Water scarcity is one the biggest environmental problems faced around the world today. This problem is endured by a vast number of countries worldwide but the type and severity of water crisis experienced differs. The situation worsens when access to safe and potable water becomes extremely challenging.
While this is the reality for various parts of the world, it’s not yet too late to do something about it. Whether it is the small ways to conserve water in your household or through more extensive measures such as building canals, there’s always something everyone can do to help. Here are five different ways in which different countries are managing their water shortage crisis across the globe:
Managing Scarce Water in Arizona
Arizona is one of the driest states in the US, experiencing a desert climate with mild winters and extremely hot summers. The entire state is heavily reliant on the waters of the Colorado River But, it is no longer certain how much people can rely on the river. A 22-year megadrought and growing demands across the Colorado River Basin have depleted the river, pushing Western reservoirs to historic lows and triggering the first-ever federally declared water shortages.
Realizing the seriousness of its water shortage crisis, the Arizona state established the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a vast 336-mile canal system built with pumps, tunnels, and pipelines that transports around 500 billion gallons of water each year from the Colorado River. CAP moves this immense amount of water across the desert and 3,000 feet uphill to Arizona’s densely populated central corridor with major cities such as Phoenix and Tucson, where 80% of the state’s residents live. CAP helped replenish groundwater levels in its coverage area, but most people continue to rely on aquifers for about 40% of their water supply.
Singapore Recycles Water for Drinking
Urban water supply poses a huge challenge for civic bodies since most rivers and water bodies get polluted with waste water. While disposal of this sewage water becomes a major hassle, finding more fresh water is equally challenging. The vast majority of large metro cities are struggling to tackle this challenge every day.
Singapore, known for finding innovative solutions to all its problems, has found an interesting solution in waste water recycling. Since it is a tiny island nation, it has to rely on its neighbour Malaysia for most of its water supply. To boost self-sufficiency, the government developed an advanced system for treating sewage and make it potable by involving a network of tunnels and high-tech filtering plants. While most is used for industrial purposes, some of it is added to drinking water supplies in reservoirs in the city-state of 5.7 million people. Recycled wastewater now meets 40% of Singapore’s water demand, which is in contrast to most other countries where 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated.
Israel – Innovative Use of Desert Water
There are various human habitats across the world that are extremely arid and water scarce. But none of them compare with the best in water conservation – Israel. The water-stressed country is dominated with deserts and dry regions and yet, it has accomplished such feats in water management that it has become a leading beacon for others to emulate. Nearly 60% of the land is desert and since 1948, Israel’s population has grown 10-fold.
Israel uses its groundwater and lakewater, but key to its water security are efforts such as drilling deep wells, massive desalination, reusing treated sewage for farming, finding and fixing leaks early, engineering crops to thrive in onerous conditions, discouraging gardening, making efficient toilets mandatory, and pricing water to discourage waste. However, the most striking initiative of all is its ‘drip irrigation’ technique that precisely drops water to each plant’s roots. This innovation has enabled the water-stressed country to grow its own food with limited water resources.
Cape Town Barely Escapes Day Zero
In 2018, Cape Town in South Africa was suddenly all over the global news coverage due to its water crisis. After three years of poor rainfall, the city was approaching something called ‘Day Zero’ when there will be no water to supply its 4.1 million population. Alarmed by this water crisis, Cape Town municipal authorities introduced strict restrictions to limit the water volumes allowed, also restricted what the water was used for. Filling swimming pools, washing cars, and fountains were all banned. Another method of curbing use saw the city reduce the water pressure, which both cut overall consumption as well as decreased the loss through leaks.
Alongside measures targeted at domestic use, Cape Town also called on the agricultural and commercial sectors. Hard limits on agricultural water quotas were introduced. Having been threatened by one of the worst-ever drought-induced municipal water crises, residents became water-wise. By changing a city’s habits, along with the welcome return of some rain, Cape Town managed to avert the worst of the water scarcity crisis.
Cleaning up Ganga River
The river Ganga or Ganges is revered as the holiest river in India, where most Hindus go to wash their sins. However, since independence, India experienced a massive era of industrialization that severely polluted the river. Raw sewage from industries and households poured directly into the river, earning it the top rank among the top most polluted rivers in the world!
In 2015, the government launched the Namami Gange or National Mission for Clean Ganga with an indicative cost of INR20,000 crore to build infrastructure and non-infrastructure development towards rejuvenating river Ganga. The projects directly related to the cleaning process include the development of sewerage infrastructure, industrial effluent treatment plants, rural sanitation, and river surface cleaning.
Steps taken to improve water quality included control of source pollution by establishing wastewater treatment plants in all the towns located on Ganga river and its tributaries, construction of crematoria, river surface cleaning activities, solid waste management on the riverbanks and floodplains and refraining trash from drains falling into river Ganga by installation of trash racks at the mouth of drains. Since 2015, Ganga’s water quality has improved significantly, with the entire length of the river having more dissolved oxygen than the prescribed minimum level.