We Are Running Out of Clean Drinking Water
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We Are Running Out of Clean Drinking Water

By Isabela Rodrigues and Daniel Gelman

Water is essential for our survival and well-being. While our planet is 70% water, only a small fraction—2.5%—is drinkable freshwater. Environmental degradation resulting from rapid urbanization and the growth of water-intensive agricultural practices have endangered this global supply of clean water, exacerbating health inequities and putting billions at risk. In fact, it is predicted that in 5 years, 40 percent of the world’s population will live in areas with severe water stress. 

With over half of the global population residing in urban areas, rapid urbanization has significantly increased water demand beyond natural renewal rates. Increased infrastructure development, manufacturing, and growing urban populations have strained water sources and led to the over-extraction and depletion of freshwater reserves like aquifers and surface reservoirs. Deforestation and changes in land-use have also impacted natural hydrological cycles and reduced the capacity of ecosystems to regular water availability. 

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Agricultural practices exacerbate this issue by consuming large amounts of water, often through inefficient irrigation practices, to meet rising demand for food. In fact, the agriculture industry is responsible for over 80% of all freshwater use in the United States. Pollution from industrial discharges and agricultural runoff also contaminate sources of water, making them unsafe for consumption. Moreover, the competition for water resources between urban and agricultural sectors further stresses already fragile ecosystems, exacerbating the crisis. 

Climate change contributes to the problem by altering precipitation patterns, causing more frequent and severe droughts in certain regions, and increasing the risk of flooding in others. These disruptive changes negatively impact the natural replenishment of water sources, pushing many areas toward a critical shortage. 

Addressing this crisis requires a comprehensive approach, including sustainable water management practices, pollution control measures, and global efforts to mitigate climate change impacts. Implementing efficient irrigation techniques, investing in wastewater treatment plants, and promoting water conservation in both urban and agricultural sectors are crucial steps toward increased sustainability. Additionally, restoring and protecting natural habitats such as wetlands and forests can enhance water retention and regulate water cycles. By prioritizing sustainable development and adopting collective action, we can ensure equitable access to clean water for all, for many generations to come.


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