One of the inevitable consequences of climate change is disappearing of fresh water resources. As temperatures become higher and weather becomes drier, the increasing number of people, especially in the developing world, is already forced to deal with water scarcity, and the issue is only going to get worse.
What is interesting about it, however, is that although many of us are aware of what is happening, we still waste huge amount of water through various practices, and we selfishly follow the approach “it is not in my backyard so I do not have to deal with it.” Let’s have a look at some of the most common ways people waste water, and the different measures we could take in order to preserve as much of the precious resource as possible.
Problem 1. The first, and probably most detrimental source of waste water is agriculture. Statistics show that irrigation practices take up around 70% of the world’s fresh water supply. Of course the process is extremely important because it ensures food availability, however wrong irrigation practices lead to extreme runoff and huge water waste. In most cases, the excess runoff water goes directly to streams and rivers, which causes fertilizers to pollute the water bodies, and initiate algal blooms and extreme eutrophication, endangering marine habitats.
Solution. Introducing irrigation systems, which guarantee that water is efficiently injected right in the roots of the plants, will ensure minimal run off. Such systems are already used in some agricultural areas in Israel, although it is slightly far-fetched to expect that all countries would be able to afford them. But there are some cheaper intermediate solutions that can be implemented, including covering of crops to reduce evaporation and using sprinklers for less runoff.
Problem 2. You have probably used or at least heard the phrase “my neighbor’s lawn is always greener” at least once in your life. Leaving the figurative meaning aside, a green lawn is maintained when lots and lots of water is used. It is established that these desired green gardens are the most water-demanding features of cities and towns, and yet people will do anything to keep them as green as possible, regardless of the cost.
Solution. The only way to minimize the damage is for city officials to introduce tighter regulations. This could of course be done by providing incentives to residents, who replace their non-native and very thirsty grass with plants that are more suitable for arid climates and do not require extensive and constant irrigation.
Problem 3. Back to agriculture, this time focusing on poor crop selection. Although it seems quite obvious to plant crops that are more likely to survive in particular climates, it is surprising how many farmers in arid regions prefer to look after plants that require a lot more water than typical for the area crops, putting enormous pressure on water resources.
Solution. Governments will have to have the final say again, and ensure that the economy of the country is tuned with the climate conditions. If the country is located in a dry region, then there is not much else that can be done except encourage farmers to grow less thirsty crops.
Problem 4. Follow up on the crop selection, often simply choosing a more drought-resistant crop is not a solution in some regions, where there should be a complete change in the irrigation system. Unfortunately, many are failing to acknowledge this.
Solution. The different stages of the crop harvest require different amount of water, lets say when leaves or fruits are formed. Farmers should be made aware of this and try to optimize the process in order to be able to produce more with much less water.
Problem 5. And now, let’s move away from agriculture and plants, and go a bit closer to home. Brushing our teeth or flushing the toilet, generates so much waste water, it is way too hard to believe that this cannot be reused.
Solution. Everyone is aware of the best solution, and yet no one does anything about it. Huge percentage of waste water is treated through sewage systems, in the U.S. the current figures indicate that around 70% of the waste water is treated. But if this is the case, why is it not used for irrigation, freeing more clean freshwater for drinking? Only 4% of the treated waste water is put back into use. The solution is there, now we only need to implement it- use up these treated water resources.