The Role of Water In Development Economics: Ethiopia

By Mehmet Imre Kara

Historically, the availability of water has played a huge role in aiding the development of civilizations. Its cleanliness, proximity, and the frequency of its availability have long been tackled by ancient civilizations that thrived, such as the Ancient Egyptians who enjoyed the fruits of the Nile River, the Indus Valley Civilization who thrived off the Indus Valley River, and the Roman civilization who achieved great feats in channeling water and making sure it is clean and available to their army whenever they stationed somewhere new.

In today’s world, much of the first world premature view on water would be concerned with the difference between tap and bottled water or river and lake cleanliness, however, the issue with water in today’s world and developing economies is still far behind the concern of conserving it or avoiding waste byproducts. Water has been a regional issue for the Sub Saharan region of Africa, especially during times of political instability.

The lack of water for an economy or population certainly has fatal outcomes. During the years of 1984 and 1985, Ethiopia endured a war and drought that caused a food crisis resulting in the total death of one million people. Although this figure speaks for both the outcome of drought and food shortages, it is without a doubt that the absence of water/rainfalls was a large factor that contributed to the shortage of food. This is especially true for those individuals that are heavily reliant on agriculture and livestock.

Water is one of the many basic human needs that a large proportion of the world is unable to attain. It has come to the great attention of the United Nations and several other non-profit organizations during recent years that there is a strong correlation between access to clean water and other economic and health indicators.

Besides the primary impact of water shortages, there are secondary impacts that are much heavier when weighed out in terms of achieving economic development in the region. It has been found that there is a positive correlation between access to clean water and female literacy in several regions.

There are two new methods that have attracted much attention in this field. First, there is a product called Lifestraw, which allows users to drink out of any source of water through the straw with instant filtration. Second, the Janicki Omniprocessor, is a machine that generates electricity and clean drinking water from sewer sludge, with only ash as a byproduct.

As you can imagine, water is the source of all forms of life and is one of the two key factors to agriculture, the backbone of many societies. Because of this, there is a huge demand for new alternatives as speculations of war over waters are being made (and have already occurred in minor wars).

There are various methods that can be instilled today that would eradicate the shortage for water and food, however, these come at the expense of other individuals and governments giving up on chasing their profits.


About economicsandtheworld

To Broaden The Understanding Of Economics Around The World.

2 responses to “The Role of Water In Development Economics: Ethiopia

  1. jasonfanzhang

    I really like the last part about governments giving up profit chasing ideas in order to solve water shortage issues because I feel that this is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to government intervention in any issue involving developing and advanced nations!


  2. Dear Mehmet,

    Water, this blue resource, is so precious and so vital for life. Who could imagine that 1 in 3 people lack water to meet basic needs and that 1.2 billion people live in areas where water is physically scarce. Water is so important for us all and it is essential that we find ways to provide more people with access to it.

    ~Professor Myra Chaudhary


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