What Water Shortage Means for the Environment
For millions of years, clean fresh water was plentiful enough for humans, animals, and plants to thrive, each getting their fair share and more, up until human waste started creeping into every corner of the world. In under 400 years, “civilized society” has managed to make life worse for all living things. Water pollution, water wastage, climate change, and overpopulation are all contributing to an ever-deteriorating environmental crisis.
We are running out of useable water, and we need to keep reminding ourselves that water shortage doesn’t affect only us. It’s destroying wildlife, sea life, and the environment.
How water shortage is affecting plants
Among all living creatures, plants need the most water. In fact, they are made up of about 90% water, 20-30% more than humans. So it should come as no surprise that they are the most affected by the growing shortage. Here is why plants need water to survive:
Unlike humans and animals, plants don’t have a skeleton to keep them up. They have turgor instead, which is another term for water pressure inside a plant’s cells. When the pressure is strong enough, all the cells receive the nutrient-rich water they need to stay sturdy, healthy, and upright. Once they don’t have that, a plant will wilt and die.
Plants don’t need only the sun for photosynthesis. They need hydrogen and oxygen along with the carbon dioxide in the air to form the sugars essential to their survival.
Transpiration and photosynthesis are linked. Transpiration in plants is like perspiration in people. Essentially, the plant’s pores open to allow water to exit, a process that also lets them emit oxygen and take in carbon dioxide.
Although some plants have the capacity to adapt to drought or water shortage, many don’t and eventually die!
How water shortage is affecting animals
Needless to say, when animals don’t get enough water, they die of dehydration, but that’s not the only way that water shortage kills them. Human exploitation is endangering the habitats of several species around the world. These are just a few examples:
- The Amazon river dolphin
Also known as the pink dolphin, it is one of the few species of dolphins that live in freshwater. In addition to being hunted by fishermen and getting entangled in fishing gear, it’s endangered by river damming restricting its home and by mercury poisoning.
- Freshwater turtles
In many parts of the world, the freshwater turtle population has been shrinking due to their habitats drying up, in addition to plastic and waste contamination, fishing, and boat collisions. The even worse news is that they reproduce at a very late age, so it’s more likely than not that many of them are dying before breeding.
- Snow leopards
Similarly to the Amazon river dolphins, snow leopards are jeopardized by hunting and industrial expansion, and their water supplies are continuously shrinking thanks to climate change. There are currently no more than 6,400 snow leopards in the world, and if we don’t make a drastic change, soon there will be none left.
The damage may be manmade, but so is the solution. We are all responsible for actively being part of preserving our water resources. We are all responsible for being one with the environment, one with every animal, and one with water.