Updated: Nov 13, 2021
If you don’t count yourself among the 1.42 billion people living in areas of high water vulnerability, you may not think too carefully about the ways in which you use clean water every day. It’s always available right at the tap, and you’re free to wash your hands and dishes, drink a glass of water, or take a bath whenever you please. However, for many others throughout the world, access to clean, safe water is an incredible luxury. As we consider how climate change plays a major role in water scarcity, let’s break down why a lack of access to clean water is an issue for such major, immediate concern.
It’s an Essential Human Need
Let’s get back to the basics. Water is a basic physiological need, required for human beings to live and function. It’s a critical component of our bodies, as well – making up around 60 to 70 percent of our body composition. But what does all that water do? It actually carries out a wide array of different necessary bodily functions – like regulating temperature, flushing out waste, keeping cells alive, and protecting body tissues and organs. Without access to water, we could only survive about three to four days – and perhaps up to a week at maximum.
It Promotes Health and Well-Being
Since water is such a vital resource for your body and its functions, clean water access is vital to the health of the individuals and communities that hold access to it. Faced with a lack of access to clean water – a necessity for survival – communities are often forced to instead turn to unsafe drinking water. This unclean water can result from issues like leaking septic systems, bacterial contamination, and pollution from industries like agriculture and mining waste. When this contaminated water is consumed, it can lead to disease transmission – causing illnesses like cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, and typhoid – which can be fatal, especially without access to adequate care.
It Frees Up Time for Work or Education
While water supply in rural areas may not be available due to a lack of infrastructure, individuals may still travel great distances in order to bring home drinking water to their families and communities. Nearest water sources can be kilometers away – and this regular trip must be undertaken in order to ensure drinking water for families. This job is often entrusted to women and girls – who face an increased risk of violence while traveling. Hours spent in pursuit of clean water represent time taken away from other potential income-generating activities – such as work or educational opportunity. With convenient access to clean drinking water, these communities will benefit from not only that increased time availability, but also improved safety.
It Can Help Combat Climate Change Vulnerability
Beyond an individual or even community level, taking action against water scarcity can also mean assisting the larger movement towards preventing climate change and the issues raised by it. When communities have access to clean water, this eliminates other efforts taken to purify water, such as by boiling it. The process of boiling water for decontamination relies on fuel in the form of firewood. As trees are removed, this places increasing pressure on local forests. Furthermore, beyond the issues raised by deforestation, eliminating this need for boiling water reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere in the process. Cutting these emissions serves as an important part of taking action against climate change.
The next time you take advantage of easy access to clean water, consider the many ways in which we are fortunate to have access to something that is a great luxury to others. As we work to study and take action against the effect of climate change and the dangers it poses, we may someday see a world in which clean water is more widely accessible to those in need – bolstering resilient communities in the face of drought or other disasters.
If you’re interested in getting involved or learning more about climate change and the role it plays across our planet, we invite you to explore the additional resources and innovative online learning available on our site!