2023 GS1 Answer

Q. Why is the world today confronted with a crisis of availability of and access to freshwater resources?

Question from UPSC Mains 2023 GS1 Paper

Model Answer: 

Freshwater: Resource in Crisis

Freshwater is a vital resource for human survival, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. However, the world is currently facing a major crisis in terms of the availability and access to freshwater resources. The crisis is mainly driven by a combination of factors such as population growth, climate change, pollution, over-extraction, and poor water management.

1. Population Growth

The global population is increasing at an unprecedented rate, leading to a drastic surge in water demand. As more people need water for drinking, sanitation, food production, and industrial uses, the available freshwater resources are becoming insufficient. For example, in regions like sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, rapid population growth has put immense pressure on the available water resources.

2. Climate Change

Climate change has led to irregular weather patterns, causing severe droughts and floods. These extreme weather events have a direct impact on the availability of freshwater resources. For instance, prolonged droughts in California have significantly reduced the state’s water reserves.

3. Pollution

Water pollution from industrial waste, agricultural run-off, and improper disposal of human waste has contaminated many freshwater sources. This not only reduces the amount of available clean water but also poses serious health risks. The Ganges River in India, for example, is heavily polluted with industrial effluents and untreated sewage, making it unfit for human consumption.

4. Over-extraction

Excessive extraction of groundwater for agricultural, industrial, and domestic purposes has led to the depletion of aquifers. This over-extraction is unsustainable and has resulted in water scarcity in many regions. The Aral Sea in Central Asia, once the fourth largest lake in the world, has almost disappeared due to over-extraction of its tributary rivers for irrigation.

5. Poor Water Management

Inefficient water management and wastage also contribute to the water crisis. Many regions lack proper infrastructure to store, treat, and distribute water effectively. Additionally, water is often wasted due to leaky pipes, over-irrigation, and inefficient household use.

6. Inequitable Distribution

Water resources are not evenly distributed across the globe. Some regions have abundant water resources while others are extremely water-scarce. This inequitable distribution, coupled with political conflicts and poor infrastructure, limits access to freshwater in many regions.

7. Urbanization

Rapid urbanization has increased the demand for freshwater resources in cities, often at the expense of rural and agricultural areas. Moreover, urban areas often lack adequate wastewater treatment facilities, leading to pollution of freshwater sources.

8. Deforestation

Deforestation reduces the earth’s capacity to store water and leads to changes in rainfall patterns. This not only affects the availability of freshwater but also leads to soil erosion and increased flooding.

9. Economic Factors

Economic factors such as poverty and lack of investment in water infrastructure can limit access to clean water. In many developing countries, people cannot afford to pay for clean water or the infrastructure needed to deliver it.


The crisis of availability and access to freshwater resources is a complex issue that requires immediate attention. It involves not just environmental factors, but also social, economic, and political dimensions. Addressing this crisis requires a holistic approach, including sustainable water management, pollution control, investment in water infrastructure, and efforts to mitigate climate change. Without concerted global efforts, the situation is likely to worsen, potentially leading to severe water shortages, increased conflict, and significant impacts on human health and livelihoods.

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