Most people have realized that climate change and global warming are real. The results of these rapidly changing conditions are manifesting in various ways. Some are more dramatic, like the rapid increase in natural disasters like wildfires, flooding, etc. Others are more subtle, such as the gradual increase in sea levels.
However, one of the most significant and unnoticed impacts is on natural inland water bodies. This article will highlight the issues affecting these water systems and the effects on local and global populations.
Freshwater is Disappearing
Freshwater only makes up about 2% of all the water on Earth, with the rest being salt water. Still, there are many sources of freshwater, and water can be drawn from these sources in massive amounts without any significant effects.
For example, large-scale farming along the Nile River has been a tradition for thousands of years. People diverted water from the river to irrigate land that otherwise would have been a barren desert.
However, the scale of freshwater usage since the industrial revolution supersedes anything that has ever occurred.
Drastic Examples of Disappearing Freshwater
The most noticeable example of the disappearance of freshwater is the drying up of lakes. Almost every major lake on Earth has experienced shrinkage, from the Great Lakes in North America to Lake Victoria in central Africa.
These changes are affecting local ecologies, wildlife, and human populations that rely on these bodies of water for sustenance.
The Great Salt Lake in Utah is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. It has been shrinking for decades, and its water levels have dropped to record lows. The shrinking of the Great Salt Lake is due to a combination of factors, including climate change, water diversion for human use, and drought.
If the lake continues to shrink, it might become a basin of hazardous dust that would contaminate the area around Salt Lake City. You can learn more about what is happening in the Great Salt Lake City today.
Lake Chad is one of the most striking examples of how climate change affects natural water sources. Located in the arid Sahel region of Africa, the lake has shrunk by over 90% since the 1960s. The lake used to cover an area of 26,000 square kilometers, but by the early 2000s, it had reduced to less than 1,500 square kilometers.
The cause of this drastic loss of water is primarily human activities such as overfishing, deforestation, and irrigation practices.
What is Using Up the Freshwater?
Human activity is universally dependent on water, so natural water sources are used up faster than they can replenish. If humans could consume any type of water, perhaps the situation would not be so dire.
However, saltwater, which is overabundant, is poison to humans and even some marine and plant life. People cannot use it for nearly any form of agriculture or human consumption. Saltwater even has detrimental effects when used in some industrial processes.
Agriculture, human use, and industrial manufacturing are the three highest water consumers, and they all rely solely on freshwater.
Agriculture accounts for over two-thirds of all freshwater consumption on Earth. Inefficient and wasteful practices are prevalent in many agricultural areas. Long-term waterlogging and soil salinization can result from irrigation systems that employ ineffective techniques like floods, making the site unusable for farming.
Several sectors, including mining, oil and gas, and manufacturing, need much water. These processes’ cooling and cleaning techniques frequently use large volumes of water. For example, research shows that it takes nearly 3,000 liters of water to make a single t-shirt. One pair of jeans requires over 10,000 liters of water. Industrial effluent can also contaminate freshwater sources, rendering them unfit for agriculture or drinking water use.
One of the few things everyone on Earth shares is a need for freshwater for household uses. Domestic uses of water include drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. However, many households wastewater. Additionally, insufficient sewage and sanitation systems in many places can contaminate freshwater resources with human waste.
The warming planet has disrupted weather patterns, causing a slow but consistent reduction in the precipitation many regions receive. This reduction is leading to the gradual drying out of numerous water systems.
The scale of this problem varies from place to place, but the results are the same. This water loss in these and many other natural sources has significant consequences for the ecosystems and wildlife that depend on them.
Solutions to Save the World’s Freshwater
People must implement several solutions to address the loss of water in natural water sources and the negative impacts. Here are a few of them:
Implementing Better Consumption Practices
Promoting more innovative water usage will ensure more sustainable water management practices, which can also help preserve natural water sources. You can achieve this by adopting more efficient irrigation techniques and water recycling processes.
In addition, conservation measures must prioritize the needs of the environment and the communities that depend on these water sources.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to saving freshwater. It helps to slow down the rate of climate change and reduce the severity of droughts and other erratic weather patterns that affect natural water sources.
Industrial processes that dump waste in freshwater bodies and make them unusable must also be addressed. Governments and businesses must work together to adopt policies that reduce emissions and transition to renewable energy sources.
Improving Water Retention
Rain is not the only form of precipitation. For many years, enterprising individuals have devised innovative catchment techniques for saving water in otherwise arid regions.
Ecosystem restoration efforts can also help restore natural water sources to their original state. It can involve the restoration of wetlands and the planting of trees to reduce erosion. The rehabilitation of degraded land can improve the water retention capacity of the surrounding areas.
The loss of natural water sources due to human activity is a significant threat to the ecosystems, wildlife, and communities that depend on these bodies of water. However, implementing sustainable water management practices, restoring ecosystems, and increasing public awareness can save the Earth’s freshwater.