What Is Water Scarcity?

Water scarcity is a lack of fresh water to meet the needs of a population.[1] However, answering the question “What is water scarcity?” is much more complicated than that basic definition, and many elements need to be discussed.

First, it is important to note that the UN General Assembly has made water availability a high priority for many years. Back in 2010, the UN looked at water scarcity facts and said, “Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.”[2] Even so, 2 billion people use a drinking water source that is contaminated with feces, which often results in disease.[3]

What is water scarcity? The Causes.


There are two types of water scarcity—physical water scarcity and economic. These types of scarcity can have many causes. The demand may be greater than the supply, the infrastructure may be lacking or institutions may not be balancing the needs of those in the community. The three most impactful causes are as follows:

  • Climate / Pollution – Even though water covers 70 percent of the earth, freshwater is in short supply, representing only 3 percent of the earth’s water. Two-thirds of that freshwater is inaccessible.[4] Many of our water systems are stressed and other sources of water are becoming too polluted to use safely. The impacts of climate change and pollution are intensifying the challenges of water scarcity, resulting in decreasing availability of freshwater and increased risks of water-borne illnesses and contamination.[5]
  • Agriculture – A large part of water usage is for agricultural irrigation. According to World Wildlife Fund, many countries that produce a lot of food, like the United States, China, Australia and Spain, are close to reaching their water resource limits.[6] Agriculture can also be the cause of water pollution due to pesticides and other chemicals used in farming.[7]
  • Population Growth – Rapid population growth and industrialization has led to the transformation of natural water ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, resulting in unsustainable use of freshwater and water stress for 41% of the world’s population. Additionally, the growing population’s demands for basic necessities puts pressure on freshwater resources.[8]

Water scarcity impacts individuals as well, especially among the world’s poor. There is often limited access to safe water for drinking, cooking and hygiene. Women and girls are most impacted because they are commonly responsible for collecting water, sometimes walking for hours just to reach the nearest water source. This impacts employment and educational opportunities for women and girls. It is also very physically demanding.

Ragnar and his family of six fought hard to get water at the closest water source that was over half a mile from their home. People would jostle for position in line to gather the unclean water. It carried diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid or diarrhea. They would fight for water that would often make them sick.[9]

Ragnar’s kids struggled in school because they were frequently sick. Ragnar wanted better for his children. He wanted them to feel well and excel in school and in life. He took his jaundiced son to a local doctor, who recommended he drink filtered water. But Ragnar couldn’t afford such a luxury.

Families like Ragnar's need to travel long distances to collect unsafe water

Dabid, a GFA missionary, met Ragnar along the path in their village one day and they began to chat. Ragnar’s troubles poured out as he shared of his son’s sickness and their water situation. Immediately, Dabid went to the family’s home to pray for them and also assured them he could help in a very tangible way. Dabid and his church began to pray for a Jesus Well to be constructed in Ragnar’s village, and soon their prayers were answered!

Now Ragnar and his children have access to pure, clean water that is easily accessible. They don’t have to fight for dirty water because they have clean water within a short distance. Their heath has improved significantly and the entire village is thankful!

What is water scarcity? A Solution.


A Jesus Well, like the one in Ragnar’s village, provides a solution for water scarcity. One well can serve an average of 300 people per day. The wells are drilled up to 600 feet deep in order to reach water that is pure, even in times of drought. Since local contractors are hired, and local materials are used, to dig the well, these wells on average cost only $1,400. The local church also maintains the well by lubricating the hand pump, replacing small parts, trimming the grass and making the area a nice area for the community. Replacement parts are easily obtained at minimal cost.

These Jesus Wells are built to last, too, utilizing the heavy duty India Mark II model hand pump. They can last up to 20 years, providing clean and safe drinking water to the entire community. Everyone is welcome to use the well, no matter their religion, ethnicity, income or social class.

Will you join GFA World’s mission in countries with water scarcity concerns, such as countries in Africa and Asia? You can provide clean water to communities who are in the greatest need and bring the love of Jesus to villages in a tangible way through a cup of pure, life-giving water. This is water that won’t make them sick. This is water they don’t have to walk for miles to obtain. It is free for the taking! Join us in providing relief to communities in need of clean water. Donate a Jesus Well today.

Learn more about clean water

[1] “Number of people in need of water.” The World Counts. https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/freshwater/number-of-people-in-need-of-water. Accessed November 2, 2022.
[2] “Drinking-water.” World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water. March 21, 2022.
[3] Ibid.
[4] “Water Scarcity Overview.” World Wildlife Federation. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity. Accessed November 2, 2022.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] “Pesticides and Water Pollution.” Safe Drinking Water Foundtion. https://www.safewater.org/fact-sheets-1/2017/1/23/pesticides. Accessed November 2, 2022.
[8] “Water Scarcity Overview.” World Wildlife Federation. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity. Accessed November 2, 2022.
[9] “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.