Water Stress

What is water stress?


When the demand for water exceeds its availability, water stress ensues. This can result from contaminated water, drought, poor infrastructure or other conditions that don’t allow people to get enough water to meet their basic needs.

In developed countries, most of us take clean drinking water, and even ice from our freezers to cool that drinking water down on long, hot days, for granted. But water stress prevents people from having enough clean water to keep them healthy. Even in the U.S., which provides some of the safest drinking water in the world, 7.2 million Americans get sick from waterborne disease each year.[1]

How many people lack access to clean water?


Globally, at least 2 billion people drink water soiled with feces.[2] Contaminated water contributes to 60% of diarrheal deaths and a plethora of painful and debilitating diseases.[3]

Water use has spiked to more than twice the rate of population growth worldwide.[4] Meanwhile, water sources continue to become more polluted, while others dry up.

Water stress will likely be exacerbated by changing weather patterns as extreme weather, such as droughts and floods, increases.[5] This can lead to people fleeing their land for safer areas and conflict over available water sources.

Most of water use (70%) goes to agriculture.[6] While we often think about water for drinking and hygiene, we “eat” more water than we drink—in the form of food. Just to grow the amount of food one person eats daily, it takes 2,000-5,000 liters of water.[7] And food demand is expected to surge by 60% by 2050.[8]

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warns that “if we don’t change our habits now, global demand for water could increase by 50% by 2030.”[9]

Changing habits


Not all food sources require the same amounts of water. Producing 1 kg of beef takes 13,000 liters of water, compared to the 1,250 liters needed to grow 1 kg of lentils.[10] Water can also be wasted through leaky irrigation and other poor infrastructure.

Treating wastewater and reusing freshwater resources can mitigate some of the famine and other devastating consequences of lack of water.[11] Currently, 44% of household water is not safely treated.[12]

Reducing food waste, which ultimate wastes water, is another habit we can change. A third of food is either wasted or lost annually worldwide.[13]

“The issue of water scarcity is at the very core of sustainable development,” the UN reports. “We need to change our habits and act now to protect this precious resource.”[14]

The need for more progress


About 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries.[15] Fortunately, progress has been made. From 2015 until the pandemic, 4.1% more of the global population gained access to safely managed drinking water, mostly in Central and Southern Asia.[16] But, the pandemic has significantly reversed that upward trend.

The good news is: more communities, countries and organizations “are recognizing the need to bolster efforts” to increase basic water and sanitation services in light of the pandemic.[17]

In Asia, many women and children walk over a mile several times a day to collect water to sustain their families and livestock.[18] In some regions, four-month droughts exasperate the struggle to obtain enough water. To make matters worse, the water villagers gather is often contaminated.

Learn more about water-stressed countries.

Solutions


GFA World has transformed the lives of villagers like Vimal, who suffered from this very problem. By drilling a Jesus Well in Vimal’s village, we helped the community heal, not just physically, but also spiritually.

People’s health improved as a result of the clean water the Jesus Well provided. Now, people from nearby villages also travel to the well to collect fresh, life-sustaining water.

Jesus Wells also introduce people to God’s love. A Bible passage written near the Jesus Well in the local language announces everlasting life by following Jesus. This is often the first time people have heard about Jesus’ salvation and love. Many join the church and become devout followers of Christ when they experience the practical love of God.

Being a part of the solution doesn’t have to take a lot of money or time. The important thing is that we take action.

“We are at a critical juncture in human history. The decisions and actions we take today will have momentous consequences for future generations,” said Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.[19]

Learn more about water scarcity

[1] “Waterborne Disease in the United States.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/surveillance/burden/index.html. Accessed March 16, 2022.
[2] “Drinking-water.” World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water. June 14, 2019.
[3] Global WASH Fast Facts.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html. December 8, 2021.
[4] “Drinking-water.” World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water. June 14, 2019.
[5] Felter, C. and Robinson, K. “Water stress; A global problem that’s getting worse.” https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
[6] Water Scarcity—One of the Greatest Challenges of Our Time.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1185405/. March 20, 2019.
[7] Ibid.
[8] “The Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/8dd680fd-70d3-4725-8d9f-30f9a02455a0/. January 6, 2020.
[9] “Water Scarcity — One of the Greatest Challenges of Our Time.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1185405/. March 20, 2019.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] “Summary Progress 2021: SDG 6 Indicators.” United Nations. https://www.unwater.org/app/uploads/2021/08/PGA_brief_Infographic-scaled.jpg. February 24, 2021.
[13] “Water Scarcity — One of the Greatest Challenges of Our Time.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1185405/. March 20, 2019.
[14] Ibid.
[15] “SDG Goals.” United Nations. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2021/goal-06/. Accessed March 4, 2022.
[16] Ibid.
[17] “Sustainable Development Report Shows Devastating Impact of COVID, Ahead of ‘Critical’ New Phase.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. https://www.un.org/africarenewal/news/sustainable-development-report-shows-devastating-impact-covid-ahead-‘critical’-new-phase. July 6, 2021.
[18] “The human right to water and sanitation.” United Nations. https://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/human_right_to_water.shtml. May 29, 2014.
[19] Ibid.
* Orazgeldiyew. “Water scarcity in several African countries.” Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Afirkany%C5%88_birn%C3%A4%C3%A7e_d%C3%B6wletlerind%C3%A4ki_suw_%C3%BDetmez%C3%A7iligi.jpg. November 5, 2018.