Being Water Conscious: How Important Is It for Us and Our Environment?
The 21st century is often hailed as the age of computers with the world becoming smaller in a poetic sense. This is a result of major technological advances. As humans were heralding upon the fruits of their intelligence, we started moving away from the very system we were part of, Nature or Earth. Our callousness prompted us to think that all our shortcomings could be solved by technology. The idea of humans being the epicenter of the living system is an expansion of Shallow Ecology.
More or less, this idea has prompted unwarranted exploitation of natural resources by humans. With a prudent overbearing, in 1987, UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) introduced the term ‘Sustainable Development’ in its Brundtland report, which characterized ‘Development’ as a culmination of meeting both present and future needs of mankind. However, the future days were to show us to what extent our selfishness has made the onset of an apocalypse possible.
During 2019, the South Indian City of Chennai underwent an unprecedented water crisis with people forced to spend on an average, $161 per month for getting potable water. This made it unaffordable for even the city’s middle class as India’s Per Capita Income is US$ 151 . According to NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog’s recent water crisis report (2019), it is estimated that India’s 21 major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad are going to be water-deficient due to depletion of groundwater. The same report estimates that by 2030, 40% of the Indian population is going to have no access to drinking water. As a blame game is being played between the respective State and Central Governments with global warming-induced climate change as the sole culprit, experts point out that its gross mismanagement of water resources that have caused this havoc.
It is estimated that most of the water used by Indians for domestic, irrigational, and industrial purposes comes from underground. The unchecked urbanization happening in third world countries with an exponential rise in the human population is a cause of concern. This consists of the unplanned construction of buildings, roads, and other structures without any environmental safeguards. This has resulted in a drastic decrease in the quantity of land available for water infiltration to the groundwater source.
Another major concern is that industries in the developing and underdeveloped countries, due to neglect from the respective authorities, have been pumping their wastewater into the ground, which has caused serious groundwater quality depletion. As a result of which various environmental problems like microbial, chemical, and heavy metal contamination have been rampant in the Indian Sub-continent. As groundwater resources are being depleted due to groundwater recharge way behind the level of groundwater usage by the general populace in the Indian Subcontinent, it has become the need of the hour to reduce the usage of water in general, and recycle wastewater to reuse it for purposes other than drinking .
Water management can be of two types based on people concerned. It can be from individuals like in a household or a family and community based or in the larger context which involves the government. At the government level, India launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan in 2019 for the conservation of water. At the individual level, water management initiatives could take shape from the following:
1) Rooftop rainwater harvesting: The process of collecting and storing rainwater that falls on the rooftop of a house is called rooftop rainwater harvesting. When the storage gets filled with water, the surplus water is made to flow underground. The water collected from rain is purer than either open well or bore well water and becomes potable after primary filtration and chlorine disinfection . The South Indian state of Tamilnadu was the first state in India to make the construction of a rooftop rainwater harvesting system mandatory for the construction of a house in 2001 .
2) Wastewater management in a household: wastewater can be classified into two major types:
· Blackwater- the wastewater that is released from toilets and food waste sinks.
· Greywater- the wastewater that is released from bathtubs, bathrooms, washbasins, washing machines and floor cleaning
Blackwater is much too contaminated and cannot be reused without major treatment. However, Greywater can be reused without treatment for watering the plants or trees and for flushing toilets after use. After treatment, Greywater can achieve the level of standard for every domestic purpose other than drinking, including for bathing and washing clothes .
There are other sources of Greywater in a typical modern-day household with higher levels of water quality standard. This water comes from the air conditioning (AC) system and a Reverse Osmosis (RO) purification system installed in our house. In an AC system, water droplets are formed by absorbing the humidity in your vicinity, and in an RO system, there is a pipe for the outflow of RO concentrate. Both these kinds of water could be used for watering the plants and all the domestic purposes. For RO concentrate, it’s water quality depends on the source of water. RO concentrate with well-water and borewell water as the source could be reused for domestic purposes.
In agriculture, watershed management based on water budgeting and selective crop planting can show us the way towards sustainable water usage and management . These initiatives require awareness and the will to implement it by educating people about the way of sustainable living. Making societies water conscious can help underdeveloped and developing countries meet their 6th United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) of Clean Water and Sanitation for all.
- India’s per capita income rises 6.8 percent to 11,234 a month in FY20. Retrieved from https:/ /theprint.in/economy/indias-per-capita-income-rises-6–8-per-cent-to-rs-11254-a-month-in-fy20/346119/
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