’ Water! Water! Water! ’: These are the words of a person dying from thirst, which me or you might be hearing or even crying it out aloud in the near future, because human being’s most serious problem and dilemma in the 21st century might not be war or hunger or disease or the collapse of civic order, it may be the lack of Fresh Water, according to a United Nation’s (UNESCO) report.
At present 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, while 2.
4 billion lack access to proper sanitation, nearly all of them in the developing countries. Faced with “disinterest at the leadership level and a world population not fully aware of the magnitude of the problem”, the global water crisis will reach astonishing colossal levels in the years ahead.
Although water is the commonest substance on earth, only 2.53 per cent of it is fresh, while the rest is salt water. And of the freshwater, two thirds is in the form of glaciers and permanent snow cover.
What is available, in lakes, rivers, aquifers (ground water) and rainfall run-off, is now increasingly coming under strain from urban areas, industries in the developed world, and agriculture in the developing world which is responsible for 70 % of all the water use in the world.
Pollution from industries, agriculture and urban areas such as cities and towns, adds another severe pressure on fresh water supply. About two million tons of wastes are dumped every day into rivers, lakes and streams, with one liter of waste water sufficient enough to pollute about eight liters of fresh water.
The worst and direct effects of fresh water scarcity will without a doubt be on health. Water-borne illnesses, such as stomach infections like diarrhea, are caused by drinking polluted/contaminated water; vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and schistosomiasis, are passed on by the mosquitoes and small snails that need water to breed. The majority of the victims of these diseases are children aged under five.
The world’s ever increasing demand for fresh water is also causing increasing environmental stress; the watercourse flows of about 60 per cent of the world’s largest rivers have been interrupted by dams and, of the creatures associated with inland waters, 24 per cent of mammals and 12 per cent of birds are threatened with extinction. Of the 10 per cent of freshwater fish species that have been studied in detail by scientists, about a third of these are thought to be threatened.
But the one positive message the UN report strikes is on the issue of the likelihood of “water wars”. It says: “While water scarcity will intensify conflicts between states, there is little evidence to suggest that these situations will explode into fully fledged water wars.” But still, many people believe that a World War 3 will be fought for water.
Koichiro Matsuura, the director general of UNESCO said “Of all the social and natural crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet Earth.” With this quote in mind, we should immediately take swift and drastic measures to protect our limited water supply and in order to do this; we should make ’Water Conservation’ as our number one priority.
Water conservation is the rational and careful use of water resources.
Water Conservation is the protection, development and efficient management of water resources for beneficial purposes.
1. Water Conservation in Agriculture
Water is a very precious resource, especially to farmers. If there isn’t a constant supply of water, farmers cannot grow the quantity or quality of crops that consumers need, want and deserve. Failure to use it efficiently, and the productivity of the livestock they own, is put in danger.
Fortunately, many farmers around the world are becoming more concerned about their water use. They are beginning to make great efforts to conserve and use water resources properly and thus benefiting: their businesses, society and most importantly, the environment. Here are some methods of conserving water in agriculture:
Soil Moisture Conservation
Soil moisture conservation is a type of water conservation in which all water and rainfall is conserved where it falls, and no runoff is permitted. Soil conservation is achieved at the same time. Soil moisture conservation measures include:
- Evaporation of water from soil surfaces can be effectively reduced by the use of mulches using crop stovers or residues, plastics or easy breakable (friable) topsoil, laid down on the surface of the soil and along rows. This practice is very important for water and soil conservation as well as for organic matter preservation. These mulches protect soil structure by reducing the action of raindrops on soils, and thus prevent runoff and erosion. Mulching also decreases evaporation, and improves soil moisture retention capacity and therefore, soil water content. Soil productivity and crop yield are also increased.
- Physically (manually or mechanically) breaking up the plough layer, also known as tillage, can be used for surface soil management for improving the infiltration rate of rainwater, thus conserving soil water content/moisture. Tilling also helps in controlling soil pests and weed, which are brought up to the surface and then killed by radiation from the sun and/or predators. This therefore reduces the need for pesticide use which usually is an agronomic practice that requires fairly large quantities of water.
- Planting in small depressions known as planting pits is a practice common in arid areas. These pits conserve and concentrate both water and nutrients.
- Using Management strategies that involve monitoring soil and water conditions and collecting information on water use and efficiency. The information helps in making decisions about scheduling applications or improving the efficiency of the irrigation system. The methods include measuring rainfall, determining soil moisture, checking pumping plant efficiency, and scheduling irrigation.
- Implementing System modifications that require making changes to an existing irrigation system or replacing an existing system with a new one. This method is very expensive but very effective. Typical system modifications include: adding drop tubes to a center pivot system, retrofitting a well with a smaller pump, installing surge irrigation, or constructing a tailwater recovery system (Kromm and White, 1990).
- Irrigating with reused or recycled water. Water reuse is the use of wastewater or reclaimed water from one application for another application while, Water recycling is the reuse of water for the same application for which it was originally intended.
- Implementing behavioral practices that involve changing water use habits to achieve more efficient use of water. Behavioral practices for agricultural water users can be applied to irrigation application rates and timing e.g. the careful choice of irrigation application rates and timing can help farmers to maintain highormal yields with less water.
2. Water Conservation in Homes
Are we using more water in our homes than we thought? The answer lies in our monthly water bill. We could save a lot of water and money by following these water conservation tips:
- Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering a plant or garden, or for cleaning around your home.
- Repair dripping taps by replacing washers. If your taps is dripping at a rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year. This adds to the cost of water and sewer utilities and adds to your water bill.
- Fit all household taps by installing aerators with flow restrictors to slow the flow of water.
- Check for toilet tank leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the toilet bowl within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded or bent parts. Most replacement parts are inexpensive, readily available and easily installed.
- Take shorter showers. Replace your showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version.
- Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water and use this to water plants. The same technique can be used when washing dishes or vegetables in the sink.
- When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow-moving stream from the tap.
- If you have a tank at home, check your pump periodically. Listen to hear if the pump kicks on and off while water is not being used. If it does, you have a leak.
- Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
- When washing your car, use soap and water from a bucket. Use a hose with a shut-off nozzle for the final rinse.
- Adjust sprinklers so only the lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street. Do not water on windy days. Check and maintain your sprinkler system regularly. A heavy rain means you don’t have to water at all. Teach the family how to turn off an automatic sprinkler system in case a storm comes up during the sprinkling cycle.
- Minimize grass areas in your yard because less grass means less water demand.
3. Water Conservation in Industries
Water is essential to our health and also to the health of our economy. As a major user of this precious resource, industry has an important responsibility to practice water conservation.
Industries can realize many benefits from the practice of water conservation. By reducing their use of water, industries can protect the environment and gain a competitive edge by reducing their own cost of doing business. Water conservation measures in industries are carried out in steps:
Setting up a water conservation program
A Water Resource coordinator/manager should be appointed, to develop, implement and supervise a water conservation program. This coordinator/manager should firstly:
- Raise employee awareness of the importance of water conservation
- Seek ideas from employees on water conservation
- Surveying the plant operations
Secondly, the manager should:
- Find areas in the plant where water is wasted or could be reused
- Find the capacity of each water-containing unit and frequency of emptying
- Find the capacity of continuous discharge not yet being reused
- Find out the flow rates in floor gutters and whether they are sufficient to prevent the accumulation of solids
- Use the information he or she has gained to develop plans to increase water reuse
- Study the feasibility of installing cooling towers
- Evaluate the potential for screening and disinfecting reclaimed water to increase the number of times it can be reused
- Look for ways to increase efficiency
Thirdly, the manager should:
- Determine whether discharges from any one operation can be substituted for fresh water supplied to another operation
- Choose conveying systems that use water efficiently
- Make sure that, waste materials are handled in a dry state if possible
- Supervise the replacement of worn-out equipment with water-saving models
- Instruct employees to use hoses sparingly and only when necessary
- Instruct employees to turn off all flows during shutdowns unless flows are essential for cleanup e.g. using solenoid valves to stop the flow of water when production stops
Fourthly, the manager should identify Practices/Processes where water can be reused:
- First rinses in wash cycles
- Can shredder, bottle crusher
- Filter back flush
- Caustic dilution
- Boiler makeup
- Refrigeration equipment — defrost
- Equipment cleaning, floor and gutter wash
- Clean-up procedures
Lastly, the manager should:
- Instruct employees in charge of cleaning not to hose down the floors but to sweep and shovel instead
- Make an inventory of all cleaning equipment, such as hoses, in the plant and determine how often equipment is used and whether it is water-efficient
- Supervise the occasional washing of cars, trucks and bus fleets.
- Instruct employees not to use water to clean driveways, loading docks, parking areas or sidewalks but instead use sweepers and vacuums
- Supervise the designing of landscapes that require less water
4. Water Conservation in Large Cities
As the population of humans increases, so does the cities. A bigger city means more use of water, but unfortunately the supply of this precious commodity is small. Therefore cities should implement water conservation methods and policies, which include:
- Rainwater harvesting
Rainwater harvesting is done by collecting rainwater on the roofs of buildings and using it immediately or storing it in water tanks for later use. Has many benefits that include: it is environmentally friendly, increases water availability and prevents soil erosion and flooding in urban areas.
- Reporting all significant water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, errant sprinklers, abandoned free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, or the local authorities.
- Encouraging schools and the local government to help develop and promote a water conservation ethic among children and adults.
- Supporting projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed waste water for irrigation and other uses.
- Supporting the efforts and programs that create a concern for water conservation for everyone in the city.
- Encouraging friends and neighbors to be part of a water-conscious community. Promote water conservation in community newsletters, and on bulletin boards.
The Water Conservation measures implemented by Homes, Large Cities, Agriculture and Industries shows that each one of us has an obligation as a human being and citizen of Earth to conserve our water resources. Water Conservation, together with Overcoming Food and Environmental Security, can enable us to achieve Sustainable Development.
- Living in the environment, G. Tyler Miller Jr, 12th Edition, Brooks/Cole-Thomson Learning, 2002.pp 312-314