Water withdrawals and the ensuing risks

A recent article published by The Economist, titled “Making farmers matter
And monitor, budget, manage—and prosper” provides crucial insight into the problems behind over-drafting our water sources. The article features impoverished farmers in third-world regions such as parts of India and China. The problems involving water issues stem from the low economic status of these regions.
One of the leading causes of disparity in these nations is the lack of sanitary living conditions. For example, over 1.2 people defecate in the open because they have no form of bathroom. This in turn causes a festering source of contagion and diseases. Evidence has shown that poor sanitation and dirty water kills over 5,000 children every day.
This article also delves into the issues that result from improper use of groundwater. While some farms are plagued by a lack of water, others are inundated by excess water. This causes a problem because plant roots need to uptake oxygen. Once soil becomes saturated to a certain point, the roots cannot absorb oxygen, and thus plant productivity drops. On the other side of the spectrum, some farmers do not have access to enough water to sustain their crops.
Some other less well-known issues behind water use and farming include salinity issues as well as other contaminants. For example, some farmers over-water their crops, and let the excess water evaporate. Over time, this method of watering leaves a layer of salts on the soil, which lowers the productivity of crops.
Over-drafting of groundwater sources also presents a major health risk because many underwater sources in India and China contain high concentrations of arsenic and uranium. These chemicals have caused increased cancer rates among villagers as well as arthritis, bone deformities, and mottled teeth and skin. Many farmers are unable to make a living in the best of health, let alone farmers struggling with deformities and malnourishment.
Brian O’Neill
Read more about this issue at: http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16136354


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