Water Scarcity and Factors Affecting its Availability

Water is main resource for life and its scarcity has attained central attention in the international agenda for food production and for survival of human beings.

Water Scarcity and Factors Affecting its Availability

According to WHO-UNICEF report more than 700 million people do not have access to adequate drinking water. Beside of this access to safe drinking water, poor people in rural areas are not having enough reliable water for irrigating the crops that is primary source of their livelihood.

Groundwater is essential source of drinking water for half of the world’s population and irrigation water for about 40% of the global irrigated land and these are also fundamental inputs for the various segments of the industrial sector.

 By 2050 world population will be growing about 2.3 billion people and about two third of people may have to experience water scarcity. Nevertheless water distribution is universal in nature and apparently it is inexhaustible so humans have never paid the due attention for conservation of this natural resource. Ordinary citizens do not consider water as their problem as it is available in their taps. However in these days the concern of lay people and experts towards water conservation is escalating.

Water availability underpins poverty reduction, leads towards economic and social development and sustainability of environment so it is key to realize livelihood opportunities. In many countries shortage of drinking water is being taken seriously and now it has been recognized as water crisis.

This water crisis will stay, it does not mean that water will run out, but it’s the fact that we have reached at the threshold of conflicts, where poor population have to suffer and now the environment too. But due to peculiar characteristics of water its conservation is main problem. Water behavior on earth that is behavior of land phase of hydrological cycle is directly dependent on the conditions that how land is being utilized from which water is acquired.

Demand of water for life

 Due to increased population the demand for fresh water is also increased which has direct effect on agricultural production. Additionally more water is needed to produce more food to feed increasing population. All this is putting pressure on water resources and fresh water is depleting day by day.

Scarcity is being used as adjective to water. Currently water shortage is among the primary issues, all over the globe. In coming years this problem will get more severe due to climate change projections. Due to climate change droughts are occurring as water scarcity is main issue.

As a result of climate change, stress magnitude on water resources will be increased. Due to more CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, temperature is increased which results in the changes in precipitation patterns. Due to these changes, frequency and intensity of extreme events is affected and some changes have also been observed in runoff, evapotranspiration fluxes and soil moisture which is affecting human population either directly or indirectly.

Quantitative, qualitative, physical, environmental and socio-economic dimensions of water are important. There are many assessments regarding availability, demand and supply to combat this issue on global scale. Water availability has reached critical levels among many parts of the world.

Main issues for this low availability are lack of infrastructure and misuse of water. Even if infrastructure is well planned, seasonal water fluctuations may be commonly occurring causing serious threats to agriculture sectors.

Soil degradation affecting water availability

Physical degradation of soil typically results in deterioration of soil structure, destroys soil aggregation, increases bulk density and cause reduction in hydraulic conductivity of soil and affects soil infiltration and thus affecting the storage capacities of water.

Such degradation is common in the areas where deforestation is common practice. This phenomenon of soil deterioration can be minimized by plantation of vegetation cover or forests thus leading to the conservation of soil hydraulic properties, which will increase the amount of water infiltration and reduce the evapotranspiration losses. 

Importance of forests for abundant water

There is precise relationship between forests and water. They are described as two sides of same coin. Afforestation always cause the natural abundance of water with a balance for climatic water  characterized by the amount of average rainfall which is more than the potential evapotranspiration as situation called as humid climate. It exactly elaborates the facts that forests make rain.

On the basis of scientific studies there is a belief that forests cause an increase in river flow. Forest hydrology which was developed in early 19th Century has produced valuable and consistent experimental results by providing powerful tools for management of the natural resources. However regarding public policies for water conservation, the relationship between water and forests is still controversial.

Measures to avoid water shortage

To cope with future water shortage some measures should be taken for streamlining and for optimization of water consumption efficiency in agriculture sector. Water requirement for agriculture sector should be computed with regard to the prevailing climatic conditions. There are many techniques like soil monitoring, Bowen ratio and surface renewal, eddy covariance and lysimeter are used for the monitoring and measurement of irrigation needs.

Modern irrigation techniques should be used to irrigate the crops. Many strategies have been implemented for the improvement of water productivity and these are started with optimal choices for irrigation system. All management practices should be adopted to prevent the additional water losses without compromising on yield.


For any kind of human activity water is key resource. At present age water shortage is primary issue all over the globe. The balance between demand and availability of water has reached at critical levels in many countries of the world. So sustainable strategies are required to manage water in all sectors according to demand. For getting profitable yields, availability of water is essential criteria in farming.

In context to the assessment of management strategies for crop production there should be improvement in irrigation scheme and irrigation system for management of agricultural water in more sustainable way. Regional policy should be carefully coordinated for water management at site and at national levels and such policies should be based on scientific research.  

By Tabinda Athar

Agrarian, aimed to achieve food security.