The lack of broad awareness of water scarcity on a world scale and its consequences for sustaining human life on the planet is a bona fide crisis.
Water, a gift from the sky, has been taken for granted for so long it is hard to fathom a radical, maybe permanent, absence of water in places that traditionally have been the agricultural-rich areas that produce food for the world population.
We have a case in point with the Ogallala Aquifer(1) in the U. S., one of the world's largest aquifers(2) that underlies an area of approximately 174,000 square miles in portions of eight states across much of the central plains. It is a shallow water table aquifer surrounded by sand, silt, clay, and gravel. It has seen its water level drop significantly every year since 1969. In other words, the natural replenishment from rain and melting snow is insufficient to compensate for the amount of water used year after year. As a result, the water level has fallen about 40 feet.
Large scale extraction for agricultural purposes started after World War II. Today, about 27% of the irrigated land in the entire U. S. lies over the aquifer which yields about 30% of the groundwater used for irrigation in the U. S. The aquifer is at risk for over-extraction and pollution. Once depleted, the aquifer would take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall. And the problem is generalized as we learn from the worldwidelife.org website:
What is really infuriating is that all this was predictable and mitigating measures could have been put in place decades ago but were not because of lack of will and of leadership in most major countries. Consider that as long ago as the late 80s, Malin Falkenmark wrote in Ambio(3) an article entitled: The Massive Water Scarcity Now Threatening Africa: Why Isn't It Being Addressed? The water crisis in Africa is, of course, more dire, however it signals problems the U. S. will have to confront if mitigation does not occur immediately.
In the 1989 article, Falkenmark writes:
Another sad example of this worldwide crisis is outlined in The Independent’s article, India’s ‘worst water crisis in its history’ is only going to get worse, government think tank says.
The water crisis is already directly affecting the U. S. though it is worse in many parts of the world. It affects the very sustainability of life for the population in many regions in the world and consequently makes an indirect impact on the U. S., not only financially from the production and distribution of food, but with pressures of immigration and its associated challenges, both on a scale we have never seen.
In short, water scarcity already experienced in many parts of the world is growing more dire as it directly and indirectly impacts the entire world population.
This is a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.
The general lack of leadership from national leaders focused on short-term political gains can only be offset by a massive engagement of the population. That is a difficult task in authoritarian regimes but is the very stuff that democracies can address. But first, for that to happen there must be a greater conscious awareness of the issues of water scarcity and its urgencies.
(1) a vast groundwater resource under eight U. S. states, used especially for crop irrigation, that stretches from southern South Dakota to western Texas and eastern New Mexico
(2) An aquifer is a body of permeable rock that can contain or transmit groundwater.
(3) Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published eight times a year by Springer Science+Business Media on behalf of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It was established in 1972.
“Ogallala Aquifer.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer.
“Water Scarcity.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity.
Falkenmark, Malin. “The Massive Water Scarcity Now Threatening Africa: Why Isn't It Being Addressed?” Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment, vol. 18, no. 2, 1989.
Mattha Busby @matthabusby. “Worst Water Crisis in India's History Predicted to Get Much Worse.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 June 2018, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-water-crisis-shortage-niti-aayog-report-drought-mismanagement-a8403286.html.