“A drop of water is more than a sack of gold to a thirsty man.”
Water, the most crucial natural resource, sometimes also referred as ‘Blue Gold’ is essential for survival of species on this planet. Water harbors life, spanning from the maintenance of climatic systems by ocean circulation, to rivers sourcing life, streams & lakes as micro ecological habitats. About 71% of earth’s surface is water out of which only 3% comprises of the freshwater resources. Nearly 70% of the freshwater resources are trapped in the glaciers and polar ice caps, while rest of it is groundwater and surface water like streams, rivers & lakes. This leaves us with limited water resources, which in recent times has been worsened as a consequence of rapid industrialization & urbanization.
Water Scarcity is one the most important underlying consequences of the changing climate. IPCC’s technical report on Climate Change & Water concludes that, ‘Despite global increases in rainfall, many dry regions including the Mediterranean and Southern Africa will suffer badly from reduced rainfall and increased evaporation’. The World Economic Forum ranked water crisis as number one in its assessment of top long term global risks. Thus, meeting the water supplies in the coming times would be a daunting task!
Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources
Water resources are essential to both society and ecosystems. We depend on water for almost everything, from agriculture, energy production, navigation, domestic purposes, manufacturing and what not! These uses put pressure on water resources that are likely to be exacerbated by Climate Change. Post 1950’s, the effects of Climate Change were felt everywhere and water bodies faced the wrath in different forms. With the expansion of cities, there was an increase in production of sewage. Improper disposal and incessant dumping of waste in the water bodies led to pollution. At most of the places, waste was a threat to the riverine-marine ecosystem and was potent enough to jeopardize survival. Release of industrial effluents in the river bodies intensified the problem of eutrophication, which results in dense growth of plant life due to excessive richness of nutrients in a water body.
Water Conservation and Policies
In this predicted future scenario of acute water scarcity and pollution, the worst impact is going to be on developing countries of Asia and Africa. Due to unavailability of resources and lack of adaptation-mitigation strategies, there is an urgent need to look into the situation. Such is the importance of water, that an entire Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) has been dedicated to it. SDG 6 ‘Water and Sanitation’ aims at achieving equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, in addition to maintaining sanitation and hygiene by the year 2030. In order to achieve the SDGs, climate change adaptation will have to build climate resilience.
The National Action Plan on Climate Change has one of its mission on water called the, ‘National Water Mission’. It has been mounted to ensure integrated water resource management helping to conserve water, minimize wastage and ensure more equitable distribution both across and within states. The adaptation strategies to cope up with water scarcity must equip the societies better to withstand shocks and disasters.
Strategizing Water Conservation
Following are some of the proposed steps that can be taken for addressing the present state of scarcity.
- Continued investment in education and research will be essential to provide the knowledge, skills and technology needed to combat fresh water scarcity in the future.
- Nature based solutions such as mangroves protecting the shorelines from storms, lakes storing large water supplies, floodplains absorbing excess water runoff.
- Going back to the traditional ways of harvesting water, like the stepwells and tankas are a key part of water conservation strategy. Working with these natural infrastructures would not only optimize the performance but also reap financial benefits in comparison to engineered infrastructure.
- Also, transitioning the inputs by ‘think tanks’ and policy-makers of the society into a meaningful dialogue are essential.
- Discharge of treated effluents from the industries in the water bodies would prove less harmful to the aquatic organisms. Thus, stringent laws should come into picture.
- Outreach also plays a crucial role where different sections of the society need to come together and develop measures to conserve water at local level since the revolution begins from home.
As millennia’s and the future agents of change, one can inculcate sustainable lifestyles to help save the water. Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water’. Why should we actually wait for all the wells to dry up? We have the power to take short showers, let’s start valuing this indispensible natural resource!