What Is the Difference Between Physical Water Scarcity and Economic Scarcity?

Walking long distances to acquire water that is often contaminated

Water scarcity can be divided into two main categories:

  • Physical water scarcity is when there is a shortage of water due to ecological conditions in a local area. For example, if there is a drought or another natural cause for the water stress. In other words, there isn’t enough water produced by the land to fulfill the needs of the people who live in that region. Oftentimes, this is from natural causes, but manmade decisions and conditions can compound the issue.[1]
  • Economic water scarcity, according to The Water Project, is when the people don’t have the “monetary means to utilize an adequate source of water. Economic water scarcity is about [an] unequal distribution of resources for many reasons…”[2]

Many times, it is a combination of these two types of water scarcity that form the deepest and lasting impact on the people of a region. For example, when people have a limited water supply and a drought occurs, they are often forced to travel for hours to find water, which may be contaminated and cause waterborne illnesses.

GFA World works in Asia and Africa, where these two types of water scarcity commonly join together in a drastic way. Many people are without a clean water source and travel long distances to find any water at all. The burden of collecting water often falls on women and children, keeping them out of work and school and compounding the issue of water scarcity.

To address water scarcity in specific communities, GFA provides a tangible resource called the Jesus Well. These wells are drilled up to 600 feet deep so they can still provide water during seasons of severe drought. These wells provide clean water, free of contaminants that cause waterborne disease. They are maintained by a local church and offer clean water to all people, no matter their religion or economic status. Along with providing clean water, Jesus Wells strengthen the local economy and inspire a healthy pride of ownership.

As a response to the global water crisis, GFA remains committed to serving these communities with clean water, all in the name of Jesus. Join us in supplying water wells to those in greatest need in Asia and Africa. With the generous support of donors throughout the world, GFA missionaries will continue to help address the global water crisis—one community at a time.

Learn more about water scarcity and what GFA World is doing to combat it

[1] “The Lack of Clean Water.” The Water Project. https://thewaterproject.org/water-scarcity/water_scarcity_2. Accessed November 2, 2022.
[2] Ibid.