The Shortage of Water & Human Population Growth


The 20th century was characterized by an intensive increase in the Earth’s population through development and urbanization. Giant cities appeared with a population of more than 10 million people. The development of industry, transport, power engineering, and industrialization of agriculture led to the fact that the anthropogenic impact on the environment acquired global nature.

The water shortage can prove to be the main threat to humanity’s existence, a threat larger than an increase in the prices of food or the consumption of oil reserves. In contrast to the oil, natural gas, or even air, around the purity of which already during many years heated discussions are conducted, water until recently in the majority of the people was not associated with the concept of a strategically important resource. This paper covers the water shortage and its relation to the earth’s population with a view to the possible future problems that might occur as a result of this scarcity. Analysis of the problem and possible recommendations are also discussed in this essay.

Data and Information

Many factors play a major role in water consumption and the water shortage, and the main misbalance is the population and water equation, as the quantity of freshwater is definite and the population is constantly growing. As a result of the incorrect use of groundwater, its reserves are gradually exhausted. The average speed, of these reserves’ decrease reserves, is approximately 0.1% and 0.3% per year.

The speed of the underground water selection in the US is about 25% higher than its recovery rate. In some regions, the exceeding expenditure above the restoration rate reaches 160%. Like soil, groundwater is restored very slowly: approximately 1% per year. With the enormous water-bearing horizon of Ogallala under the states of Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, the water supplies which are more than in any ground-based reservoir can be totally consumed. With the retention of such rates, some agricultural regions will after become unproductive in only 30 years.

First signs of the future: in 1950 in Kansas 250 boreholes to the water-bearing layer were drilled. In 1990 there were already 3000. In this time the thickness of the layer decreased from 58 feet to the moistened remainder of 5-6 feet.

In the last 40 years, the average quantity of freshwater per person in the world decreased by 60%. For the subsequent 25 years further decrease is assumed to be doubled. In developing countries, approximately 95% of water is contaminated. In the US about 37% of water in the lakes is unfit for bathing because of different forms of pollution. This pollution makes the water unusable not only for human consumption but also for agricultural needs. Agriculture is the main consumer of fresh water, as the distillation of seawater for agricultural purposes is a very energy-consuming and economically hopeless process. At this time the agriculture consumes 87% of existing water.

Speaking of pollution, each year more than 35 million tons of nitrates and up to3.75 million tons of phosphoric conjugation are dropped into the coastal waters of seas and oceans. Even this enormous volume could be dissolved in the open ocean; however, a large part of the pollution remains in the coastal zone, forming tinctures on algae and reducing oxygen content, disrupting the sea life in the coastal zone. The coastline is everywhere overpopulated. Almost 2/3 populations of the Earth (4 billion people) live in the coastal zone with a width of up to 150 km. In 10 years this portion will grow to 75%.

Accordingly, the consequence of this migration is even larger pollution of the shelf and the destruction of marine inhabitants.

Analysis or discussion

Humans can depend only on groundwater in normal conditions. The easily accessible aqueous reserves for humans are only 1%; however, even this negligible portion would be sufficient for the satisfaction of human needs, supposing that these reserves are evenly distributed.

The Middle East, North Asia, northeast of Mexico, a large part of Africa, many Westerns state of America, part of Chile and Argentina, and almost entire Australia suffer from the unstable water supply.

It should be mentioned that irrigation is an important factor in water consumption.

The production, cultivated on irrigated soil, is 2-5 times more expensive than the production cultivated due to rains since the cost of fuel and hydraulic constructions are constantly growing. With the annual need for cultivation of food for one person per year, is equal 400 000 liters, in the US 1 700 000 liters are used.

Irrigation is vitally necessary for the production of food in the world. Irrigated soils occupy about 16% of world areas; this portion falls on the production of one-third of wheat with the productivity, 2.5 times higher than in usual fields; however, irrigation requires a large consumption of water (about 65% of the world’s supplies) and energy. Water expenditure for the cultivation of 1 kg of production comprises: for the wheat – 1 400 l, for the rice – 4 700 l., for the cotton – 17 000l. At the same time irrigation is accompanied by the loss of land as a result of salting and waterlogging (approximately 1% per year).

This problem already exists in India, Pakistan, Egypt, Mexico, Australia, and the USA. Africa and some countries of the Middle East, especially Israel and Jordan, and also other countries, exhaust the reserves of groundwater. In China, the level of groundwater is reduced by 1 m per year, and in the region of Tianjin – up to 4.4 m per year, and in the south of India – up to 2.5-3m per year, moreover the water-bearing horizon Gujarat simultaneously undergoes salting.

Today 2 billion people in 80 countries of the world live under the conditions for the limited guarantee of drinking water. In 9 countries the consumption of water exceeds the speed of its renewal. In the past 150 years, the quantity of drinking water per man decreased 4 times. In 2000 6 of 7 Eastern- African countries and all 5 countries of the South Coast of the Mediterranean sea experience the scarcity of freshwater. 48 countries with a general population of 3 billion people will encounter the scarcity of water by 2025.

Conclusion of Analysis

The issues of the apparent and inevitable problems of the water shortage must be considered as primary in the global context. The population growth is obviously an unchangeable factor, therefore the directions of solving the problems must be taken toward other initiations. The prevention of contamination of the water might be considered as the first step in that direction.

As people continue to pollute the water, tons of garbage from passing ships, chemical weapons’ remains from wars, dumping of radioactive wastes, and petroleum products all that being thrown and buried in the oceans. The other factor is the water-saving initiative to reduce the water consumption to minimal values, as it has been noticed that the western countries and the USA, in particular, spend more water than other developing countries.

The water supplies on the surface of our planet are enormous, but 97.5% of these reserves – saltwater and only 2.5% – fresh.

However, 70% of fresh water is concentrated in the glaciers and the glacial covers, another part – in the groundwater, or it lies deep underground. As a result the actually accessible to humanity less than 1% of fresh water, or a total of about 0,007% of the entire mass of water on the planet. Specifically, this mass regularly is renewed through the natural circle of water, i.e., it relates to the renewed resources, to one extent or another accessible to humanity. Therefore possible cheap distillation methods must be found to make use of the saltwater in a way that its energy expenses should be less than the possible outcome.

Possible Solutions

An example of ideas and unrealized projects for compensating water, the shortage is the usage of icebergs for obtaining fresh water. There are 2 basic methods of using the icebergs for that purpose. The first is the transport of icebergs. It is proposed, that using natural migration paths of icebergs, with the aid of powerful tugs to transport the small icebergs (with volume up to 0.1 km3).

Preliminarily they are going to be covered with a special envelope for protection from excessive melting, without this they will simply be melted during transportation on the road. The second method is the transport of water. It is intended to crush icebergs on location with the aid of the special equipment, then load icy crumb into special tankers and deliver to the consumer.

Considerable attention must be paid to questions related to the prevention and elimination of the pollution of coastal areas. With the use of coastal areas as the receiver of production effluents the content of harmful substances in the sea must not exceed the limits, established on the sanitary, toxicological, and the general health and organic limiting indices of harmfulness. In this case, the requirements for the descent of effluents are differentiated in connection with the nature of water use, as the sea is considered not only as the source of water supply but also as therapeutic health-improvement, cultural everyday factor.


“In summary: Industry is the greatest withdrawer of water, but agriculture is the greater consumer” (Environmental Science, 226).

“It can’t go on. The UN’s World Water Development Report warned two years ago that our most serious challenge this century might not be war or disease or famine, but the lack of freshwater.” (“Water Shortage Is Next” 16).

“World water consumption doubled from 1950 to 2000 but supplies decreased by one third.” (“Water Shortage Is Next” 16).

Some developing countries have an annual population growth of 3% and their population will double in less than 25 years. Current predictions indicate that more than 20 developing countries will experience chronic, physical water shortages by 2025. ( Understanding Water,2).

Climate change represents a wild card in this developing scenario. If, in fact, climate change is occurring — and most experts now concur that it is — what effect will it have on water resources? Some experts claim climate change has the potential to worsen an already gloomy situation. With higher temperatures and more rapid melting of winter snowpacks, fewer water supplies will be available to farms and cities “during summer months when demand is high…”(Global Water Shortage,)

Works Cited

Mckee, Jeffrey K. Sparing Nature: The Conflict between Human Population Growth and Earth’s Biodiversity. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

“Water Shortage Is Next World Threat.” South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales) 2005: 16.

‘Water, a Shared Responsibility’. The 2nd United Nations World Water Development Report: 2006.

“Global Water Shortage Looms in New Century.” University of Arizona. 2007. Web.

McKinney, Michael L., and Robert M. Schoch. Environmental Science: Systems and Solutions. NY: Jones & Bartlett, 2003.

“Drought World Water Shortage Global Water Crisis by 2025.” Solcom House. 2008. Web.

Shridath , Ramphal, and Steven W. Sinding. Population Growth and Environmental Issues. NY: Greenwood Publishing, 1996.

Simmers, Ian W. Understanding Water in a Dry Environment: Hydrological Processes in Arid. n.a: Taylor & Francis, 2003.

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