Importance of Water
Water as a resource is critical to our very survival. It is a remarkable substance that is essential for life. Its most important use is as drinking water. Besides this, it is also used for many other purposes – cleaning, washing and bathing and in factories. All these uses can make water dirty. Dirty water is not fit for drinking. We can fall ill if we drink dirty water. So, water needs to be purified before it is used.
The importance of water- the most precious of natural resource and especially in the context of its relevance to human beings and modern countries – cannot be overstated. It is the utilization of water that necessitates the movement of water from the source to areas where human civilization resides – urban, semi-urban and rural. However, with fresh water constituting only a very small proportion of the enormous quantity of water available on earth (with world oceans themselves covering three-fourth of earth’s surface), water conservation and water resources management issues come to the fore and have been acknowledged by world and unilateral development and natural resources organizations and bodies. What is effectively available for consumption and other uses is a small proportion of the quantity available in rivers, lakes and ground water. To be sure, the importance of water has been recognized and their more equitable distribution to all segments of the world population has been emphasized. Further, greater emphasis is being laid on its economic use and better management.
Water management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and optimum use of water resources under defined water polices and regulations. It includes:
(1) management of water treatment of drinking water, industrial water, sewage or waste water; (2) management of water resources; (3) management of flood protection; (4) management of irrigation; (5) management of the water table. In an ideal world, water management planning has regard, to all the competing demands for water and seeks to allocate water on an equitable basis to satisfy all uses and demands. This is rarely possible in practice.
Successful management of any resources requires accurate knowledge of the resource available, the uses to which it may be put, the competing demands for the resource, measures to and processes to evaluate the significance and worth of competing demands and mechanisms to translate policy decisions into actions on the ground.
For water as a resource, this is particularly difficult since sources of water can cross many national boundaries and the uses of water include many that are difficult to assign financial value to and may also be difficult to manage in conventional terms. Examples include rare species or ecosystems or the very long term value of ancient ground water reserves.
Water is an essential resource for all life on the planet. Of the water resources on Earth only three per cent of it is not salty and two-thirds of the freshwater is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. Of the remaining one per cent, a fifth is in remote, inaccessible areas and much seasonal rainfall in monsoonal deluges and floods cannot easily be used. At present only about 0.08 per cent of the entire world’s fresh water is exploited by mankind in ever increasing demand for sanitation, drinking, manufacturing, leisure and agriculture.
Much effort in water management is directed at optimizing the use of water and in minimizing the environmental impact of water use on the natural environment.
Need of Water, for Agriculture
Agriculture is the largest user of the world’s freshwater resources, consuming 70 per cent. As the world’s population rises and consumes more food (currently exceeding 6 per cent, it is expected to reach 9 per cent by 2050), industries and urban developments expand, and the emerging bioftiel crops trade also demands a share of freshwater resources, water scarcity is becoming an important issue. An assessment of water management in agriculture was conducted in 2007 by the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka to see if the world had sufficient water to provide food for its growing population. It assessed the current availability of water for agriculture on a global scale and mapped out locations suffering from water scarcity. It found that a fifth of the world’s people, more than 1.2 billion, live in areas of physical water scarcity, where there is not enough water to meet all demands. A further 1.6 billion people live in areas experiencing economic water scarcity, where the lack of investment in water or insufficient human capacity makes it impossible for authorities to satisfy the demand for water.
The report found that it would be possible to produce the food required in future, but that continuation of today’s food production and environmental trends would lead to crises in many parts of the world. Regarding food production, the World Bank targets agricultural food production and water management as an increasingly global issue that is fostering an important and growing debate.
An integrated approach is the need of the hour. Top priority is fresh water conservation by stopping seepage and increasing storage through watershed development and rainwater harvesting. By recycling industrial effluents and domestic sewage, we can significantly reduce use of fresh water, and it should be made mandatory for all new projects. Good water management is so urgent, critical and gigantic a task; it needs collaborative efforts between public, private and voluntary sectors and particularly community participation.
Conservation of water through recycle of industrial effluent and domestic sewage will reduce use of fresh water by 50 per cent. Small industries which now contribute most of the pollution in our country should be helped with incentives and encouraged to treat their effluents before discharge into common effluent treatment plants which could treat the water and return it for reuse.
The water treatment industry must focus on how to make more fresh water available, by promoting concepts of rainwater harvesting and watershed development and at the same time, take more initiatives in developing cost-effective technologies for conservation of water through its recycling. In other words, a total water management approach is needed and techniques must also increasingly utilize less or no chemicals and less energy.
Future of Water Resources
One of the biggest concerns for our water-based resources in the future is the sustainability of the current and even future water resource allocation. As water becomes scarcer, the importance of how it is managed grows vastly. Finding a balance between what is needed by humans and what is needed in the environment is an important step in the sustainability of water resources. Attempts to create sustainable freshwater systems have been seen on a national level in countries such as Australia and South Africa, and such commitment to the environment could set a model for the rest of the world.
The field of water resources management will have to continue to adapt to the current and future issues facing the allocation of water. With the growing uncertainties of global climate change and the long term impacts of management actions, the decision-making will be even more difficult. It is likely that ongoing climate change will lead to situations that have not been encountered. As a result new management strategies will have to be implemented in order to avoid setbacks in the allocation of water resources.
Managing Water Resources
The primary objective of water management is to save the main resources of water supply. For this knowledge of all the resources is required. Management relates that water should be clean and it must be potable so that it should be easily available to the people who need it. Water management is a wide topic; it not only relates with clean supply of water but also with sewerage management and wetland restoration. In 1977 collaboration was formed for wastewater and sewage treatment know-how with Ames Crosta Babcock (ACB) of UK, well-known leaders in the field for decades.
One area of water management deals with handling the water present in the nature. This includes monitoring the amount of water in the environment, seasonal and annual changes in water levels. Flood prevention and purifying the water to make it germ-free are also the part of water management.
As water is necessary for all fields – whether it is an industry, agriculture, and house-hold purpose – its demand is at the peak. So, proper distribution among all fields is also vital task. Monitoring water use in these areas also allows governments to be proactive about industrial and agricultural pollution. Water scarcity may not be an immediate issue in all areas of the world, but many communities accept that there are growing pressures on water supplies and thinking ahead about water security is advisable.
How to Overcome the Problem
Water harvesting: While water harvesting has become the need of the hour, there aren’t many who know about it. It is advisable that we talk to someone who understands water harvesting for getting advice.
From the tank, filtered water is used either for non-drinking purposes or sent deep down into the ground through a PVC pipe to recharge groundwater. The cost for the entire operation can be as low as Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 per household. The expenditure can be lower if the project is taken up by local residents’ welfare associations, which can identify existing dried-up or unused wells or even bored lines to send the water down. The system requires maintenance once or twice a year, at very little cost. It has to be remembered that rainwater harvesting means that we have got to get involved and build a relationship with water.
Water is getting scarce and we need to conserve it. This no doubt is true but another pressing reason why we should know about the water we consume. Most of us living in big cities get water from far away. Delhi, for instance, sources its water also from the Uttarakhand hills of Tehri. At intermittent stages of its long travel to our city, the water is pumped ahead. This means burning of energy. Once it reaches the city, it goes into water treatment plants and then pumped into the city network of pipes until it reaches our home. And this means more burning of energy. Each of us consumes this water and, therefore, adds to the total energy consumption. If we get water from nearby sources, we can save on energy.
Since these sources are drying up and are inadequate for everyone’s consumption, the thing to do is to recycle water and to harvest it. That way we not only save on a scarce resource but also reduce the state’s burden on emissions. Water harvesting is all very good but we are required to know how to do it.
A basic rainwater harvesting system consists of a catchment area, a harvesting tank and a channel to take the water deep into the ground. So, first you need an area that directly receives rainfall, say, the terrace or a paved courtyard. This is the catchment area. Water that collects here has to be directed into the harvesting tank-in other words, pipes or channels leading to it.
It is a good idea to put a coarse mesh at the mouth of the outlet to prevent debris from flowing with the water. Also, the water collection from the first shower is often discarded, as it is usually the dirtiest. The bottom of the harvesting tank is a filter bed. It is usually made of three layers of one foot each—boulders gravel and sand. Charcoal is also used as a layer of filter. These days architects, plumbers and masons are fairly well clued into these techniques and designs.
When it rains, some of the water seeps into the ground. This water passes through the soil and the porous rock below it. It collects over rock that does not allow it to seep through any further. This water is called underground water. We draw underground water with the help of wells and tube wells. The level of underground water in a place is called water table.