Water scarcity in the world

Water scarcity map
Photo courtesy of Google Images.

This map shows a breakdown of water scarcity across the continents. It breaks down the water scarcity into these categories:

  • Little or no water scarcity
  • Physical water scarcity
  • Not estimated
  • Economic water scarcity
  • Approaching physical water scarcity

I’m assuming that physical water scarcity is when wells run dry, there’s a lack of enough water in natural lakes and fresh water sources, and droughts occur. And economic water scarcity sounds like the corporations taking control of water and keeping a monopoly on it or the privatization of water.

Visuals make it easier to understand situations like this, sometimes, so I can see where the problems are and how drastic they are where, etc.

We’ve been reading articles about water scarcity in my Wealth & Poverty class and it’s a very complex and global problem.  It’s a human problem.  It can cause life or death.

We read excerpts of “Blue Gold.” Reading the article almost makes me ashamed to be American because of how much we waste and our overconsumption and our culture of doing this.  We are known for this.  This is not something to be known for.  The article even said other countries want to emulate our wasteful habits, and that just won’t be possible with the fresh water scarcity.  I don’t know why we can’t or shouldn’t have rations on water like many poor people in third world cities.  It makes sense to me.  then we wouldn’t be wasteful (like fountains), we would learn how much to use and be very conscious of how much water we use and use it only for what’s necessary.  To me, that seems like a very important thing.  And I know it is giving up liberty, especially an individual liberty.  But I think when individual liberty negatively impacts the lives of so many other people, it has crossed the borders of just being individual liberty and has become a liberty that causes harm to others, which maybe should be regulated.  The poor have their water regulated very strictly.  Maybe we don’t need to be as strict with our regulation (only having access to water a few hours a day), but something definitely needs to change because we’re wasting so much water.

It is a problem when anyone doesn’t have access to clean water.  There should never be a control of a natural resource (something that can be the difference between life and death) in the hands of very few at the expense of the larger majority of less well-off people.

I like the idea of localizing water, seems very Earthist.  I think viewing “water as a common heritage, to be shared on the basis of need” is very important and enlightening.  Water is a basic need and needs to be shared with everyone — not just a select few.  Because if we were to accept that only a select few should be able to have access to water, who would these few be, how would they be chosen, why would they be chosen?  Adding on to that, I think it’s crazy to think of holding onto water until it’s right to sell.  That’s ridiculous!  So companies are keeping an amount of water from the public until the prices raise and then they can make a profit — so they’re making a profit from causing people to suffer from drought.  This is injustice, this shouldn’t be allowed.  And the fact that high-tech companies use a tremendous amount of water for their plants and technological devices is a really difficult problem.  We all want and sometimes need these devices in our culture, but we may have to really decide what our priorities are in the near future because these plants use so much water — technology or enough water for people to survive?

And it’s ridiculous to me that so many golf courses should be made each year.  I know people like to play it, but if it’s a matter of a few people being able to play golf or people dying from lack of water, I think the people dying should be more important.  But I’m not sure if governments would agree, especially when the golf brings in tourists, which means money.  But why can’t the courses use fake grass like Astroturf or something like that?  Don’t we have the technology to use fake grass for something as big as golf courses that use up so much needed water?  Sometimes we really have to think about the greater good instead of the good of a very limited few.

We need to change how we’re doing things in order to save or change the water crisis.  The fact that capitalism values profit over people is very disturbing for me, and the more I learn about capitalism the more I’m turned off by it.  Even if there’s a possibility that capitalism itself may not be good or bad, but the people who use it can use it in good or bad ways.  But I think the potential for people to use capitalism and capitalist systems for bad ways are so many and this calls for more restriction or changing the system to value something different than profit — such as what the author of this article is arguing, changing the priority, the standpoint, the purpose to people and nature.

I also think the information in this article about developed countries also struggling with lack of water and polluted water is in here to shock readers and make the point stronger.  Some people aren’t aware that in the United States or developing countries we do face water scarcity and polluted water problems, just as people in third world countries do.  This problem is not a third world one.  This is a worldwide problem that needs to be addressed by the entire world if it is ever to be solved.

I like how the author explains right off the bat that everything we do in modern society is deepening the global water crisis.  So if we keep doing what we’re doing, which is always favored, the problem will continue and get worse.  I also like the point about unchecked consumerism.  I think this is a big problem that is linked to capitalism.  Why should there be unchecked consumerism when we are buying away things that other people are increasingly not having access to, because we are buying them away from them.  Additionally, big businesses and corporations need to pay their taxes and provide money to the government so the government can provide services such as water infrastructure and sanitation.  America fought big business once before during the Industrial Revolution, and we can do it again and fight it all over the world.  We have to, for our survival and securing of our right and everyone’s right to water.

I also think the idea of the water commons is very interesting. Raj Patel came to speak at Elon University earlier this year and he spoke of the commons as well. He spoke of it in relation to local food programs or food co-ops. These food co-ops are happening in San Fransisco and Oakland in California, as well as many other communities around the world. He focused on the flaw of the free market economy — the flaw being the free market itself.

To combat the failing nature of a fully government-owned property or a fully people-owned property, Patel proposed the idea of the commons, a balancing act between no ownership of the land, people owning the land and the government owning the land.

This idea comes from a theory — the tragedy of the commons — that explains that if people are given a public space they will destroy it trying to own and control it. Patel said this doesn’t have to be accepted as fact, adding that people have negotiated public spaces in the past. This ties into the Blue Gold article, when the author talks about the water commons. The Indian physicist and activist Vandana Shiva explained that commonly owned water is not destroyed. This may be because people respect it more if it is theirs. Just like our parents always say (or at least mine) you’ll respect your money more and think about using it more if it’s yours/if you make it. So, if we commonly owned water, we would respect it more and think more about how we use it and perhaps use it less wastefully.


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