Sunday, June 23, 2024
Environmental Management

Problems of Water Resources Development

Several problems militating against water resources development have been identified in literature. Some of the identified problems include precipitation pattern, population growth, pollution, increase affluence, economic growth and development, corruption in the water sector, energy, finance, technology, political will and management. These problems are not limited to certain regions but extend throughout the world.

Precipitation Patterns

Precipitation patterns have been identified as one of the primary problems militating against water resources development, since precipitation is the primary source of replenishment of both surface and groundwater sources (Miller, 1996).

In areas where there is lower than normal precipitation, there is usually water stress, which may result to a drought situation. Drought is usually triggered by reduced average annual precipitation, higher than normal temperatures, or both. Such situations do not favour adequate water resources development.

Population Growth

Population growth has been identified as a major factor in water resources development. At the most fundamental level, water is needed to supply people’s basic domestic needs, in quantities directly proportional to the number of people.

For instance, the National Research Council (1999) stated that with population growth; demand for the world’s finite supply of fresh water is rising, putting strains even on the industrialized countries.

Global population projections suggest that the world population of over 6 billion people in 2000 will increase by 20% to over 7 billion by 2015, and to 7.8 billion by 2025, a 30% rise.

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Enormous strains will be put on existing services, and substantial increases in the provision of water and sanitation will be needed to meet the needs of the ever-growing population.

As populations grow and demands for water and other services expand, pollution levels will raise, which will then reduce the availability of water for human consumption.


Pollution is another major problem in the development of water resources. Water pollution according to Botkin and Keller (1998) refers to degradation of water quality.

In defining pollution, we generally look at the intended use of the water, how far it departs from the norm, its effects on public health, or its ecological impacts.

From a public health or ecological view, a pollutant is any biological, physical or chemical substance that in identifiable excess is known to be harmful to other desirable living organisms. Water pollutants include excessive amounts of heavy metals, certain radioactive isotopes, faecalcoliformbacteria, phosphorus, nitrogen, sodium, and other useful (even necessary) elements, as well as certain pathogenic bacteria and viruses (Botkin and Keller, 1998).

The primary causes of deterioration of surface water quality are municipal and domestic waste water, industrial and agricultural wastes (organic, inorganic, heat) and solid and semi-solid refuse.

Groundwater quality is influenced by the quality of its source. Changes in source water or degraded quality of source supplies may seriously impair the quality of the groundwater supply. Municipal and industrial wastes entering an aquifer are major sources of organic and inorganic pollution.

Problems of Water Resources Development

A municipality obtaining its water supply from a surface body may find its source so fouled by wastes and toxic chemicals that it is unsuitable or too costly to treat for use as a water supply (Viessman and Hammer, 1998).

Another form of pollution that has impacted negatively on water resources development, especially in the coastal regions of the world is salt water intrusion.

The inhabitants therefore depend on rain water harvesting (in the midst of numerous gas flares from oil production platforms) and purchasing water from merchants coming from the hinterland in boats.

It has been noted that the high degree of restiveness and agitations against oil companies and installations is partly due to the lack of basic infrastructure in their areas especially potable water.


Corruption has also been identified as a major problem of water resources development worldwide.

For instance, Stalgen (2007) in his analysis of corruption in the water sector observed that the main reason behind the inadequate water supply is not the lack of a natural supply of water nor is it primarily an engineering problem, i.e. stemming from the lack of technical solutions. Instead, the global water crisis is primarily a crisis of governance.

As a group of experts working under the UN Millennium Project puts it, the problem is “the lack of appropriate institutions at all levels and the chronic dysfunction of existing institutional arrangements”.

Stalgren affirms that corruption is at the core of the governance crisis in the water sector. Whereas the scope of corruption varies substantially across the sector and between different countries and governance systems, estimates by the World Bank suggest that 20% to 40% of water sector finances are being lost to dishonest and corrupt practices.

The magnitude of this figure is distressing, especially, if one considers current efforts to aggregate the $6.7 billion needed annually to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa.

An average level of corruption of 30% represents a leakage of $20 billion over the next decade. This situation is not healthy for water resources development.


Inadequate energy supply has also been identified as a factor in water resources development, most especially in developing economies. It has been stated that water supply is directly tied to regular supply of electricity.

Without electricity, there can be no potable water supply. Pipe water flows when power is energized. But in a situation where the entire nation is in blackout, water supply is drastically reduced and becomes critical.

Other Factors

Apart from the problems discussed above, other factors that affect the development of water resources include poor maintenance culture (evidence abounds of pipe leakages, rusted pipes, unlocked taps, broken valve etc); high cost of facilities, economic growth and development (putting pressure on existing water infrastructure) and increasing affluence (increase in demand for water, through the use of washing machines, dishes, and the watering of lawns).

All these factors act in one way or the other to militate against water resources development.

In summary, there are several problems militating against adequate water resources development worldwide. Apart from precipitation pattern, which is an obvious natural factor, the others are human factors that can be surmounted.

With adequate planning and management, change of negative habits (pollution, corruption, poor maintenance and wastages) the task of water resources development, can be made easier, more effective and efficient.

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Problems militating against water resources development over the world are similar; though vary in severity from one region or country to another.

The problems can be classified into human and natural. Precipitation seems to be the only major natural factor.

The human factors include pollution, energy, corruption, population growth etc.

With adequate planning and management, and change of negative habits, the task of water resources development could be simplified.


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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