5 Shocking Facts About Water Scarcity on World Water Day

Written by Derek Markham

For most of us, water scarcity and water poverty probably aren’t high on our list of things that we regularly think about or take action on (but if they are, good on ya), what with all of our attention being pulled every which way by the news story or Facebook meme or funny video of the day, but those water issues directly affect hundreds of millions of people every day of their life.

Most of us probably have no problem when we want or need water, anytime of day or night, as safe clean water flows right out of our taps with virtually no effort on our part, and we can use it for drinking, for washing, for watering the garden, at a very low cost to us.

But in many parts of the world, getting enough water to drink everyday may mean walking miles to fetch it, which directly impacts the lives of those people (especially women and children, who are primarily responsible for water collection in developing countries), because it not only takes a huge amount of time (estimated 200 million hours each day, globally), but also takes a physical toll, as the water is often transported on their backs.

To help raise awareness of these very real water issues on World Water Day 2014 (March 22nd), here are five shocking facts about water scarcity.

1. Almost 800 million people lack access to clean safe water every day. That’s more than two and a half times the population of the United States, where most of us probably waste more water before noon than those people use in a month.

2. Almost 3 ˝ million people die every year because of water and sanitation and hygiene-related causes, and almost all of them (99 percent) are in the developing world. That’s like the population of a city the size of Los Angeles being wiped out each year.

3. Every 21 seconds, another child dies from a water-related illness. Diarrhea, something we don’t really consider to be dangerous in the developed world, is actually incredibly deadly, and is the second leading global cause of death for kids under five.

4. More than 1 billion people still practice open defecation every day. In fact, more people have a mobile phone than a toilet. Open defecation is just what it sounds like, which is squatting wherever you can and pooping right on the ground, which can not only pollute the immediate area, but can also contaminate community water supplies. Sanitation and clean water go hand in hand.

5. The average American, taking a 5 minute shower, uses more water than an average person in the slums of a developing country does in a whole day. And to be honest, it seems like a 5 minute shower is probably on the short side for many people, so that’s as if we used our entire day’s water ration, just to wash our body.

Water poverty and its related issues affect the health, wealth, education and well-being of all of those who live with it every day, so supporting clean water initiatives can make a big difference for many of our fellow Earthlings. But that doesn’t always have to be in the form of a monetary donation to a water charity or nonprofit (although those are certainly welcome).

Support for water issues can be as diverse as being an outspoken advocate and sharing water stories via social media, or educating our children about the issues, or volunteering for a water advocacy group. If you’re a smartphone user, this water charity initiative dares you to not touch your phone for 10 minutes to fund a day of water, and this one, asks Instagram users to upload and donate a photo of “your water day” (and tag it with #waterday) via the Donate A Photo app to get $1 donated to Water.org from Johnson & Johnson.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is Water and Energy, because those two issues are not only closely interlinked, but also interdependent, and addressing them both is the only way forward. To learn more about the relationship between those seemingly disparate issues, watch and share this Water & Energy video playlist:

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger

Photo Credit: Sustainable sanitation via Flickr


Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

Funny how a topic about a life sustaining compound that effects us all gets 122 comments & shit like abortion, religion, gays & birth control gets thousands. No wonder we're seriously fu@ked!!!!!

Angela Ray
Angela Ray3 years ago

Long before toilets were invented, the earth was used to excrete human (and animal) wastes. Nothing goes wasted in nature. Plants used this wastes as fertilizer. Insects of various species used it for food, incubators or even to build homes; and it decomposed into the earth as it should. Wastes that ended up in the water was consumed, used, recycled by all the aquatic scavengers: catfish, shrimp, crabs, oysters, mussels, clams, lobster, etc.. Everything back then was more natural, pure, cleaner. The earth took pretty much, good care of itself. Then "mankind" came along and destroyed EVERYTHING! Now we're all forced to buy filters and purifiers for drinking water; OR struggling to stay alive in search of clean, safe drinking water.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

It makes me wonder where Dan B and Sharon or Susan

or whatever her name was

telling us it's all a lie,

that we can go back to sleep

and not worry about there being a water shortage in the earth.

That these people making these claims about climate change, climate science, water and food shortages

are just using cherry picked information

trumped up to make us freak out and worry,

when there isn't any cause to worry.

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F3 years ago

great article....sad situation

Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Constant growth of population is surely part, but only part, of the upcoming tragedies about to impact us all (for we truly are all parts of the one whole).

Problems of unawareness, disinterest, waste, lack of responsible use, unsustainale excess, etc. have been going on for so long that all those faraway places presently in trouble are now beginning to have a connect-the-dots effect on those heretofore unaffected. Stay tuned, we all own part of this in ways large or small.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

You've all said it for me.

Cynthia  AWAY B.
cynthia l3 years ago

Please be aware of your water useage and cut back wherever you can. Water levels are critical. Remember NO Water- NO Life befote any other resource

Berny p.
Berny p3 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


Andrea Jarich
Andrea J3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.