Water water every-WHERE?
71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water but cities throughout the world have started facing the impending crisis of water scarcity at an alarming rate as overdevelopment, population growth, and climate change upset the equilibrium between water demand and supply. While the city of Cape Town just escaped by a whisker from declaring itself in a state of natural disaster immediately and postponed what it called ‘Day Zero’ to 2019, the shrinking reservoirs in Morocco, India, Iraq, Spain indicate that they might be fast approaching their respective day zeros when the water taps in these countries will run absolutely dry.
It is hard to fathom the perilous situation because the visibly massive waterbodies on the face of the planet mislead us to foster a state of denial. However, the fact is that only 2.5% of water in these waterbodies accounts for freshwater and only 1% is accessible and fit for human consumption because the rest is locked up in ice and snow. Governments are looking at ‘Desalination’ of water from the seas to make it potable before they have to resort to stringent consumption restrictions but the energy and the technology required to desalinate water are tremendously expensive. It also comes with an environmental cost as the marine life can get sucked into desalination plants, killing them and upsetting the food chain. The separated salt which is left over as a very concentrated brine has no legit way to be disposed-off either.
World leaders have been facing resistance to an increased tariff on water especially since the UN has recognised water as a human right in 2010. Despite the UN Officials making it clear that the right to water does not mean right to free water and that people are expected to pay for safe water as they do for food, the protests are ever increasing. We need to understand that it is absolutely indispensable for the governments to charge for water because it is expending at a disturbing rate and money is required for the last resort that is desalination. A proposed solution to ease the resistance from public is differential pricing. A minimum amount should be charged for the quantity of water that is sufficient for basic needs and anything beyond the necessary amount should be charged more much like the electricity is in India.
So how did Cape Town manage to defer its doom even by a few months?
The answer, A massive perspective shift regarding people’s relationship with water.
While the authorities banned the use of potable water to irrigate gardens, wash cars or top-up swimming pools and proposed the construction of an underground railway network which would solve the dual problem of traffic & water harvesting and most naturally require a lot of time, financial & infrastructural resources, the residents of the city voluntarily cut down water usage in order to sustain the available quantity till a more permanent solution is executed. They have internalized the fact that the only way out is to drop the water abuse.
Restaurants are incorporating the use of biodegradable disposable cutlery which avoids the hassle of washing utensils in turn saving copious amounts of water, some are even restricting their menus to cold dishes in order to skip the entire water boiling process. JOJO Tanks being used both at an individual and a corporate level are very popular in South Africa for water harvesting and storage. Musicians are cutting down the duration of their songs to 2 minutes so that when the song is over, so is the shower.
The current grave situation makes us ponder about other innovative options prevalent around the world that can be scaled up or down to save water or in the least, make it accessible to remote areas. BabyDam is one such great product which cuts down water wastage by segregating a smaller portion out of the entire bath tub so that only an appropriate quantity of water is used in the bath.
Lifestraw is another product which can be used to purify contaminated water providing greater access to previously inaccessible sources of water with the help of an in-built filter. For every Lifestraw product bought, a school child receives safe water for an entire school year.
Inequality in access to water is also quickly becoming a problem. Millions of women and children walk several hours each day to collect water with heavy 20l / 5gal buckets, balanced on their heads to transport it from the source to their areas of dwelling. Hippo Water Roller makes it extremely easy to collect water in tough rural conditions. It improves health and hygiene and makes more water and time available for education, household tasks and food production.
As the charities deliver grains or other common supplies to the countries, the regular sacks are replaced by the Life Sack. After the said grains have been either stored or used, the Life Sack can be reused as the water purifier.
On an individual level however, there is a dire need to identify the situation of crisis that has dawned upon us. We all know that the tap must not be left running while brushing teeth or taking a shower but most of us are not careful enough to actually implement it. It is high time we snap out of the denial and incorporate a few habits in our day to day life to avert the doom. A few ways to do your bit are enlisted below:
Avoid installing water decorations at your homes or workplaces that serve no purpose other than ornamentation
Match the water fill to the appropriate size of laundry or dishes being done. Do not operate on half load
Check your hoses and pipes for leaks. Cut off the water supply to any part of the house where it is never used. An unoperated water connection can also cause loss of a significant amount
Install water saving devices like a low flow shower head or taps which much less outflow rate than the traditional ones
Only order water in a restaurant if you’re actually going to drink it!
For entrepreneurs looking for truly life changing business ideas, this problem presents several opportunities. Startups investing in scalabale solutions to clean sea water, recycle dirty water & make water preserving solutions can lead to next unicorn companies.
P.S. If the above information does not inspire you incorporate a better attitude towards water conservation, click here for a small panic attack which is bound to invoke action.