What is Water Stress?

You may have heard the term thrown around, but exactly what is water stress?

Water stress occurs when water resources in a region cannot meet people’s demand for use.

When we look at the question of what is water stress, the United Nations defines it numerically as occurring when a region withdraws a quarter or more of its renewable freshwater resources.[1] It can stem from poor quality water, availability or management.

Water stress causes deterioration of fresh water supplies. This happens through over-exploitation of underground aquifers by digging too many wells. Farmers often dig new borewells after seeing how productive a neighbor’s is, without proper planning.

In addition, overpumping water with mechanical pumps wastes water. In South Asia, farmers have increasingly relied on borewells with motorized pumps. The region accounts for nearly 50% of water used worldwide for irrigation. One country in South Asia heavily subsidizes, or freely provides, electricity that runs motorized pumps. But exploitation has caused water depletion. In one country’s region, for example, the water table has fallen 1/3 of a meter annually.[2]

Agriculture uses 70% of global freshwater, but about 60% of this is wasted because of leaky irrigation systems, inefficient application and over-thirsty crops.[3] China, Australia, Spain and the United States are among the countries that have reached, or are close to reaching, their limits when it comes to water resources.[4]

Meanwhile, more than half of wetlands on the planet have disappeared.[5]

As water sources are depleted, it creates more water stress.

Water problems also stem from pollution. Agricultural fertilizers and pesticides run into water sources, polluting rivers, streams, ponds and oceans. Industrial and human waste also pollute water.

In addition to physical stresses, economic scarcity leads to inadequate infrastructure, which delivers clean water to communities. Some regions may have enough physical water, but poor management of resources, faltering or unbuilt infrastructure and contamination limits access to safe water.

The United Nations asserts that everyone should treat water as a scarce resource and focus on managing demand.[6]

Lack of access to clean water creates significant stressors. Sickness due to waterborne bacteria, parasites, viruses and harmful chemicals reduce productivity and stunt children’s mental and physical growth. Moreover, women and children waste precious time they could use to go to work or school, respectively, by spending hours gathering water.

GFA drills deep Jesus Wells to help save people from illness and risky, labor-intensive water collection.

Consider donating to a Jesus Well.

Learn more about water stress

[1] “Water Scarcity.” United Nations. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/scarcity/. Accessed March 2, 2022.
[2] Drilling Down into South Asia’s Groundwater Dilemma.” The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/05/26/drilling-down-into-south-asias-groundwater-dilemma. May 27, 2015.
[3] “Water Scarcity.” WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity. Accessed March 4, 2022.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] “Water Scarcity.” United Nations. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/scarcity/. Accessed March 2, 2022.
* 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.