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Water Scarcity in The Anthropocene and Its Influence on Human Population

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A major theme prevalent in eco-fiction is the debate over resource management. Otherwise known as climate fiction, it is a subgenre of science fiction that explores the way in which climate change affects the Earth and its inhabitants. Numerous mediums of this subgenre have sprung up since the term “anthropocene” was coined. Although the scientific community has not decided a definitive point for when the Anthropocene began, the general consensus is that it started when humans began to influence the environment more so than actual natural phenomena (Monastersky 145). Because of this influence, the Earth has largely been impacted in a negative way. Its resources have been depleted because of human consumption. One of these major resources is water. As a whole, the world’s population’s needs are the basic necessities that most first world countries take for granted. The problem of water scarcity is a looming crisis that matters greatly in regards to how it will affect the human population as well as the rest of the world, which is why it is the main topic for many climate fiction stories.

The problem presented during a water shortage would affect the world’s poorest populations first and foremost. Although there is no commonly accepted definition of water scarcity, there is no doubt that the lack of water does majorly affect human populations worldwide. About twenty-percent of the world’s population overall, which is roughly 1.4 billion people, do not have access to an adequate source of clean water (Ward 1). The majority of these people live in arid or semi-arid climates. By 2025, they will be facing absolute water scarcity if how humans use and distribute water does not change. Absolute water scarcity is when these regions will not have, “sufficient water resources to maintain 1990 levels of per capita food production from irrigated agriculture, even at high levels of irrigation efficiency, and also to meet reasonable water needs for domestic, industrial, and environmental purpose” (Seckler 29). The standards of living and life expectancy will most likely plummet because there is not enough water to meet everyone’s needs. Already, the lack of water distribution in the world has resulted in a lack of sanitation and poor, personal hygiene. This equates to the spread of disease that takes 2.8 million lives, three-fourth of whom are children under five, annually. Even so, the world population has tripled in the twentieth century but the use of water has increased almost six-fold (Rjisberman). The overall health of the human race, mainly the percent that lives in poverty or arid climates, will be affected greatly by the scarcity of water.

Another aspect of water scarcity that will affect the planet, namely humans, is the inflation of food prices. On average, it takes ten times more water to grow food in comparison to the amount used by people for domestic purposes. Meat production is more costly; for example, to raise 1 kilogram of beef on the west coast, it would take 13.5 m3 of water (Rjisberman). Of course, everyone’s needs are different depending on their diet. The demand of water in the future “is strongly correlated with our assumptions related to the values and lifestyles of future generations” (Rjisberman). With that in mind, if the world continues to progress at its current rate alongside a rapidly growing population, it should be safe to assume that the demand of water will only rise. In fact, the need for food will rise even though it’s believed that the existing irrigation systems around the world are extremely inefficient (Seckler 29). They consume over seventy percent of all of the total water supplies in the world – so even though the demand of food will rise, the system in which facilitates it is extremely costly and detrimental to the conservation of the existing water supplies available.

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The competition for both water and food could also potentially cause a rift in society. The rich would have easier access to these necessities because even though the rates will have inflated, their wealth would be able to buy them access to food and possibly bypass any regulations placed on water if they were willing to pay for it. As a result, classism would be even more prevalent all over the world. When there is unrest between the classes, it is not a surprise that there could be societal upset and even potential water wars. For example, in the past there were riots in the Indian subcontinent because of water shortages. Around thirty thousand people were displaced due to riots incited by civilians who were angry at the Indian government for the release of the country’s Cauvery River water (Ward 5). If there was a water scarcity worldwide, the same thing could happen but on an even larger scale.

Even with all of the ways a water scarcity could affect humans, the environment would be the first to take the brunt of the impact. Because of the ever-increasing demand for food, more water would be needed for the increased agriculture. Even now, more than half of the world’s major rivers are either running dry or are being polluted (Ward 2). The increased agricultural production would then lead to more pesticides and fertilizer being put into the Earth. Essentially, the more and more humans use water, the more other resources are also depleted whilst also damaging the Earth even further.

All of these different situations could potentially arise from an immense water scarcity. The overall, troubling consensus is that the depletion of accessible, clean water would lead to an impact on the human population, both physically and socially. Of course, the environment would be affected as well. If the environment were to lose its sustainability for life and if there were no more freshwater systems, it would essentially be the end of not only the human race but various other species as well. There should be no surprise when climate fiction authors take the premise of such an event to tell their own cautionary tales so that it can be stopped before it even happens.

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Water Scarcity in The Anthropocene and Its Influence on Human Population. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
“Water Scarcity in The Anthropocene and Its Influence on Human Population.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Water Scarcity in The Anthropocene and Its Influence on Human Population. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2023].
Water Scarcity in The Anthropocene and Its Influence on Human Population [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Mar 27]. Available from:
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