Water is in short supply.

Millions of people lack access to a reliable source of pure, drinkable water. More than 2 billion people don’t have good sanitation. It has been reported that by the year 2050, the demand for water may grow by as much as 55 percent.
Water has been described as the “new oil” of the 21st century — a natural resource with a finite supply and subject to a steadily increasing demand.

It’s not just the quantity of water that’s at issue. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that less than 1 percent of Earth’s total water supply is available for drinking. Some water exists as ice, or salt water, or water vapor in the atmosphere. Some of the supply is contaminated by chemicals, industrial waste, algae or bacteria.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as of 2014, 80 percent of the world’s population, suffers threats to “water security.” The IPCC says 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water.

The increase in the world’s population adds to the demand for drinking water but also for food and energy production. Farmers need water to grow food. Energy industries use cooling water for power plants and to extract oil and natural gas from underground.

Most methods of pumping and treating water need energy too. Some water treatment technologies, such as reverse osmosis for desalination are extremely energy intensive: it takes more energy to make seawater drinkable than to pump groundwater or purify wastewater for drinking. If surface water is available, it’s the easiest and most energy-effective source to tap, but it’s also the most likely to be seriously polluted.

Most methods of pumping and treating water need energy too. Some water treatment technologies, such as reverse osmosis for desalination are extremely energy intensive: it takes more energy to make seawater drinkable than to pump groundwater or purify wastewater for drinking. If surface water is available, it’s the easiest and most energy-effective source to tap, but it’s also the most likely to be seriously polluted.

Lack of access to clean water can lead to international conflict, which has already occurred in drought stricken regions around the world. The lack of clean water also increases food and energy costs. The potential warming effects of climate change will only intensify the problems as this century advances.

The 2014 United Nations World Water Development Report lists the Middle East and much of North Africa as facing an absolute scarcity of water. India’s water supply is listed as “stressed” and much of Southeast Asia and Western Europe is “vulnerable.” The report notes that water quality plays a big role in determining water scarcity. A country with ample water can still suffer scarcity if the supply is salt water or heavily polluted.

Adequate water supplies are also a health issue. If water is in short supply, it’s harder for people to keep themselves and their family clean. That makes them more vulnerable to disease. The CDC estimates that more than 800,000 young children die from diarrhea every year. That is nearly two children every minute, of every day.

Unsafe drinking water and lack of water for hygiene contribute to 88 percent of diarrhea-related deaths worldwide. Other diseases related to water and lack of hygiene include cholera, guinea worm disease, buruli ulcers, trachoma and schistosomiasis