Top 14 Causes of Water Scarcity Globally

The most fundamental fact of existence is that nothing can thrive without water. To survive, humans require a consistent and clean supply of water, which is getting harder and harder to come by.

Water has a huge impact on our lives. We use it to keep our houses (and hands) clean, to power our businesses, and to consume. But we can only use less than 1% of the water on the earth. The rest is underground, in ice or sea. And we need to ensure that 1% covers 7.9 billion people.

So, water is scarce. But this scarceness has increased that water doesn’t get to everyone. There are some causes of water scarcity and this is pretty far from the fact that we use just 1% of the water available.

We’ve run out of options, as demonstrated by the worldwide water crisis: According to the most recent UNICEF data, hundreds of millions of people are trapped in a cycle of thirst — one that reinforces the poverty cycle.

  • Four billion people, or about two-thirds of the world’s population, endure acute water scarcity for at least one month every year, according to UNICEF.
  • More than two billion people reside in nations with insufficient water supplies.
  • By as early as 2025, half of the world’s population may reside in regions with a shortage of freshwater.
  • By 2030, there may be a 700 million population displacement due to severe water constraints.
  • One in four children globally will be residing in places with extremely high water stress by the year 2040.

Causes of Water Scarcity

Our current water issue has a multitude of underlying reasons, which have an impact on everything from harvests to public health. We can make better use of the 1% we have if we address these causes.

1. Climate Change

Unsurprisingly, one of the primary causes of the world’s water crisis is climate change. The regions that are most susceptible to the effects of climate change are frequently already water-stressed. Examples include Somalia’s prolonged drought or Bangladesh’s increasingly severe monsoons.

These resources are getting even more precious as the climate catastrophe worsens. Deforestation, one of the primary contributors to climate change, creates “heat islands” that have an effect on the surrounding terrain.

For instance, 80% of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa has seen soil deterioration as a result of droughts brought on by the climate. On the other hand, as sea levels rise, freshwater supplies are becoming salinized and are no longer potable in their natural state.

2. Natural Disasters

Whether or whether they were caused by climate change, approximately 75% of all-natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 had a water component, according to a UNICEF analysis. This includes floods as well, which have the potential to taint or destroy clean water sources for people.

This exposes people to the risk of waterborne illnesses like diarrhea in addition to depriving them of access to safe drinking water. As the effects of climate change continue to be felt, the frequency of these catastrophes is anticipated to rise.

3. War and Conflict

A well-developed, middle-class nation has entered a water crisis as a result of numerous crises that have destroyed its infrastructure. For the millions of Syrians who still reside in the nation, this poses a major risk to public health. Armed factions have targeted village wells and water sites during protracted conflicts; just like hunger, water may be used as a weapon of war.

4. Wastewater

Let’s discuss tainted water and the contribution it makes to the world water crisis: An place may occasionally have an abundance of water. However, whether such water is safe to drink is a different matter. Poor wastewater management systems are prevalent throughout much of the world — water that has been impacted by human use, such as domestic dishwashing or industrial processes.

On a global scale, 44% of domestic wastewater is recycled without treatment, and 80% of wastewater generally flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or recycled, leaving 1.8 billion people using water that may be contaminated with feces, chemicals, or other potentially toxic contaminants, according to the UN.

One of the main causes of many of the most common diseases in the world, such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio, is wastewater.

5. Agriculture

70% of the freshwater that is available on Earth is used for agriculture, however, 60% of this water is lost owing to defective irrigation systems, application techniques that are ineffective as well as the cultivation of crops that are too thirsty for their environment.

India, China, Australia, Spain, and the United States are just a few of the many food-producing nations that have reached or are about to surpass their water resource limits. In addition to these thirsty crops, agriculture also contributes significantly to freshwater contamination through pesticides and fertilizers, which have an impact on both people and other species.

6. Population Growth

The number of people on earth has more than doubled in the last 50 years. This rapid increase has altered water habitats all over the world and led to a significant loss of biodiversity. It has also been accompanied by economic development and industrialization.

41% of the population of the world now resides in river basins that are experiencing water stress. As freshwater use is increasing at unsustainable rates, concern over water availability grows. Additionally, these newcomers require clothing, food, and housing, which puts more strain on freshwater resources due to the manufacturing of goods and energy.

Large river ecosystems have been steadily destroyed as a result of the construction of dams, other hydroelectric projects, and water diversion for irrigation.

Global groundwater reserves are being lost as a result of climate change, population growth, and economic development.

7. Overuse of Water

People are using more water than is necessary these days, and the problem is getting worse every day. In some instances, water is overused by people, animals, land, or any other number of things. It is also occasionally utilized unnecessarily for leisure activities without consideration for the potential repercussions on the environment.

8. Water Pollution

The increasing amount of water pollution nowadays is a big reason for concern because it contributes significantly to the water shortage. Any pollutants, such as oil, animal corpses, chemicals, and feces, can contaminate water. As water is one of our most basic needs, we must all work on this issue in order to prevent it from becoming contaminated.

Groundwater pollution can result from improper fertilizers use and other dangerous pollutants, which ultimately results in a water shortage.

9. Excessive and Improper Water Use

This causes additional water to be wasted and squandered needlessly, which further exacerbates the situation. The production of just one hamburger uses 630 liters of water!

10. Groundwater Exploitation

Groundwater exploitation is a result of irrigation, growing urbanization, and excessive groundwater use by soft drink producers like Coca-Cola. India utilizes more groundwater than any other nation in the world, and because of this, aquifers are drying out faster. Groundwater consumption for irrigation as a whole has increased from 30% in the 1980s to around 60% in the present.

11. Lack of International Cooperation on Shared Water Sources

Many bodies of water are effective in the custody of multiple countries since they are shared by two or more of them. However, just 24 nations say that all internationally shared rivers, lakes, and groundwater sources are covered by cooperative agreements, according to the most recent sustainable development goals report from the un.

This means that even if a country takes all the necessary precautions to keep the waters on its side of a lake clean, it might not matter if the waters on the other bank are not being handled with the same level of care.

12. Lack of Infrastructure

Not that nations intentionally mismanage their water resources. Many governments lack the infrastructure to adequately invest in their water resources, preventing clean water from reaching those who need it most, whether via intentional destruction or unintentional mismanagement.

An estimated $470 billion is lost annually in the US due to water insecurity. Although water infrastructure has significant financial ramifications, the importance of water is underappreciated. Water “is typically capital intensive, long-lived with large sunk costs,” according to the UN’s High-Level Panel on Water.

Numerous water stations in the Central African Republic were rendered inoperable as a result of conflict, neglect, and abuse, with some water supplies being deliberately poisoned by armed groups. This situation necessitates a significant initial investment with a protracted return time.

Fortunately, solutions don’t always have to be sophisticated. Through the use of manually operated “village drills,” which do not require electricity, we have provided clean water solutions to rural communities. Additionally, they can be carried to remote locations and constructed there, and they are 33% less expensive than conventional motorized drills.

13. Forced Migration and The Refugee Crisis

Before the Ukrainian conflict uprooted 10 million people, we were dealing with a magnitude of displacement that was unheard of. In many of the largest host communities in the globe, refugee informal settlements increase regions of population density, which can strain the infrastructure.

People frequently cross the nearest open border to escape conflict or other crises, which frequently places them in regions that experience comparable climate events or have resources that are under similar strain. This is why one of the essential components of Concern’s emergency response plans is water trucking, which is, in essence, exactly what it sounds like.

14. Inequality and a Power Disparity

Budget allocations show that water management isn’t a top concern even in high-income nations. It’s not the most visually appealing topic, especially when solutions are being used, and “emergency food distribution” is a far simpler idea to understand than “watershed management.”

Due to this, there is now an intolerable disparity between those who decide on federal, state, and local budgets as well as foreign aid budgets and people who have the greatest need for clean water and proper sanitation.

According to a 2015 UN report, there was a single, obvious truth that underlay every obstacle to resolving the water crisis: “The people suffering the most from the water and sanitation crisis — poor people in general and poor women in particular — often lack the political voice needed to assert their claims to water.”

That chasm has become wider as a result of the power imbalance and lack of representation. To ensure that everyone has access to clean water, it must be shut down.


If nothing is done quickly, up to half the population in the world will be affected by water scarcity.

But, how are we going to tackle a problem which is already spreading? Simply by starting with ourselves, cutting down on overconsumption.

Top 14 Causes of Water Scarcity Globally – FAQs

What is the main cause of water scarcity?

Agriculture uses the most water of any industry, and a large portion of that water is lost due to inefficiencies. Due to the changing weather and water patterns brought on by climate change, some regions are experiencing shortages and droughts while others are experiencing floods. This issue will only worsen if consumption continues at its current pace.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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