater crisis. From 1900 to 1995 the demand for water grew at more than twice the rate of population growth. As demand for freshwater continues to grow, it becomes more and more important to find solutions to prevent a freshwater crisis from spreading.

Causes of the Freshwater Crisis

There can be many different causes of a freshwater crisis. A lot of water is wasted; in developing countries almost 50% of water is lost to leaks. Irrigation also accounts for a large amount of water usage and as the population grows, so does the need for more irrigation to produce food, and as such population growth is another contributing factor to a potential water crisis. Pollution is another big concern with freshwater. Many lakes and rivers are contaminated with various substances such as pesticides and fertilizers. Climate change could be another potential contributor to a water crisis. As temperatures increase due to global warming, rainfall could become reduced along with a drop in water levels of rivers and lakes.

Consequences of Losing Our Freshwater Supply

The consequences of losing our freshwater supply could be severe. Loss of freshwater would mean millions people would lose access to safe drinking water. Without access to sanitary drinking water, there is a risk of waterborne disease spreading, which in the absence of safe water is one of the leading causes of death. One concern of a freshwater crisis is that conflicts may break out over a now scarce necessity. There are concerns that these conflicts could possibly lead to war. There are many potential consequences of losing our freshwater supply, all of which are negative. It is important to conserve our freshwater to prevent these things from happening.

Ways to Protect Freshwater

There is a lot that can be done to protect our freshwater supply for future generations. From a science standpoint, desalinization processes can be further enhanced and further research can be done on the availability of freshwater. Helping to prevent a water crisis can also be done at home. Repair any leaks around the house and use more efficient irrigation systems that do not release a steady stream of water. Instead of turning on the garden hose, collect rainwater to use in gardens. Take shorter showers and use environmentally friendly cleaning products to reduce the risk of water pollution.

While the threat of a freshwater crisis is very real it can be prevented. Although there are some regions of the world that are currently dealing with water scarcity, much can be done to ensure that the problem does not spread. The following resources provide further information on what the freshwater crisis is and how it can be prevented.

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