Water shortage/scarcity

What is water shortage?

Water shortage is the lack of freshwater resources to meet water demand. Water shortage occurs when there is more water consumed and used than the amount of water available, and thus the amount of water available is not able to meet the demands. When there is a water shortage, water usage and consumption will be both affected. Water will be more difficult to obtain and prices might be jacked up.

Today, in this blog, we will investigate:

1.What are the different uses of water?

2. What are the causes of water shortage?

3 .How does it impact people and countries?

4. How can we prevent water shortage/solve the issue.

We use water in many ways, for example, drinking, cleaning and economic activities. The water we use is fresh water, which contains a very low amount of salt and is hence suitable for using and drinking.Fresh water can be obtained from rivers, lakes and groundwater.

However, only 2 percent of the world’s water is drinkable and the rest is salt water.And in that tiny percentage, 87 percent of it is frozen in glaciers.Thus we have very limited water for usage, which is why scientists and manufacturers are trying to come up with more efficient ways and cheaper methods of desalination and reverse osmosis.

1.The different uses of water

Economic use refers to water used in agriculture and industry. In agriculture, growing rice uses the most water-about 20 percent of the total water used to grow crops.

Domestic use refers to water used in and around the home. Two thirds of our bodies are made up of water, and we require lots of water to replenish it. An average adult needs to drink about 3 litres of water everyday. Water is also used for cooking, washing and other domestic activities.

Generally, domestic water use accounts for the smallest percentage of all water used. Domestic water use refers to three types of usage:

-Consumption(e.g drinking and cooking)

-Hygiene(.eg bathing and flushing the toliet)

-Amenity use(e.g washing the car, watering the garden)

The volume of water used and way that it is used may differ from household to household. This is because we have different personal habits and household appliances are designed differently.

Economic use


Agriculture uses the greatest amount of water globally. Agriculture refers to the growing of crops for human use, mainly for food. As the world population grows rapidly, the demand for more and faster production of food is increasing and more water is needed to grow more crops to feed people.

Water is crucial for growing fruits, vegetables, grain, coffee, tea and much more. In places with abundant rainfall all year round, less water is needed and used for agriculture because crops are naturally watered by rain.In places where rainfall is low or irregular, more water is used for agriculture because of irrigation.In irrigation, water is obtained from water bodies(rivers, lakes, reservoirs and wells), and is sprayed or watered onto crops. It many also be spread across the land by sprinkler systems.

To meet the world increasing demand for food, more places are relying on irrigation.Thus, more water is used to increase crop yield.Compared to 50 years ago, the amount of water used for irrigation today has increased by 70 percent. The area of irrigated land has also doubled.


Globally, industrial water use accounts for 22 percent of the total water used. Most of it is used for hydropower and nuclear power, 30 to 40 percent is used for industrial processes such as manufacturing, and 0.5 to 3 percent is used for thermal power generation.

In power generation, large amounts of water are used for the manufacture, maintenance, and cooling of generators. A large portion is however, also lost thorough evaporation, absorption, and leaks. In thermal power(heat converted to electricity) generation, electricity is produced by steam-powered generators.

Water is most likely used in all manufacturing processes. Many processes create lots of heat due to friction and chemical reactions. Water is thus needed to cool down the machinery and equipment. Water is also used to clean the machinery and products. Industries that produce steel, chemicals, paper, and petroleum and some of the major users of water.

Some of the industrial products are used as materials for making other products.Thus, more water is needed to eventually produce the finished product you use. For example, an average car requires about 400 litres of water in its entire production process.

2.The causes of water shortage

Demand factors

Population growth

A major cause of water shortage is the increasing world population. The world population grew from 1.6 billion to 3.1 billion in 1960. As the world population grows at an increasing rate, so does the need for food. However, the production of animal products is extremely water-intensive, due to having to produce more food to feed the animals and raise them.

Worldwide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, or even faster in some countries. Water supply cannot keep up with such demands.Thus world water consumption for domestic and industrial use increases as the population increases.

Most of the world population growth will take place in less developed countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. Thus, rising populations in these countries will have an even greater strain on their water resources.

therefore, in some of these rural and underdeveloped countries, they have to pump groundwater heavily, with some of the wells going as deep as 200 metres to obtain fresh water.


Water consumption has increased twice as fast as population growth because of affluence. Being affluent means having wealth and being able to live more comfortably.

Affluent countries are usually developed countries such as the USA, Japan, and Australia, where most of their population can live comfortably, and thus can afford to spend more. People in these countries use more water than those in less developed countries,(China, Vietnam, India).In other words, more developed countries will have a large water footprint per capita.

With more money, people may also start to consume goods that are produced using more water and live a lifestyle that consumes more water.Here are some of the changes in lifestyle that come with increasing wealth.

Water used for ornamental and leisure purposes
Piped water
s the world develops, millions of people worldwide will change their water source from the village well to piped water for showers and flush toilets.
More meat consumed
people are able to afford more expensive and water-intensive foods such as meat.
More water-intensive appliances used
People are able to afford water-intensive appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
More goods purchased
More people can spend more on goods such as clothing. The textile industry is one that uses a lot of water. For example, manufacturing one cotton t-shirt requires 400 litres of water.

Between 2007 and 2025, water consumption is predicted to rise by 50 percent in less developed countries and 18 percent in developed countries. Much of the increase comes from the poorer countries as more and more people move from rural areas to urban cities.

Supply factors

Seasonal rainfall

Countries near the equator are cooler than the desert areas because much of the heat energy is used in evaporating the large volumes of precipitation that fall there. However, in some countries, rainfall can vary from month to month. This affects the supply of freshwater available for use.

Although India has a high annual precipitation of more than 1200 millimeters, its rainfall is unevenly distributed throughout the year. Most rainfall is received during June and September during the southwest monsoon season, leaving the rest of the year rather dry.

With more than half of India population engaged in farming, the timing and amount of rainfall are crucial for the harvesting of crops. Many farms depend on the rain heavily for their harvest.

Irregular distribution throughout the year in some regions will be intensified by climate change. The earth average temperature is predicted to rise due to the increase in greenhouse gases. This increase in temperatures will cause a change in rainfall patterns and more extreme weather-related hazards such as floods and droughts.

Water pollution

Water pollution is another cause of water shortage. It is the introduction of substances that results in unpleasant or damaging effects to the environment and human health.

Some common pollutants include garbage, chemicals and waste water. These can come from agricultural, industrial and other human activities.

Thus, as a result of these pollutants, the water quality will drop. The water becomes unusable and unsuitable for usage by people and affects the aquatic animals living in the water.

Take, for example, the Ganges River. It is the largest river in India. More than 400 million people live along the river, making it the most populated river basin in the world. It provides water for drinking, bathing, and irrigation. However, pollution in it has threatened this water resource as many industries near the river have inadequate waste treatment and dump their waste directly into the river. Many of these factories use large amounts of chromiun and other chemicals in their production of materials. Surrounding towns also have discharged a large amount of waste into the river. As a result, the water has turned brown.

What impact does water shortage have? (on people and countries)

Domestic impact (increased difficulty in collecting water)

Many developed countries have the luxury of having plentiful and accessible fresh water. We just need to turn on the tap to get a drink, enjoy a hot long shower or wash our clothes. Fresh water is all at our convenience and at our fingertips. We have a seemingly unlimited supply of fresh, clean water, at any time of the year.

However, 1.1 billion people globally lack access to safe drinking water.In the less developed countries, one on five people do not have access to safe water.

This is due to a few reasons. In most of these countries, most water is used for agriculture, leaving little for domestic use. Weather conditions also affect this, as in countries with high temperature, the water in wells and rivers evaporate faster and dry up. Therefore, water was scarce and people had to travel long distances to obtain water.

Water rationing

If water becomes scarce and limited, not everyone will be able to have access to unlimited free water anymore. Water rationing will ration out the water available to everyone equally. water will only be available at certain times of the day.

During water rationing, people will be given a certain amount of water to use during the exercise. All other appliances that use water like taps, toilets or showers will be turned off and will not be in use.

Economic impact

Reduced agricultural yields

Water shortage will hinder economic development as water is needed to produce most goods and services. One industry with the greatest risk is agriculture, which uses 70 percent of the global freshwater supply.Thus, less food will be produced as there will be less yield and less water for industrial production.

Increased cost of industrial production

Freshwater is needed by many industries for various purposes. As water constraint increases, so will the cost of industrial production. The cost of industrial production refers to the cost of producing and manufacturing goods.

Industries, that use water to cool generators and machines also rely heavily on water. For instance, power plants use a lot of water to cool parts of the generators. Thus when there was less water, power plants in Europe reduced their power output. The cut in power production increased the price of power and affected the cost of production in other industries.

Another industry that relies heavily on the water is the beverage industry. Companies producing soft drinks use a lot of water in their production. Besides being the main ingredient, water is also used in other parts of the process such as rinsing, heating, cooling and cleaning. Thus, an increase in water prices will lead to higher production costs.

Political impact(conflict over water supply)

Conflict can arise over water resources when there is not enough water to go around. On a local scale, there can be conflicts between farmers and factories over the use of water in a lake. On a national global scale, problems may arise when states or countries tap into the same water resource.

4. How can we prevent water shortage?

1.Developing more water filtration systems

Having access to water is one thing, but having clean water that is safe to consume is another thing. Filtration systems are crucial in ensuring that freshwater can be put to good use. Ways of filtering and treating freshwater include desalination and reverse osmosis. That’s one of the reasons why companies worldwide are committed to developing sophisticated water filtration systems that produce purified water free from bacteria, microbes, and other contaminants.

2.promoting water awareness

Educate the public more about water shortages and the importance of water in their lives. It has the potential to make lasting positive changes in people use water. It takes every community to cooperate to reduce the threat of water scarcity. This means that every community or family has to play their own part: taking shorter showers, installing low flow toilets, or investing in water reduction appliances. However, it takes time to change people behaviour, and the success of water stewardship depends on whether people want to change their behaviour.

3.Increase local catchment areas

Local catchments rely on rainwater to collect its water from the natural landscape.

Surface catchment refers to the area where rain falls and is collected. Rainwater is collected in rivers, streams, and canals. The water is then channeled to reservoirs where it is stored.

4.Recycle wastewater

Used water may be treated to become drinking water. In Singapore, we have NEWater, which is the result of clever planning and technology. This enables freshwater to be used more than once. Used water thus becomes a new source of water.

As NEWater is purer than tap water, it is ideal for use in certain industries. Currently, it is supplied mainly to water fabrication plants, electronics factories and power plants.

A percentage of the NEWater is mixed with raw water from the reservoirs and treated at the waterworks. When it was first launched, the public was concerned about the idea of treated used water. However, the public is being educated through the NEWater Visitor Centre. Visitors can view the technology used to produce NEWater, and sample bottled NEWater.

With the completion of the fourth and largest NEWater plant in 2010, NEWater can meet 30 percent of Singapore water demand. It is expected to meet 40 percent of Singapore water needs in 2020 and further on and the existing plants are expanded.


Water shortage is happening all around the world, however not much is being done to solve the problem or reduce the threat. 1.1 billion people globally lack access to clean water and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.People who suffer from water shortage or do not have sufficient water for usage are those who live in poverty or poor infrastructure countries.