A water shortage can affect us no matter where we live in the world. It's humanity's most important natural resource. Recently, tensions over water bubbled up in many parts of the world as demand for water increases.
According to UN there are around 300 potential conflicts over water around the world, arising from squabbles over river borders and the drawing of water from shared lakes and aquifers. These range from tensions within China over the Yangtze to discord between Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Guinea over the Niger and between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey over the Tigris and Euphrates. Even the United States is on the list: The United States and Mexico have long squabbled over the Rio Grande, Rio Bravo, Rio Conchos, and Colorado systems, all of which rise in the United States but are crucial to northern Mexico.
Part of the problem is that the world’s needs have changed. Look at the population boom. World population has gone from 4 billion people in 1975, to around 7 billion today. As populations grow, so too, do water demand. People must be fed, and agriculture must have water to grow crops and livestock. This puts a demand on naturally available water. Conflicts can further be a result of pollution affecting the quality of the water supply. Wastes from industries and agriculture can contaminate groundwater resources if not disposed of properly, and cause frustration for those who must travel to obtain sufficient daily water supplies. This lack of water quality can cause a conflict to arise regarding the distribution of water.
But what can be done? Most of our water is actually wasted and the United States is actually one of the worst culprits. We can change that. Singapore already treats sewage water to convert it into clean drinking water. We might need to consider large-scale desalinization, where the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are world leaders. And remember, agriculture uses up as much as 70 percent of water. We need to fund research into more effective crops.
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