The global water scarcity (Challenges / solutions)  

The purpose of this report is to discuss one of the most challenging global problems that we are facing nowadays which is ‘The global water scarcity’. In addition to investigating the main sectors that highly consume and waste water and how their high consumption can be addressed. Throughout this report 2 intervention strategies to the water scarcity challenge were discussed .One of them is more educational intervention and the other is a technical one .The first intervention is the world bank website for water scarcity. The second is an innovative irrigation way used in the corn farms in Italy and reduced the water consumption by 22 % .

 Methodology

In this report , the desktop research was mainly used to have deep insights to the water scarcity problem , its causes , the proposed solutions for this problem by the international researchers and finally the best practices and interventions made concerning this problem globally . A wide range of relevant scientific articles and books were accessed to support this research. The search terms used were ‘The global water scarcity issue’, ‘Agriculture water consumption’, ‘water scarcity solution’, These searches have returned a large number of results. These results were then filtered by the relevancy to the study research. In total, three articles were consulted in detail.

 Introduction

The water scarcity problem is one of the most challenging risks facing the world at various levels: social, economic, political and environmental. Especially when it is coupled with the continuously increasing demand on water as population continues to grow too . This problem is acting like an alarm for the human beings to manage the natural resource in a sustainable way with the appropriate infrastructure.

‘Although water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, only 4% is freshwater and only 0.5% of this water is suitable for human consumption, according to the U.N. More than 2.1 billion people still lack access to safely managed drinking water and about 40% of the global population face water scarcity’ (Facing The Problem Of Water Scarcity, 2017)

Water use is growing twice the rate of population increase in the last century, most important, the population growth and economic development are putting big pressure on water sources, especially in the arid regions. By 2025, 1800 million people are expected to live in countries with extreme water scarcity (

Global water consumption

The Global water consumption is mainly in 3 main sectors . Agricultural , municipal and industrial sector. As shown in the figure below , the water consumed in agriculture has the highest percentage with 38% of the total water consumption in the world and the waste water produced from agriculture has also 32% of the total water production in the world, so the agriculture contribution in total is 70% which is very high percent, while the water consumption in municipal and industrial have only a total of 6% and the waste water from both of them is in total 24% as well .Therefore this makes the agriculture the primary and the main reason of water consumption in the world.

Figure 2: water consumption and waste water production.

Source : https://www.webuildvalue.com/en/megatrends/facing-the-problem-of-water-scarcity.html

Challenges

The water we consume daily through the food we eat is way more than what we drink as we need from 2000 to 5000 liters of water to produce the food that one person consume daily.

Agriculture

Agriculture is both a major cause and casualty of water scarcity, while farming consume almost 70% of all water consumption and even up to 95% in some developing countries. However, there are some improvements that we can make regarding how we rationally use the water in agriculture and in producing food.

Intervention strategies

Nowadays , the responsibles for every industry are trying to optimize the water usage of their industries in planning , production practices and business models . ‘ According to the Sustainability Survey Poll on Water. The global opinion poll, which released a survey of more than 1,200 sustainability experts in March, the poll asked, “What are the technologies or changes in behavior which show the most promise for addressing water shortages over the next 10 years?” The experts’ responses generated 19 consensus solutions (“Experts Name the Top 19 Solutions to the Global Freshwater Crisis,” n.d.). Here are the 5 areas which scientists believe that solutions for water scarcity should start from :

  1. Education for optimized water consumption .
  2.  New water conservation technologies invention.
  3.  Waste water recycling .
  4.  Irrigation and agricultural practices improvement.
  5.  Appropriately price water.

However, the most important solutions that the report will be focused on are Water education to change consumption and lifestyles, and Irrigation and agricultural processes improvement.

 Case study 1

As mentioned in the previous section , spreading the education and awareness about the water consumption optimization schemes has a crucial role in dealing with the water scarcity challenge and it was considered as the main and most important solution in this challenge by the experts . Also sharing and discussing the latest techniques and interventions around the globe that can help in facing this challenge is an effective way to spread the knowledge about water usage optimization. The World Bank group created a website called Water Scarcity Solutions . This website is mainly concerned with giving clear written and visual illustration for the water scarcity problem , showing visualized data about the manging water use in scarce environments and providing various solutions for water scarcity issues all over the world. It mainly collect various water scarcity solutions from various regions and in different sectors as shown in the figure below .It presents different interventions in just 2 papers to exchange and spread water scarcity challenges & solutions.

Figure 3: water scarcity solutions

source: https://www.waterscarcitysolutions.org/7

 Case study 2

As mentioned in the global water section in this report , agriculture is the most water consuming and wasting sector when it was compared the municipal and industrial sections consumption .That is why our second case study is meant to discuss a technical intervention that already helped in a significant way in decreasing the water consumed and wasted in agriculture. In Italy , Corn has been produced for years . It has been very important to the Italian agricultural economy for decades.

a. Challenges

Corn production in Italy is constrained by limited and expensive water supply. The annual precipitation is a moderate 920mm/yr but farms is experiencing variable weather conditions during the corn growing season and increasing water costs. 75% of corn farms in Italy depend on water from municipalities which amounts to 30% of their annual costs. (2030 water resources group)

b. Intervention strategy

In a search for improved irrigation solutions, three farms near Milan, used a drip irrigation system coupled with soil moisture monitoring.

c. Objectives

This system allow farmers to irrigate only when needed, without stressing the plants by supplying too much or too little water along with providing precise application of fertilizers (fertigation), and thus minimizes the leaching of excess nutrients into the ground.

d. System features

This system consists mainly of :

  1. Drip irrigation systems as shown below .
  2.  Fertigation systems.
  3.  Soil moisture content monitoring.
  4.  Remote monitoring and sensing.

e. System mechanism

Drip irrigation is implemented in this system, coupled with soil moisture sensors.Automatic analysis of soil moisture and improvement of irrigation by a special software was implemented also,together with using fertilizers through drip irrigation.

f. Project main cores

(1) Soil moisture monitoring drip irrigation system

The main element of the irrigation system is the soil moisture monitoring system and the irrigation management software. It transmits data every 10 minutes. This data is automatically analyzed and it guides the irrigation system. As a result, there is a reduction in the plant stress so that a production of higher yield crop and less water consumption.

(2) Fertilization through drip irrigation system

Crop yield is more improved by a fertigation system that accurately delivers fertilizers through the drip irrigation system to the plant roots. This offers cost savings for farmers and reduced absorbance of nutrients into the soil.

(3) Partnership

The system has been developed through a partnership between Monsanto, NETAFIM™ who works in drip irrigation products, specialists in crop monitoring and the University of Milan. Extension services have been provided to farmers to evaluate the benefits of the system. The initial cost to install the system is around $1200 per hectare.

 Outcomes

Drip irrigation and the installation of soil moisture monitoring system showed a remarkable results as:

  1. Water withdrawals of the farms decreased by approximately 22% from the original 16 900m3 /yr to 13 100 m3 /yr
  2. Crop yield increased by 124% from the original 19.31 kg of dried matter per m3 of water with drum irrigation to 43.18kg/m3 with AquaTEK™.
  3. Reduced evaporation losses, reduced return flows and increased evapotranspiration.

 Conclusion

Water scarcity problems can be addressed through various mechanisms , The mechanism choice depends mainly on the type of the challenge and the region it takes place in . Through this report two intervention strategies were discussed . The first is an educational and awareness related one which is the world bank website ( Water Scarcity Solutions ) that aims at exchanging knowledge about water scarcity solutions across the globe .Finally,the second solution was discussed which is a technical one addressing the high water consumption in corn farms in Italy .This solution is drip irrigation coupled with soil moisture monitoring .This system proved to have an effective impact on saving the water used in corn farms irrigation by 22 % .

References

  • http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/880881/
  • https://www.waterscarcitysolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/71-C-Installation-of-soil-moisture-monitoring.pdf
  • https://www.webuildvalue.com/en/megatrends/facing-the-problem-of-water-scarcity.html
  • Facing The Problem Of Water Scarcity. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.webuildvalue.com/en/megatrends/facing-the-problem-of-water-scarcity.html
  • Facing The Problem Of Water Scarcity. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.webuildvalue.com/en/megatrends/facing-the-problem-of-water-scarcity.html
  • Facing The Problem Of Water Scarcity. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.webuildvalue.com/en/megatrends/facing-the-problem-of-water-scarcity.html