The answer is usually complicated, but we’ve tried to condense it for your reading. Below are some of the top reasons that water supplies either dry up (causing water shortages) or become dangerous throughout the world.
1. Improper Sanitation Methods
In many parts of the world, people drink water fresh from their local rivers, creeks and ponds. Though that might sound all-natural and pure, think again. Much of the time, those same people bathe and clean items (such as clothing and dishes) in that exact same body of water. In fact, in some locations, people use their local body of water as a dumping ground for refuse, including that which has been eliminated by humans and animals. Over time (and it really doesn’t take that much time at all, especially in areas that are very hot), bacteria builds up and the water supply becomes unusable for drinking.
Sometimes, the people drinking the dirty or bacteria-ridden water aren’t contributing to the problems of the water themselves; it’s the folks upstream from those people who are polluting the H2O either through negligence or deliberate actions. For instance, if a company is sending its wastewater and waste materials directly into their nearby local body of water, the villagers downstream from that company will wind up drinking polluted water. And make no mistake about it – the results are horrid. Pollutants can cause anything from serious birth defects and painful death to mild stomach cramps and temporary diarrhea.
3. Low Water Supply
Though some communities may have made settlements and dug wells, those wells are not guaranteed to provide water forever. Thus, after a time, they will run low… or even dry. However, the members of the settlement may not be in a position to leave their homes and businesses; alternately, they may not want to leave because their families are in the area. Consequently, they must either combat their water crisis by having water shipped in to them or by succumbing to diseases that result from a lack of hydration. Unfortunately, shipping water costs money… and that’s money many people do not have.
4. Change in Climate
Over time, the earth warms and cools; thus, some regions experience changes in climate that can lead to water crises. For instance, if a village has had several years of drought, their wells will not run efficiently and their streambeds may dry out. In those cases, the women and children of the village will willingly walk miles just to find water – even if it’s polluted or bacteria-heavy – for drinking, cooking and bathing. There’s really no other alternative for them; so rather than die, they grasp for any water they can get.
The next time you reach for an ice-cold bottle of water from your refrigerator, remember that not everyone on the planet is as fortunate to enjoy a drink of clean H2O.