Sustainable water supplies
A sustainable water supply does not damage the natural environment, involves and benefits the local community, supports the local economy and can be applied to both HICs, NEEs and LICs. Water conservation, groundwater management, recycling and ‘grey water’ are all sustainable strategies that can be adopted.
Water conservation involves using water more sparingly and reducing waste. Examples of this include:
- Reducing water usage by installing water meters in homes and businesses.
- Using more efficient irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation rather than using sprinklers, which lead to greater rates of evaporation.
- Reducing leakages caused by broken pipes. Up to one-third of the global water supply is lost due to leaks. 3.3 billion litres of water is lost every year in the UK.
- Preventing water pollution of aquifers and rivers, therefore conserving freshwater supplies.
If aquifers are to be sustainable they need to be carefully managed in terms of water quality and quantity. Abstracting water from aquifers needs to be balanced by natural recharge (precipitation) or artificial recharge (pumping water into an aquifer) from rivers and lakes.
In some parts of the world, such as the Middle East, aquifers that were formed thousands of years ago when the climate was wetter (fossil aquifers) are now being exhausted.
In HICs, groundwater management is the responsibility of water companies who carefully monitor water tables and quality. Aquifers remain healthy due to the regulations imposed on them. Poor management of aquifers and groundwater can result in rivers drying up as the water table falls. This can have a detrimental impact on ecosystems.
Many families rely on unregulated groundwater, accessed through wells, in LICs. Due to the lack of sanitation pollution is common. Also, these water sources can become overused and depleted.
Some scientists have claimed every glass of drinking water contains dinosaur urine. The treatment and re-use of water is common throughout the world. Industrial and domestic wastewater can be treated and used for other purposes including electricity generation, irrigation and in industry.
‘Grey’ water is waste domestic water. It is increasingly being recycled and used both inside and outside the home. An example of this is when rainfall is captured then used to flush toilets.
In some water deficit areas around the world, such as Spain, houses are built with separate drinking water and ‘grey’ water systems.