What Does Water Scarcity Look Like?

What Does Water Scarcity Look Like?

Lately, my blog entries have been quite long. However this one has to be rather short, as I am about to move back to Bristol in a couple of days, and the moving house process is taking all my energy. Next blog entry will probably be about the stress of moving house to another country, all by yourself, in the middle of a PhD. Although to be honest, other researchers in this project have it much worse than me. Anyway, right now I feel a pressing need to write about my first experience with water scarcity.

I had never been out of Europe until a couple of weeks ago. Within the same week, I came back from Cabo Verde (Africa), and went to Quebec (Canada). Two new continents in just a few days, and a lot of different impressions from both. But the one thing that struck me was the availability and use of water in both countries.

On one hand we have Cabo Verde, an archipelago west of Africa, composed by 10 volcanic islands that used to be a Portuguese settlement full of slave merchants and pirates. The climate is hot and arid, and there are no natural water sources available during most of the year. Desalination is now the main source of drinking water. The country is in continuous development, and water sanitation has certainly improved in the last years. Yet, I got to see wastewater being thrown directly into the streets, and I was instructed not to drink tap water under any circumstance.

On the other side of the spectrum we have Canada. A fully developed growing country that holds 9% of the world's renewable freshwater, where consumption is around 343 litres per person per day, twice as much as in other industrialized countries. I was baffled at how the toilets are filled up to 2/3 of the total volume, and fountains are common along the city.

Your intuition immediately tells you that water plays a vital role in economic development and life quality. But the most important lesson to be drawn comes from the fear I felt at having to live without water sanitation and supply. And yet I know there are millions of people out there that have to face these conditions every day. Water is no doubt our most vital resource, and we should never give it for granted.