Water - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Last month, we have focused on the issue of water scarcity. “What are ways we can all mitigate water scarcity” we hear you ask? We do not address increase in population, because once born, everyone has an inherent right to fresh water.
1. Educating the global mass to change their lifestyle and consumption habits. Water supplies are coming under increasing pressure as population growth, climate change, pollution, and changes in land use affect water quantity and quality. To address existing and anticipated water shortages, many communities are working to increase water conservation and are seeking alternative sources of water. Water reuse—the use of treated wastewater, or “reclaimed” water, for beneficial purposes such as drinking, irrigation, or industrial uses—is one option that has helped some communities significantly expand their water supplies. The environment4change Platform as-a-Service (PaaS) will help in this critical process.
2. Introducing new water conservation technologies – wastage of water due to damaged pipes is a massive problem. In the future, water pipes equipped with artificial intelligence will be able to assess material conditions and identify areas of stress and corrosion, before water leaks happen. This would help prevent leaks and help eliminate costs by 80 per cent, as users can act in advance to replace faulty parts, instead of digging up the entire pipelines.
3. Recycling wastewater – Humanity can do so much better at recycling wastewater. Namibia, one of the most arid countries in the world, has been turning sewage water into drinking water for the past 50 years. This can be a sustainable and profitable business of power plants that converts solids from wastewater into methane gas.
4. Improving irrigation and agricultural practices – Irrigation systems have been under pressure to produce more output with less water. Various innovative practices are now being developed and trialled.
This year, Asia Development Bank and the International Rice Research Institute, in partnership with a number of national research organizations, completed field experiments of two climate-smart and resource-saving technologies in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal to showcase scientific solutions to the problems faced by the agricultural sector.
In Bangladesh, alternate wetting and drying technology was used for comparisons with the continuous standing water irrigation system, the traditional irrigation method. In Cambodia and Nepal, direct-seeded rice technology was tested to compare with the traditional transplanted puddled system. In all pilot countries, vegetables were also cultivated between two rice crops.
The alternate wetting and drying technology, used in experiments in Bangladesh, required about 22% less water compared to the traditional irrigation. Depending on the rice varieties and season of the rice cultivation, greenhouse gas emissions were 13%–41% less under alternate wetting and drying compared to continuous standing water irrigation.
In Cambodia, mechanized direct-seeded rice technology decreased use of labour by 60%–79% compared to the traditional transplanted puddled system. It also increased the yield of rice by 26%–50% compared to the traditional transplanted system; and saved water by about 19%‒32%. Greenhouse gas emission was 68 kg/ha under direct-seeded rice compared to 98 kg/ha under transplanted puddling system.
In Nepal, direct-seeded rice technology combined with the machine-operated boom sprayer for plant protection and combine harvesting reduced the total cost of production of rice by 25% compared to the conventional method. This technology also reduced the use of labour by about 83% compared to conventional transplantation. Seed requirements decreased from 80 kg/ha under conventional methods to only 45 kg/ha under mechanized direct-seeded rice.
Overall, the income of the farmers increased by 52%-61% and the benefit–cost ratio increased by more than two-fold under these climate-smart and resource-saving technologies.
Beyond transforming agricultural practices, all large users of water in Industry have a moral obligation to help their supply chains reduce their water use. A food company may use many agriculture-based raw materials, and agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of global water consumption. Pushing the message of freshwater conservation down into the supply chain is key.
5. Pricing the water appropriately – Pricing water and pricing nature is similar. “We use nature because it is valuable, we loose nature because it is free”. The same can be said of water. Water does need to be priced correctly. That cost will differ depending on its scarcity. Saudi Arabia, ranked 8 for water stress, prices water to incentivise conservation. Its new Qatrah (“droplet” in Arabic) program sets water conservation targets and aims to reduce water usage 43 per cent within the next decade.
6. Developing energy-efficient desalination plants - Desalination is a process that takes away mineral components (salt) from saltwater. This then makes the water suitable for human consumption, industry and agricultural irrigation. The massive downside to water desalination is the he by-product brine (a very, very salty water solution. Due to its energy consumption, desalinating sea water is generally more costly in terms of energy needed for the process than fresh water from rivers or groundwater, water recycling and water conservation. A cheaper desalination process would represent real innovation to benefit mankind.
7. Improving harvesting techniques – Watering harvesting means capturing rainwater, where it falls and capturing the runoff from rooftops, catchment areas and streams. Generally, water harvesting is direct rainwater collection to store up during wet periods and used during dry periods by applying a proper technique such as channel reservoir, on-farm reservoir, infiltration ditches, infiltration well, check dams. The more fresh rainwater humanity can collect and store, the better for long periods of dry weather.
8. Developing better policies and regulations - Nestlé is a company change policy and even accounting methods to better reflect the realities of current water stressed environments. Nestlé classified its capital expenditure (CAPEX) in different ways to smooth the way for investments in water sustainability, which may have longer payback periods compared to those for, say, productivity and innovation. For instance, productivity measures require very quick payback, because their CAPEX is for improving efficiency. However, sustainability CAPEX must be viewed differently
9. Managing ecosystems holistically - Australia nearly halved domestic water useage to avert its own Day Zero moment during the Millennium Drought. The country’s water-trading scheme, the largest in the world, allows for smart allocation of water among users in the face of variable supplies. In another example, Nestlé made a dramatic change at its new factory in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico (2014). Instead of buying water for its operations, the factory began extracting water from its milk feedstock and recycling it. This saved 1.6 million litres of water per day, equivalent to about 15 percent of the company’s water use in the entire country. Nestlé also ensured that the factory did not draw any water from its surroundings
10. Addressing pollution issues – We must clean up our waterways and work with all communities to ensure Industry does not release inadequately treated wastewater into natural freshwater bodies. Cleaner streams, creeks, rivers will lead to cleaner freshwater availability.
How we can help
environment4change want to inspire local communities into action to clean up their environments. A big part of that clean-up will be removing rubbish from waterways. Through the environment4change Platform as a Service (PaaS) we will encourage all environmental entrepreneurship and the other best in global science and research will be tested, evaluated and shared with the World. We can see our members using of our PaaS platform to set up clean-up projects with the help of their local community. Using elements of mobile services, open and transparent data structures and technology, web services, social media and e-commerce, our PaaS will allow every person and every community to get involved in removing waste and rubbish from local waterways. The goal is to democratize and scale environmentalism, so that together, we can clean up Planet Earth. There is no ownership in fixing and cleaning the planet, it is something all mankind has an interest in and commitment to complete for the future of our collective kids.