Water: A vital resource that is running out

World Water Day: Could sustainable and natural solutions solve the problem of water scarcity?

Since 1993, World Water Day has been observed every 22nd of March. The day is an initiative driven by the United Nations to discuss how to sustainably manage our most precious resource. The main theme this year is the exploration of nature-based solutions (NBS), a strategy which aims to help balance the water cycle through ecological processes and mitigate the issues generated by climate change.

 

World Water Day | 22nd of March

The Answer is Nature

  • Creation of rooftop gardens and the re-utilization of second-hand water
  • Storage of rainwater
  • Reforestation and the protection of existing green spaces
  • Taking care of underground water sources
  • Recycling wastewater
  • Green Infrastructure
  • 844 million people in the world don’t have access to drinking water

Climate change, population growth, contamination of water sources, and changing consumption habits are all contributing to the growing specter of global water shortage.

On World Water Day 2018, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres painted a grim picture of our current situation, stating that 2 billion people lack access to safe water and more than 3 billion are affected by the scarcity of water. He went on to say that by 2050, “at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water will be chronic or recurrent.”(1)

The United Nations Development Program has recognized the seriousness of this situation and established an ambitious sustainable development objective: universal access to drinking water for the entire world population by 2030. With this target, the UN is taking a firm stance on drinking water as a human right and guaranteeing that this issue be recognized in any socio-economic development plan. To further draw attention to this problem and help mobilize world leaders, the UN has also launched Water Action Decade (2018-2028), dedicating ten years to tackling the world’s water crisis.

Water network operators are at the forefront of this worldwide mission. These companies have the responsibility to take a leading role in the design and execution of sustainable plans to mitigate water scarcity, implement technology to improve water efficiency and contribute to the protection and rehabilitation of water ecosystems.

The UN is assisting water utilities in their efforts by providing water management strategies designed to help reduce the global usage of water resources, protect public health and safeguard the environment.

Underpinning these strategies is the concept of nature-based solutions (NBS), a design philosophy which focuses on the use of natural processes to solve water issues. Some of the principle NBS strategies include: restoring wetlands, developing green infrastructure in urban areas, and the use of groundwater aquifers or surface water reservoirs as a buffer for treated wastewater.

In urban settings, “green infrastructure” is quickly gaining recognition as a workable NBS which promises to improve city life while contributing to water management goals. Green infrastructure involves the use of ecological processes to replace traditional industrial or “gray infrastructure” water management techniques. Rooftop gardens and rain gardens are two common examples of green infrastructure which are quickly gaining recognition as viable stormwater management techniques in urban centers.

As governments and water operators focus more on sustainable water management, nature-based solutions are likely to play a big role in solving the global water crisis. To help water utilities take up this challenge, technology providers are developing software solutions to support new business models and help free up the resources needed to pursue innovation and sustainable growth.

(1) https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/03/22/world/ap-un-united-nations-world-water-day.html

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