How Is Climate Change Leading To Freshwater Depletion?

Har Ek Boond

Reports state that only 0.3% of the earth's freshwater, found in surface and groundwater is usable by humans, yet it is now at the risk of becoming inaccessible

Written By Debolina Datta | Mumbai | Updated On:
Climate Change

Earth’s pictures taken from the outer space show that it has more water than land. The amount of water present on its surface is a unique attribute. Earth is therefore called ‘The Blue Planet’ or the ‘Blue Marble’ (name based on the images sent by Apollo 17 in 1972). However, it is a surprising fact that despite 71% of Earth's surface is covered with water, more than 99% of it is unusable, not only to humans but also a large sect of aquatic flora and fauna.  

Freshwater accounts to only 3% of the water present on the earth. According to a survey,  a considerable amount of this 3% is also inaccessible. Over 68 % of the freshwater on Earth is found in icecaps and glaciers and 30% is found in groundwater. 0.3% of freshwater is found in the surface water bodies like lakes, rivers, and swamps. 

Freshwater habitats house 10% of animals and more than 40% of varying fish species. For humans, freshwater is a source of drinking water and is also used for the purpose of irrigation. This becomes more significant in countries like India that depend on agriculture for food and employment.  In India, the dams across freshwater bodies have over 20 hydropower plants that provide electricity in and around several states of India.  

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However, several natural and man-made factors are leading to the deficit of freshwater and it is depleting at an alarming rate. The causes are climate change that is leading to the melting of glaciers and drying up of major rivers.  As per reports, on a global level, more than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and 2 billion lack adequate sanitation. Exhaustion of freshwater is one of the most urgent environmental and development issues of the 21st century. 

Global Warming: A major cause 

Global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system. Irresponsible infrastructure and burning of fossil fuels have affected the biosphere of the earth including atmosphere that is evident through the fluctuation of temperature. The transformation of natural landscapes into urban sectors with well-developed roads and deep-rooted buildings have inadvertently disrupted the natural water cycle causing unpredictable rainfalls – heavy floods or severe droughts in several parts of the world. These seemingly irrelevant changes have, however, affected the quality of water which in turn is affecting not only human beings but also all the aquatic living beings that rely on freshwater.  

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Several organizations like the World Wildlife Fund have taken steps to ensure that the freshwater and the species living in it are preserved. It is high time that more of us realize how freshwater, which is an essential element for our sustenance is becoming a finite resource. We need to take steps to ensure that our future generation does not face a water crisis as serious as the one we are facing. Every drop counts when it comes to contributing towards a cause such as environment preservation. 

By 2030, 40% Indians will not have access to drinking water