COVID-19 and Water Crisis

With the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic around the world, we are obsessing over cleanliness and handwashing habits. The core idea behind hand washing is to wash for twenty seconds. In those twenty seconds, we are slowly heading towards another trouble, and that is of water shortage. One of our concerns should be the crises that, God forbid, we are going to face soon.

Water is essential for drinking, sanitation, and food production; for billions of people. However, water access and quality are limited. The COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified the impacts of these water inequalities.

Safer Water, Better Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report Safer Water, Better Health, Improving water, sanitation, and hygiene have the potential to prevent at least 9.1% of the global disease burden and 6.3% of all deaths. Nevertheless, 4.2 billion go without safe sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic hand-washing facilities. Besides, diarrheal diseases caused by waterborne micro-organisms and poor hygiene nutrient absorption. Even those with access to adequate nutrition may face malnutrition. It means that where the hand-washing facilities are limited, waterborne illness is already very common. Chances are that Coronavirus can spread easily.

Immense Usage of Water during Pandemic

Those regions of the world where the supply of clean water is proper, people are using it in abundance.  During this challenging time, water usage has sufficiently increased. As doctors, health professionals are constantly giving directions to people about dis-infecting their homes, hands, utensils, and everything they come in contact with. Politicians, these days are also asking people to wash hands more often. In order to stay safe, there is a need to wash hands properly, mop the floors, and dis-infecting the utensils. All these things require a lot of water. When the whole world is facing one pandemic, we cannot afford to be on the brink of another crisis.

According to National Geographic, “By the year 2025, two-third of the world population will be living in areas with water shortage due to application, growth and chemical change.” With 70% of clean water is under agricultural use and more than half of it gets wasted due to poor and inefficient systems. And we all know that we are underinvesting in this sector.qc

Water is Life

An adult human body contains about 60% water. We can survive without food for three weeks but would typically last three to four days without water. Also, this resource is keeping us and the environment healthy by producing food, clothing, and moving our waste stream. We cannot ignore the importance of water in this troubled time. It is being suggested to drink more water; increasing intake of water can make the body process more efficient which is important for the immune system. Water is also a good source for dis-infecting the virus. Unfortunately, we have been proved as inefficient distributors of water.

In many parts of the world, women and girls spend hours each day fetching water or waiting in crowded queues for water vendors, potentially increasing their risk of exposure to the virus.

The enlightening video, ‘Water Changes Everything’ by Charitywater.ogr showcases the importance of water in a unique way. The ad highlights how children and women are affected the most by the water crisis.

Plenty of Water, Still not Sufficient          

Nearly 70% of the world is covered by water. Is it all consumable? No.  Only 2.5% is drinkable (fresh). The rest is saline and ocean-based.  Even then, 1% of our freshwater is easily accessible and only clean sources of drinking water are the precious, mighty glaciers. When these glaciers melt, their water flows down to rivers, and eventually reaches our homes. As you may know that we humans cannot drink seawater. After all, seawater contains such salts that can dehydrate the human body.

Can We Make Seawater Drinkable

It turns out that we can, through a process called desalination.

Desalination is a process that removes dissolved minerals (including but not limited to salt) from seawater, brackish water, or treated wastewater. A number of technologies have been developed for desalination, including reverse osmosis (RO), distillation, electrodialysis, and vacuum freezing. To date, only a limited number of desalination plants have been built, because the cost of desalination is generally higher than the costs of other water supply alternatives. However, as drought conditions occur and concern over water availability increases, desalination projects can be good proposals at numerous locations.

Drawbacks of Desalination

Besides that, the process is very expressive and not all the countries could afford it. There are also many other drawbacks to this process.  As with any process, desalination has by-products that must be taken care of. The process of desalination requires pretreatment and cleaning chemicals. Once they’ve lost their ability to clean the water, these chemicals expire, which becomes a major environmental concern. These chemicals often find their way back into the ocean, where they poison plant and animal life.

Dead Sea-containing highest amount of minerals and salts

Water Demand, After Recovery from the Pandemic

Recovery from the pandemic requires effective water management that can reinforce stability in the disrupted supply-chain. In many areas, the government has implemented lockdown which impacted the agricultural interruption, depressed demand and supply, and keeping workers away from the fields and factories. When the normal life activities will resume, chances are that there will be massive pressure on every sector to neutralize the demand and supply. Hence, water resources will also be under great pressure.

Now the top priority should be preparing potentially significant withdrawals of water. Making sure that this interruption and then sudden massive withdrawal will not undermine the domestic supply should also be a priority.

The Risks of Natural Disasters

“Disasters don’t stop for a virus,” says Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (USA).

Drought, extreme weather, and flooding—occurring during the pandemic is also a significant problem that threatens water security and long-term recovery. There is no sector that is immune to the effects of a pandemic. A little further down the chain, a transportation breakdown (rail or highway) is also a likely scenario. In a worst-case scenario, food prices can get high and food insecurity could increase. Just as with the Coronavirus crisis, the effect of climate change is clear.

 This means that it’s better for us to be preparing for droughts or floods to lessen the multiple shocks.

How Should We Respond to These Problems (governmental level)

Water connects health, food systems, climate change, nature, energy, and finance. In the short term, governments and international organizations should work to ensure access to safe and reliable water supplies and sanitation. This includes emergency provision for underserved communities. Taking care to protect women and girls responsible for fetching water from exposure. To address potential supply disruptions, we also need a clear understanding of where and how municipal or rural water is coping with pandemic-related spikes in demand.

It means building more “circular” water systems. That can secure supplies and better capture, clean, and reuse water resources in ways that protect humans.

Our Role On Individual Level (in order to save Water)

  • Collect water used from cooking. Once it has cooled you can use it to water plants with. Or if you’re boiling vegetables, use this water to start a soup.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Try turning the water off in between brushing your teeth, washing your body, shampooing and conditioning. To go one step further, place a bucket in the shower with you to collect any excess water, you can use this to flush your toilet. Also, avoid shaving with the tap running.
  • Check your toilet for leaks; put a few drops of food color in the toilet tank. If without flushing the color appears in the bowl, then your toilet may have a leak that may be wasting more than 100 gallons of water in a day.
  • Out in the garden watering your plants? Make sure you use a watering can instead of a hose – a hosepipe can use up to 1000 liters of water an hour!
  • Plant drought-resistant trees and plants.
  • Use your automatic dishwashers and washing machines for a full load only.

The World’s Efforts towards Water safety (to date)

The water crisis is a reality. From water scarcity to drinking water contaminated with feces, the water crisis has many faces. Several organizations have shared their voices regarding the rising concern through powerful campaigns.

Therefore, given below are some of the best and the most effective campaigns towards water awareness:

Colgate – #EveryDropCounts

The 30 seconds video clip shows that almost 4 gallons of water get wasted when people keep the faucet running while brushing. Colgate advises that we can save 3,000 gallons of water each year by turning off the faucet while brushing. This ad campaign went viral and has garnered a whopping 10 million+ views on YouTube.


Charity Water – I am Water

‘I am Water’ is another brilliant take from Charity water which highlights the importance of water. And the speaker in the background speaks from the perspective of water and makes viewers aware of the power of water.

CharityWater-I am Water

Knorr – Eat Less Water

Knorr ran a campaign on educating consumers about the ways to become more water conscious. And under the awareness campaign, they published a list of alternative food items with a lower water footprint.

Also read: Coronavirus and Water Pandemics: Doing the Math

Babylon Health – Coronavirus, How to Wash your Hands

The best way to prevent infection and spread of germs, including the Coronavirus is by practicing good hand hygiene, and regularly washing your hands with soap and water.

Read More: Corona Virus Reinfection – first confirmed case in Pakistan

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