Environment News

Pakistan’s Water Crises-An Analysis

Written by Nabiha Khalid

Introduction to Water Scarcity:

Water scarcity is defined as a lack of sufficient available water to fulfil the demands of water usage. Studies reported clean drinking water is out of reach to more than 1.2 billion people worldwide. Water scarcity may be caused by climate changes, such as altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, pollution, and increased human demand due to over population and overuse of water. Water scarcity may occur due to physical and economic water scarcity. Physical water scarcity is due to inadequate natural water resources to supply a region’s demand, and economic water scarcity is a due to poor management of the sufficient available water resources.

According to the report of United Nations Development Programme, the economic water scarcity is found more often to be the cause of countries or regions experiencing water scarcity, as most countries or regions have enough water to meet household, industrial, agricultural, and environmental needs, but lack the means to provide it in an accessible manner.

“Pakistan is running out of time….”


Story of Water Crisis in Cape Town:

Cape Town city of South Africa has been faced a severe water crisis. Experts of future water research Institute University of Cape Town have depicted that population of this area has doubled in the last 30 years thus increased the demand for water. Due to lack of government policies and management, this city has experienced an extreme drought.

“The ultimate trigger is climate change, which has exposed all the weaknesses in [the water supply] system.” ¬Kevin Winter (Geographical scientist at Future Water, UCT).

In 2016, Government of South Africa launched a campaign in Cape Town named as “Day Zero”. The aim of this initiative is to restrict water use in daily tasks or it may prevent severe water depletion. Residents of cape town have allowed to use 50 litres water per day, toilets remain unflushed and take showers just for three minutes long.

Pakistan is Running Out of Time:

“Pakistan is running out of time. To escape a dry future with disastrous consequences, it has to build new reservoirs and complete those under construction expeditiously, well before 2025”

Jehangir Khattak.

 During this era of political turmoil such as Panama Papers and Paradise Papers controversies many essential subjects are being ignored by the Pakistani media, but recent headlines shed light that Pakistan is run out of water by 2025.  Pakistan is one of the most water stressed countries in the world. The situation is going towards the worst water scarcity due to Indian obstruction of western rivers water and has already reached to the limit of 1000 cubic meters per person per year. Pakistan is an agricultural country and its economy is based majorly on agriculture, due to water scarcity agriculture sector is suffered that ultimately will affect Pakistan’s economy.

The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) has given an alarming sign that Pakistan will face water scarcity by 2025. Study already predicted that Pakistan has touched the water stress line in 1990 and crossed the water scarcity line in 2005. In the near future, if this situation continues and if we will not save water for our future generations then experts predicted Pakistan has a Dry Future.

Reasons of Water Scarcity:

Climate change is considered one of the major reason for water scarcity. Human activities pump out more CO2 into the atmosphere with other greenhouse gases. Due to this temperature of earth increasing that results in global warming. Glaciers is melting and disappearing from different parts of the world. This combined effect cause less water supply for agriculture, energy production, and ecosystems around the world. Cutting of trees is one of major reason for this climatic change.

Experts suggested that water pollution is another reason for water depletion. All the pesticides, fertilizers and all other chemicals releasing from industries polluting the ground water. This contaminated water is unsafe for human health. Consequently, water is less available and out of reach for humans.

Agriculture uses freshwater for irrigation of crops. 60% water is wasted due to leaky irrigation systems or inefficient supply methods to crops. This leaky water use is drying out rivers, lakes and aquifers. Pakistan is an agro economy hence poor and inefficient water irrigation systems is quickly causing rivers drying.

In the last few decades, human population has doubled. Due to overrated population, needs of human for food, shelter, clothing has also increased, cutting of trees and transformation of water ecosystems for the production of commodities and energy ultimately result in loss of biodiversity.

Poor water infrastructure is in a dismal state of disrepair worldwide. It is also one of the reason of water scarcity globally, water is also transported through pipes, sewer systems. These pipes and water plants remain unrepaired and cause huge water loss. It is reported that 6 billion gallons in the United States are lost due to leaky pipes.

Recommendations for Water Conservation at Governmental level:

  • Role of public, private, and civil sectors in the development of a comprehensive national water policy- these policies are designed in such a way for equitable distribution of water only to required sectors. Government should organize some workshops, seminars to create awareness regarding water status in Pakistan.
  • Some initiatives have to be taken to control pollution, for this purpose maximum trees should be planted. Government ensure equitable use of groundwater and surface water.
  • It is the need of the time to use recent technology for better use of water for irrigation. Some initiatives such as use of drip irrigation, water recycling and rainwater harvesting should be taken immediately.
  • Government should design such policies to restrict migration and urbanization to some extent.

Recommendations for Water Conservation at Individual level:

  • Plant trees in your area as much as you can
  • Turn off the taps when water not required and open when necessary.
  • Install water drums in your area to catch rainwater. Use this rainwater for gardening purposes instead of tap water.
  • Fix out your leaky pipes.
  • Turn off the taps while brushing and handwashing.
  • Turn off the lights, use less electricity, it indirectly conserves your water.
  • Take less time to shower and use a low-flush toilet.
  • Water Outdoor plants in the early morning. It will use less water because less water will evaporate and water will go to the roots where it is needed.

It’s Not Too Late:

Governments, institutions and citizens should take their own responsibility and create awareness in public to save water. Different initiatives have been taken by the government, NGO’s and citizens such as tree plantation in different cities of Pakistan. But it’s the need of time to bring out best solutions and implement them to conserve water for our future. To coup with the upcoming scenario, there is a need to fetch out research to reduce water scarcity. PCRWR is responsible for conducting research in various aspects of water resources. PCRWR has asked Pakistan government for endowment fund. The purpose of this fund is to focus on water scarcity for agriculture.


  1. Water scarcity. 2018.
  2. Smallhorne, M., Cape Town’s water crisis calls for attitudinal change. 2018.
  3. Vandette, K., Cape Town water crisis may be a sign of things to come. 2018.
  4. Michaels, M., Cape Town is running out of water — I visited and saw what the financial problems of ‘Day Zero’ look like on the ground. 2018.
  5. Khattak, J., Can Pakistan escape a dry future. 2017.
  6. Published, A., Water scarcity ‘biggest threat’ to Pakistan. 2016.
  7. WWF, Water Scarcity. 2018.
  8. Schleifer, L., 7 Reasons We’re Facing a Global Water Crisis. 2017.
  9. Mustafa, D., M. Akhter, and N. Nasrallah, Understanding Pakistan’s water-security nexus. 2013: United States Institute of Peace Washington, DC.
  10. 12 ways to save water this summer. 2018.



About the author

Nabiha Khalid

Meet Nabiha Khalid. She studies in University of Gujrat, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Sialkot sub campus
and resides in Sialkot.