Water Scarcity Affects Public Health in Unexpected Ways

March 22nd is World Water Day. This worldwide campaign strives to tackle the water crisis by educating the public on the reasons why so many around the globe don’t have access to safe water.

Water scarcity also causes public health issues that go beyond populations not being hydrated enough. We talked to Health Sciences Assistant Teaching Professor Nasser Yazdani about what the water crisis means for global public health issues and what’s being done to mitigate scarcity.

Yazdani will give more details on these issues in his presentation during Public Health Week titled Climate Change and Water Scarcity, so be sure to attend that on April 4 for more information.

In what ways is water scarcity a public health issue?

By 2025, two thirds of the world population will be living in water stressed areas. The population living in severely water stressed areas is expected to climb to 3.2 billion people by 2050. Droughts are on the rise and coincide with increased mortality from heat-related illnesses.

Water scarcity also contributes indirectly to other public health issues, such as complications from declines in hygiene and other issues that stem from traumatic displacement of people who have to relocate due to water scarcity. Additionally, water scarcity increase risks for violence. Over the past several decades, there has been a substantial rise in conflict over water both within and between countries, such as Ethiopia and Egypt over the Blue Nile.

How is water scarcity being addressed around the world?

Today water scarcity can be mitigated by investments in water infra structures around the world. Repairing defective infrastructure would lead to more effective water consumption; leaky pipes in some parts of Asia and the Middle-East account for up to 60 percent of their water loss. Recycling sewage is another possibility. Israel currently recycles 86 percent of its sewage. Singapore treats its sewage with advanced membrane and ultra-violet technologies that make it safe to drink. Desalinating water is another process being developed and refined. Israel currently desalinates half of its water.

Water scarcity is an issue that feels far off to those of us here in the U.S. or in other developed countries – is there anything we can or should be doing to help the issue?

We should be cognizant of our water consumption and keep in mind that every time we turn on the faucet and use water we can inadvertently promote or prevent conflicts around the world.

 

Are you interested in learning more about how to solve public health issues? Consider the Bachelor of Public Health program, which is still accepting applications!