Every drop counts

We need to realise the importance of efficient water-conservation to prevent future crisis

Every drop countsWater, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

These lines from S.L.Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner aptly express the world's existing state. Although 80 per cent of the earth is covered with water, only three per cent is fresh. Out of this too, only a thin margin is drinkable. Despite having such a marginal supply of this meagre resource, there is no consciousness for its preservation.

Global water consumption rose almost tenfold in the last century, and many parts of the world are now reaching the limits of their supply. Populations continue to increase while water supplies dwindle. To highlight this growing problem, the United Nations declared 2003 to be The International Year of Freshwater. According to the UN, if current trends continue, "two out of every three people on earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in little more than two decades from now. The United States too has realised the worth of this scarce resource. In 2003, the US Department of Interior has submitted a report - Water 2025 - for management of water before this condition becomes a crisis.

Hence, it is time we also gear-up to face the calamity looming ahead.

Threats

Fresh water is available as surface water [lakes, ponds, rivers and reservoirs] and groundwater [below the earth].

The quality of fresh water is under constant threat from various factors like --

  • Waste disposal units of the industries and general populace regularly contaminate the fresh water.
  • Mines divert water for their operations thus lowering the water table. The drainage from mines further degenerate the water quality.
  • The farmers ply their crops with a host of fertilisers, that seep to the ground water and increase the level of nitrates in it. Intake of such water interferes with the blood's ability to transport oxygen, causing difficulty in breathing.
  • Constant urbanisation, cemeteries, sewage disposal, septic tanks and drains all add up to the degradation of water quality.

Water conservation

It is important to conserve the quality as well as quantity of freshwater. Here are two methods for the same -

Rain water harvesting

Rain is a source of freshwater. Every year some part of the country is deluged by torrential rains. This water is precious and should be conserved. Rain water is fresh and hence can be utilised. In rural areas, rainwater gets seeped into the earth and ground water gets recharged. However, in the urban areas due to constructions and modernisation this does not happen. The rain splattering on the roof usually flows down into the sewer, lost forever. Instead you can install a rainwater harvesting system, in which PVC pipes are used to collect the rainwater from the roof of the house and guided to an empty well after going through a filtration unit. Water provided this way may not be fit for drinking but it works quiet well for domestic use, livestock and irrigation. This water also seeps into the earth and raises the water table. New buildings are making the rain water harvesting system an essential part of their design. This system has solved the water woes of many places in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Flood plain reservoirs

Our country is truly a land of contrast. It gets dried up by draughts and deluged by rains. It makes sense to use the excess of one to stabilise the other. One such method is the flood plain reservoir. Reservoirs are dug at appropriate locations in the flood plains and are used to store the excess water during the rainy season. Currently, a large portion of the monsoon rain water goes unutilised. These reservoirs, though not drinkable, will provide for a large range of domestic and agricultural usage. It will also recharge the groundwater.

Similarly, abandoned pits, ponds and historical water bodies can also be used to store rain water.

What you can do

An individual can contribute a lot towards water conservation. Small changes in the living pattern will yield favourable results easily. One of the major ways people can help is by recycling grey water - water discarded from dishwashers, washing machines and other kitchen units. It is not very dirty and can be reused for outdoor cleaning and irrigation. Never throw water down the drain if it can be reused. Some of the ways in which you can contribute are as follows:-

  • Use a washing machine that consumes less amount of water. Always operate on a lower level of water rather than the higher. The grey water generated can be used for cleaning or washing floors too.
  • While working in the kitchen or bathroom, do not let the water run. Close the tap immediately after use. Employ lower volume faucets to prevent loss of water.
  • The water discarded after washing vegetables can be reused for watering plants.
  • Fix all leaks and drips immediately to avoid wastage of water.
  • Do not flush toilets unnecessarily. Employ toilet displacement devices to reduce the amount of water flushed each time the toilet is used. They are inexpensive and save up to 13 per cent of water that otherwise would go literally down the drain.
  • Showers use more water, so they should be used sparingly. Do away with bathtubs too. Buckets are the best.
  • Use water in buckets while washing cars and watering plants. If you must use a hose, install a squeeze flow nozzle that will prevent wastage of water.
  • Use a pool cover to prevent water loss through evaporation. Neutralise the water before draining and utilise it for watering the lawn or washing the cars. Do not fill the pool up to the brim and thereby save water from splashing.
  • Avoid water overflow while filling up overhead tanks. Use alarm devices that warn you when the tank is full.

The first and foremost thing to be change, is our mindset towards water conservation. If everyone decides not to waste water, we will find ways and means do accomplish that. So if you are convinced, try and spread the message. Begin with your kids. Teach them the importance of water conservation. Let them recycle water to stretch its usage. Think of the earth as the legacy we are leaving behind for our kids. As we nurture our portfolio to leave behind a large amount of money, treat the earth in the similar manner. After all, every individual can make a difference in the effort to conserve water, a most precious resource.

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Shalini Mehra
Shalini Mehra is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. Her articles have been published widely in the print as well as the web media. Subjects like health, alternative remedies and parenting are her forte.

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