Helping People Suffering from Water Stress
Even though the majority of the earth’s surface is covered with water, only 3 percent of that water is fresh water, and 1 percent is accessible for human consumption and agriculture.1 In addition, the world’s population continues to grow. When the growing demand for water exceeds the supply, it leads to water stress. What is water stress? According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Water scarcity threatens the health and development of communities around the globe.”2
Water is essential to life and is used in a variety of ways. Agriculture demands the most water, accounting for 70 to 90 percent of the world’s freshwater consumption.3 In developing regions, this aspect of water use is particularly important as 65 percent of the world’s poor relies in some way on agriculture for their livelihoods, in addition to receiving sustenance from such crops.4 Industrial use accounts for approximately 19 percent of consumption while domestic use—such as drinking, cooking and cleaning—only accounts for 11 percent.5
Yet this domestic use is perhaps the most universally sought-after. While not everyone is a farmer and not everyone uses water directly in industry, every single human requires water to drink. It is essential to their very survival. Nevertheless, 1.1 billion people worldwide in water stressed countries lack access to clean water.6 Without clean water, these men, women and children risk dehydration as well as a host of waterborne diseases caused by drinking unsafe water.
How many people lack access to clean water?
According to a 2016 study published in Science Advances, “Two-thirds of the global population (4.0 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year.”7 As populations grow, so will the demand for these water resources.
A recent study by World Resources Institute, which says water withdrawals have doubled since the 1960s, revealed “17 countries—home to one-quarter of the world’s population—face ‘extremely high’ levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80 percent of their available supply on average every year.”8 An MIT study estimates that “by 2050, as many as 5.0 of the 9.7 billion people (or 52 percent of the global population) in the world may be living under at least moderately stressed water-resource conditions.”9
Regions with the worst water stress include the Middle East and North Africa, which receive little rainfall yet have fast-growing, dense populations.10 The “narrow gap between supply and demand leaves countries vulnerable to fluctuations like droughts or increased water withdrawals,” said World Resources Institute.11 In such conditions, even small dry spells can have dire consequences.12
Over extended periods of time, the struggle for water “can have devastating effects on public health and economic development,” said the Council on Foreign Relations.13 Limited rainfall and irrigation makes agriculture more difficult, which threatens livelihoods and people’s food source. Lack of clean water affects sanitation and contributes to diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, dysentery and diarrhea. In developing countries, 80 percent of illnesses are linked to unclean water and poor sanitation.14 Most of these illnesses are preventable.
One way to relieve water stress is to make more water available to people in need. This can be achieved through various means, including by digging borewells, which give communities access to water in underground aquifers.
GFA World provides Jesus Wells, dug deep below the surface, to offer communities in need free, clean water year-round. The results have been lifechanging.
In Vimal’s village in Asia, for example, most of the residents were farmers who relied on small ponds to irrigate their fields and sustain their livestock.15 The women in his village walked nearly a mile multiple times a day to collect water for domestic use. Every year, drought would settle in the area for four months, exasperating their struggle for water. There wasn’t enough water to go around. Even when there was water, it sometimes led to disease and even death because it wasn’t clean.
Then Vimal’s village received a Jesus Well. They no longer had to walk miles every day to retrieve water, and they had clean water free of disease. The community’s health improved tremendously. Because of the depth of the Jesus Well, it offered water year-round, even in the months of drought. Now, even people from nearby villages travel to this Jesus Well for their water needs. A village that was once in a water crisis has become a blessing for others.
Abay’s village faced a similar struggle.16 In the summer months, their water supply was inadequate. In the rainy season, their water was unsanitary. Their need for clean water led to conflict and unrest in addition to sickness. When a Jesus Well was installed in Abay’s village, that all changed. The well brought improved health and peace.
For Ragnar, his central concern was for his four children.17 They continually battled sickness from the polluted water they were forced to drink, and they struggled in school as a result. With higher metabolisms and proportionately more water in their bodies, these children were more susceptible to waterborne diseases.18
The family struggled until a Jesus Well was installed in their village. Now, the family and the entire community has access to clean drinking water. Their health, and their lives, has been greatly enriched.
Learn more about helping water-stressed people in places such as Asia and Africa.
1 “Water scarcity: why our most precious resource is dwindling.” Deutsche Welle. https://www.dw.com/en/water-scarcity-whats-the-big-deal/a-58840373. Accessed October 25, 2021.
2 Felter, Claire and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem that’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
3 Leahy, Stephen. “From Not Enough to Too Much, the World’s Water Crisis Explained.” National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/world-water-day-water-crisis-explained. March 21, 2018.
4 “Agriculture and Food.” The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture/overview. Accessed August 30, 2021.
5 Felter, Claire and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem that’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
6 “Water Supply & Sanitation.” World Water Council. https://www.worldwatercouncil.org/en/water-supply-sanitation. Accessed August 11, 2021.
7 Mekonnen, Mesfin and Arjen Hoekstra. “Four billion people facing severe water scarcity.” Science Advances. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1500323. February 12, 2016.
8 Rutger Willem Hofste, Paul Reig and Leah Schleifer. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
9 C. Adam Schlosser, Kenneth Strzepek, Xiang Gao, Arthur Gueneau, Charles Fant, Sergey Paltsev, Bilhuda Rasheed, Tony Smith-Greico, Élodie Blanc, Henry Jacoby, and John Reilly. MIT Joint Program. “The Future of Global Water Stress: An Integrated Assessment.” MIT Joint Program. https://globalchange.mit.edu/sites/default/files/MITJPSPGC_Rpt254.pdf. January 2014.
10 Felter, Claire and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem That’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
11 Rutger Willem Hofste, Paul Reig and Leah Schleifer. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
12 Holden, Emily and Bidhi Doshi. “Extreme water stress affects a quarter of the world’s population, say experts.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/aug/06/extreme-water-stress-affects-a-quarter-of-the-worlds-population-say-experts. August 6, 2019.
13 Felter, Claire and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem that’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
14 “10 Ways Access to Clean Water Can Improve the World.” Ohio University. https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/access-to-clean-water/. March 2, 2021.
15 “Jesus Well Relieves Water Crisis.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/gfa-world-jesus-well-relieves-water-crisis/. March 2019.
16 “Fighting the Water Crisis: Jesus Well Provides Villagers Relief.” GFA World. https://gospelforasia-reports.org/2021/02/jesus-well-provides-villagers-relief-sickness-body-spirit/. February 8, 2021.
17 “A Family’s Fight Against Contaminated Water.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/a-familys-fight-against-contaminated-water-wfr21-03/. February 2021.
18 Holt, Palmer. “Dying of Thirst: The Global Water Crisis.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/dying-of-thirst-global-water-crisis/#original . March 1, 2019.