There is no substitute for the world’s most vital liquid substance: water. Without it, life is not possible. From the smallest cell to the biggest mammal, water is the driving force that keeps all organisms alive. Could it be possible that the substance which holds the key to preserving life can go scarce? The simple answer is yes.
Out of the more than 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth, only 1% is liquid freshwater—which humans rely on to survive—and out of that percentage, only a tiny fraction comes from lakes and rivers. Most of the freshwater comes from underground aquifers, which are water deposits that have accumulated over a millennium. Due to the rapid increment in population and the acceleration of global warming, such water reserves diminish at a fast rate every year.
The erroneous perception that water is out there in bountiful amounts is the biggest self-deception of humans. To protect humanity from this imminent existential threat, fast action needs to happen. If change is not incentivised nor considered a priority, starting right now, human survival will be at risk. This article attempts to highlight the detrimental effects of the water crisis, which are already becoming apparent. In the long term, marginalised communities will suffer tremendously if governments do not start implementing policies to avoid aggravating the problem.
The Survival of the Richest
If water becomes scarce, who will bear the consequences the most? Would it be Joe Biden, the current President of the United States? Or would it be Boris Johnson, England’s Prime Minister? One may think that because water is a necessity, its disappearance would affect everyone equally. However, that is not the case. If water became rare today, those most affected would be those with the least capital.
On the one hand, the affluent and powerful would have no problem accessing water, at least while it’s available. This is because water is treated as a commodity; even if it becomes a rare product, the ones having the means to purchase it - no matter what the price - would survive. On the other hand, the poorest of all, those with little to no capital, would struggle the most.
In modern society, the poor are constantly battling for survival. Most governments are not providing the least fortunate with the necessary means to improve their living circumstances. Therefore, if water becomes too expensive for people to afford, then the humans with the least capital will be the first ones to be in danger of extinction. According to the World Bank, 9.2% of the world today survives with less than $1.90 a day. Andrea Peer wrote for World Vision International, a humanitarian organisation, that more than 689 million people worldwide experience extreme poverty. This means that if the water crisis is not treated as a top priority today, many humans will not live for long.
The cost of water in the least developed nations can be quite expensive. For instance, Honduras lacks the proper infrastructure to provide clean, fresh water to all its citizens; that is why most people buy water from local businesses. Just like many other nations, the water industry is gigantic in this Central American country. Honduras is the second poorest nation in Latin America, with more than 66 percent of its population living in extreme poverty. Therefore, while the poorest in this country risk their lives daily to collect water from polluted rivers and lakes, the rich and middle class are forced to buy it from companies that have monopolised the industry. The poor suffer the consequences of collecting water from contaminated sources - which results in them contracting diseases that could have been prevented, if only the government cared enough about resolving the issue. Currently, the water crisis is an obstacle only for those who lack the means to buy water. However, sooner than later, as water becomes scarce, not even the richest in Honduras will have enough money to purchase it.
Nyccole Rivera, a Honduran, says in order to access water, they must buy it from a local business. She says the price ranges from 450 to 500 Lempiras* per tank, approximately 19 US dollars. In a country like Honduras, where most of the population lives in extreme poverty, buying water is a luxury many Hondurans can’t afford. Honduras is also one of those countries where the population lives with less than $1.90 (approximately 40 lempiras) per day. Therefore, if a tank of water is around 500 lempiras, this means that for Hondurans to afford water, they must work for 20 days to purchase water alone.
Leticia, another local from Juticalpa says, “Sometimes I have to decide whether to buy water or to buy food. It is a very difficult choice to make, but I know that if I don’t buy water, I will not survive.” People already struggle to buy food in underdeveloped nations; buying water shouldn’t have to be a burden as well. Poverty is strongly linked to water insecurity. When water is treated as a commodity rather than a human right, the cycle of poverty will never break. It means that if water continues to have a high price in poorer countries, the underprivileged will never see a future other than distress.
Since the water crisis most overburdens the poorest, activists and environmentalists should emphasise both sustainability and water security. Water security and sustainability are not abstract realities but rather seismic and symbiotic concerns: one cannot exist without the other. However, in the current climate of corporate corruption and special privileges, most activists simply focus only on renewable and sustainable resources. The President of the World Resources Institute said, “Water stress is the biggest crisis no one is talking about.” Putting such a critical issue on the back burner will bring chaos for future generations.
Without a doubt, the water crisis is a threat to all humans. However, water inequality and the disparities between the classes have resulted in the false misconception that capital can solve anyone’s problems. Money is not the answer to solving the water crisis. The answer lies in the following.
(A) Ensure sustainable development, focusing on developing technologies that can transport water from countries where it is abundant to countries where it is not.
(B) Conduct more research to understand how humans can utilize earth’s resources in an innovative manner, hoping to discover new ways to make water accessible to everyone.
(C) Promote international collaboration and the development of strong relationships between countries to avoid wars, conflicts, and other issues if/when aquifers start running out of water.
(D) Educate humans on how to use water in more efficient ways.
(E) Help those currently suffering from the crisis.
Fatal consequences can happen if humans do not start forming a healthy relationship with the environment. Government leaders have paid little to no attention to the consequences of their lack of serious policies, resulting in atmospheric deterioration, global warming, and many deaths. For that reason, fast action to prevent human extinction needs to happen. Water is the most important substance on Earth. Therefore, every human should have access to inexpensive, clean, fresh water, and corporations should not be the owners of the world’s greatest water reserves.
“Honduras.” World Bank, 2016. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/honduras.
“Ocean Worlds.” Ocean Worlds, n.d. https://www.nasa.gov/specials/ocean-worlds/#:~:text=Oceans%20of%20Earth.
Peer, Andrea. “Global Poverty: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help | World Vision.” World Vision, November 21, 2018. https://www.worldvision.org/sponsorship-news-stories/global-poverty-facts.
“RELEASE: Updated Global Water Risk Atlas Reveals Top Water-Stressed Countries and States.” Www.wri.org, August 6, 2019. https://www.wri.org/news/release-updated-global-water-risk-atlas-reveals-top-water-stressed-countries-and-states.
Rivera, Nyccole, and Leticia Sanchez. How You Access Water? Interview by Luis Banegas, November 5, 2021.
World Bank. “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018.” World Bank, 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/poverty-and-shared-prosperity.