We’ve added new content. Read new case studies on water efficiency
, smart water
, the social impacts
of water scarcity in Indian villages, and green infrastructure
in the Chesapeake Bay. Read More
As water scarcity threatens agricultural productivity, increases household and business expenses, and drains local treasuries, water needs to be approached in a new way.
On a community level water restrictions have become one method for reserving water. Water restrictions have been used in times of critical water shortage by either increasing rates to discourage use of water or by placing restrictions on the use of water by citizens for certain uses and times. Restrictions have included establishing days and times for irrigation, restricting water usage to wash vehicles, add to pools, or to use for aesthetic purposes like fountains and recreational parks.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Will Your City Run Dry?: Help decrease the risk of water shortage for your city.
Water usage can also be addressed on the home level. Water use per household in America ranges from anywhere between 50 to 150 gallons per day, and most is potable water. The following actions have been identified as ways citizens and homes can become more water efficient, while protecting against growing scarcity:
- Switching to green cleaning products that do not pollute groundwater
- Using a water filtering system instead of bottled water for drinking
- Installing a foot pedal or smart-touch faucet to control the sink for easy-on, easy-off water flow and water-saving washing machines
- Cutting down on unconscious water waste in the bathroom, including water-saving toilets
- Installing rainwater capture and storage systems
As population increases and droughts become more frequent, considering more efficient ways to manage water supplies not only allows for continued access to water but also cuts down costs of individual water bills.
Addressing the Concerns of Operations and Maintenance as a Technical Barrier to the Adoption of Green Infrastructure
The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes six different states as well as the District of Columbia and is home to 17 million people. Within the watershed, a variety of land uses (ranging from forests to agriculture to urban areas) impacts the health of the region's 140 major rivers and streams, lakes, and 11,684 miles of shoreline.
Currently, large volumes of polluted runoff flow untreated directly into local waters or overwhelm the capacity of storm sewers, resulting in sewage overflows in places with combined systems, and the Chesapeake Bay has become one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country. However, green infrastructure provides a cost-effective approach to manage this polluted runoff.
Green infrastructure practices manage urban runoff to protect clean water by capturing and infiltrating rainwater where it falls. From green roofs to rain gardens, green infrastructure provides multiple benefits, not just to the environment but to the surrounding communities as well, by improving air quality and increasing green space.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Growing Blue® Tool: Designed to help us find solutions to our water issues now.
These challenges were analyzed in two companion reports produced by American Rivers and Green for All. One of the major obstacles identified by the report is the uncertainty around how green infrastructure will be maintained.
Ongoing operations and maintenance was repeatedly raised as a technical barrier to the adoption of green infrastructure. The reports identify these key challenges:
- Financing operations and maintenance for green infrastructure
- Lack of awareness or poor public perception of green infrastructure
- Limited training and certification in green infrastructure operations and maintenance
- Minimal or ineffective enforcement and inspection procedures
This report was followed up with an examination of the opportunity provided by green infrastructure for creating entry-level jobs in the green sector, which would further address the “limited training and certification” barrier that was previously identified. The report demonstrated that green infrastructure investments are already showing successful private/public/nonprofit partnerships that protect the environment, increase access to economic opportunities, and improve social conditions of disadvantaged groups.
The reports conclude that as a cost-effective strategy to comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, some cities will see enough green infrastructure work in the coming decades to support a new industry that installs, supplies, maintains and monitors green infrastructure.
Staying Green and Growing Jobs
Increased water scarcity impacting Indian families
Poor management, unclear laws, government corruption, and industrial and human waste have caused a water crisis in India that is exacerbated by changing climate and continued population growth. According to HSBC, among the world’s leading industrial and emerging economies, India is the most vulnerable to future water stress. The implications of this water crisis extend beyond agricultural and industrial challenges; the social dynamics of Indian villages are changing.
In the western states of Gujarati and Maharashtra, rainfall during the last two monsoons has been less than 50 percent of the average, compared with 93 percent in 2011. According to recent reports, this water crisis has led to permanent bachelorhood for many men, risen debt, an increase in suicide and clashes between people and civic authorities.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Water Shortage and Tourism: Conflicting Demands on Water Supply
A recent Times of India
story reported on this forced bachelorhood. Parents of many brides-to-be have broken their daughters’ engagements because they do not want their daughters to walk more than 5km (3.1 mi) to fetch drinking water. This is becoming a more common occurrence in the region as parents do not want to send their daughters to a village that is at the mercy of erratic and expensive water tankers, since common wells, the only source of drinking water in many villages, are drying up.
These severe shortages of water are also leaving many farmers unable to grow crops and provide food for their livestock. As a result of this lack of income, and increasingly a depletion of their backup resources that has driven people deeper into debt, India has seen an increase in farmers committing suicide in the last four years. While some have unwillingly moved out for the sake of their boys’ and their own future, others have organized themselves against the authorities to demand protection for their livelihood.
Girls ditch grooms in parched Gujarat villages
Death in Parched Farm Field Reveals Growing India Water Tragedy
Economic losses caused by water disasters and mismanagement have been underestimated by at least 50 percent.
In the South Asian and Pacific Islands, basic service infrastructure struggles to meet the needs of the influx of people that have come in search of economic opportunities and better access to public services. Resource experts say many of these countries face a potential water crisis as a result.
Water Authorities in these countries struggle to meet the water demands of the rapidly expanding population, due to pipe restrictions and the limited and aged pipe networks. The current water shortages in many places are in fact the result of mandatory rationing. However, those without piped water have no supply to accordingly manage. In the Solomon Islands in the settlements surrounding the urban area of Honiara, a priest has explained that “there are about three houses that have proper sanitation…the rest use the nearby beach.” One outcome is regular cases of dysentery, diarrhea and cholera. UNEP estimates that more than 10 percent of all fatalities of children throughout the South-Pacific is caused by diarrhea related diseases.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Water in 2050: The Future of Water Requires a Sustainable Path
Another two issues that are beginning to be addressed now are first, that there are those countries with industries that are driving the economic growth in the region but in doing so require reliable supplies of fresh water for some part of their production cycle. Second, rising seas are mixing the region’s freshwater reserves with saltwater, affecting the potability of the water in periods of less rainfall.
One of the main challenges facing water resource management in these nations is limited technical, resource and governance capacity to address complex infrastructure challenges and implement development strategies.
There is a huge market opportunity for industries that help make antiquated water processes smarter.
Today, communities across the nation are facing difficult challenges in meeting their water resource needs. As the population continues to grow, especially in areas with higher-than-average per capita water consumption, there will be an increased demand on the already constrained water supply. In addition, repairing and expanding the United States water infrastructure is estimated to cost more than one trillion dollars over the next 25 years to repair and expand.
With this in mind, a new finance report by Water Innovations Alliance analyzes the investment in upgrading and rolling out new smart meters for water. Water utilities are expected to spend $2 billion on smart meters through 2020, “almost matching all previous investment in the leak-finding devices,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance
. This technology is necessary, since water systems without meters can contribute to high water use, as well as water wastage.
A water smart grid system would direct meters, sensors, water mapping, smart irrigation and other technologies to work together to create a data-driven system for the intelligent management of water resources. By monitoring water use at all levels, meters are able to send data to water companies several times a day. This permits for analysis of flow, pressure, temperature, quality and storage levels.
[aside]SEE ALSO: The Value of Water in the U.S.: Improving Water Infrastructure is Imperative
In its report, Water Innovations Alliance explains that water scarcity, aging water infrastructure, water quality, water distribution, and the impact of inefficient water use on our energy consumption pose significant challenges that will only worsen as the population grows. One of the obstacles identified in the white paper is funding.
The U.S. Senate in May 2013 passed legislation that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority, WIFIA. If enacted into law, this would make low-interest federal loans available to address large water infrastructure projects in communities across the United States.
Water Utilities to Spend $2 Billion on Smart Meters Through 2020
Water Innovation Alliance: The Water Smart Grid Initiative
The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA)
CHICAGO, May 28, 2013 – The World Resources Institute, a global non-profit organization that focuses on the environment and economic development, and Ceres, a non-profit group that mobilizes business and investor leadership on sustainability challenges, have become the newest members of the Growing Blue network. Read More
Many online tools, including some on this site
, have been developed in order to help businesses assess their water risk. The concern is centered on the very real impact of water scarcity. But unfortunately, these tools actually understate
a very real issue - the risk of climate variations. Read More
In the classic film Casablanca
(1942), Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, and the French Captain Renault, played by Claude Rains, have the following exchange related to water.
Captain Renault: “What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?”
Rick: “My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.”
Captain Renault: “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”
Rick: “I was misinformed.”
What in heaven’s name brought so many Americans to the arid west, and even parts of the south and southeast, in numbers which stretch the available water resources to the point that rivers are sucked dry before running to the sea? Were they misinformed? Read More
CHICAGO, MAY 15, 2013 – A new report from the Columbia University Water Center, in conjunction with Veolia Water and Growing Blue, reveals that businesses and cities in some of America’s most iconic regions are now under even greater risk of water scarcity.