READING TIME: 6 MINUTES
When visiting family back in India, I somehow end up queuing up for water at set times in the morning and evening. Armed with four 5kg plastic jugs, I set myself enough time to get to the front of the queue and wait till the jugs fill up to the brim, all while swatting away mosquitoes. It is a sad reality that many people around the world are having to accept as water resources deplete or become increasingly polluted. Here, we take a look at 5 cities suffering from a major water crisis.
1. Cape Town
Cape Town has just avoided Day Zero; the day in 2018 when the city’s taps would switch off, and people would have to queue at allocated taps to collect usable water. They have been experiencing a water crisis ever since a 2015 drought that depleted dam levels. Thankfully, Day Zero has been pushed to summer 2019 with the hope that the crisis can be averted altogether. Recently, increased rainfall is restoring dam water levels and quelling further violent clashes amongst residents over resources. Politics and climate change go hand in hand, and the government is feeling the full brunt of this. Still, the efforts to conserve water differ amongst Cape Town’s residents as some have welcomed the lowering of water restrictions in October while others stick by their water-saving efforts.
China’s 21 million strong capital is not only suffering a severe water shortage, but 40 percent of its surface water is also polluted. To cope with demands, a $76 billion water transfer program, titled the South-to-North Water Diversion project, is being built. It consists of three specialised aqueducts transporting water from the fertile South all the way to Beijing. It is still not enough. Dam levels are depleting, and rivers poisoned by years of economic callousness will need cleaning up before the situation improves. The government, therefore, is taking increased measures to innovate new ways to conserve water, such as ensuring that airports and public buildings control their water supply, and the ever-active social media user ousting environmental offenders online. It is a slow but reassuring journey.
Bangalore’s population and construction boom in recent years have relegated it to the mercy of depleting water beds. Areas surrounding the periphery of the city are heavily reliant on tankers for their water supply, and as demand for freshwater steadily increases, these tankers have to bore even deeper. Like China, India also suffers from major water pollution. The gross mismanagement of groundwater resources by policymakers has caused water to be diverted from the nearby Kaveri River into the city to keep it functioning. Water campaigns initiated by the government have received all but a muted response from locals, which is incredibly frustrating since it is only when one is at the brink of total collapse that people realise the full magnitude of the disaster.
The river Nile is Egypt’s lifeline supplying 97% of its freshwater yet has been poisoned due to agricultural and chemical waste. Water pollution in Cairo is common, as the outdated sewage system fails and deposits waste onto the streets, causing major health hazards. Egypt’s growing population put farmers under enormous pressure to produce more food, which further exacerbates the stress that the Nile is already under. The annual amount of water supply per person globally, on average, is 1000 cubic metres but has fallen to just 700 cubic metres for Cairo’s citizens. Thus, the world’s largest desalinisation project is underway as Egypt turns to the sea to quench her people’s thirst.
“…the world’s largest desalinisation project is underway as Egypt turns to the sea to quench her people’s thirst”.
5. Mexico City
Mexico City is a place that simultaneously experiences major flooding whilst also suffering from a water shortage. The city, 2000m above sea level, receives more than enough rain which, in theory, should satisfy its water deficiency. However, much of its infrastructure is designed to rid of the water quickly to prevent flooding. In the drier months, when water is really needed, the water that could have been utilised is unavailable. Thus, it is either imported from other regions or, more commonly, obtained from tapping into distant reservoirs. This weakens the clay lake beds, causing the city to slowly collapse onto itself. As climate change has further exacerbated the city’s water shortage causing major civil unrest, the local authorities need to really consider how this valuable resource can be conserved instead of being wasted so carelessly.
Although water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, only 3% of it is fresh and that is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. You can take small steps to ensure that the water we consume today is being utilised properly. It starts with being self-aware and knowing your own limits with water usage before you can educate others within your immediate circle, and then the wider community. Our cities are under such immense pressure right now, and since this precious commodity affects our built environment so deeply, we need to take action before the problem hits home. The United Nation’s Sustainable Goal Number 6 calls for cleaner water and sanitation facilities for every citizen on Earth by 2030. Check out the link to learn more about how you can make an impact.