How to Manage Fresh Water

How to Manage Fresh Water

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By Cristian Frers

The increase in the world population has been accompanied by an increase in water consumption per person. Combined with supply imbalances caused by variations in rainfall, this has led to regional situations of water scarcity, with increasing frequency and severity.

How to manage fresh water

It is an accepted fact that the volume of fresh water that is renewed annually through the hydrological cycle is more than enough to supply the current and future water needs of the inhabitants of the planet. However, despite this apparent abundance, it can be said that the future of the human species and of many others that populate the Earth depends, inexorably, on significantly improving the Management of Water Resources.

The remarkable increase in world population in recent decades has been accompanied by an increase in water consumption per person. This has produced a large increase in the demand for water, a person uses 200 liters if they bathe with a bathtub and 100 if they shower, a tap that leaks at home is 35,000 liters of water per year, which combined with imbalances in the supply produced by temporary variations in rainfall has led to regional situations of water scarcity that, with increasing frequency and severity, appear in many areas of the planet.

From the point of view of pollution, the industrial sector is, in many cases, the most important source of pollution, despite not being the largest consumer of water. Industrial liquid waste, for example, associated with the production processes of textiles and paper, brings a large amount of organic pollution.

In general, industry and agriculture carry large amounts of chemical pollutants into streams. It is becoming increasingly clear that fresh water is a finite resource, vulnerable to contamination.

The levels of water use are: 73% for agricultural use, 20% for industry and 7% for domestic use. Irrigation being the most important use and perhaps the most deficient because up to 70% of the water is lost in transportation. The need for greater efficiency in agricultural use is very clear, but it is also so in domestic water systems since there are unnecessary and significant costs.

Information and education are key to creating a new culture in water management. As long as the community does not understand its role regarding the use of water, the projects that are undertaken towards its conservation tend not to be sustainable and the investments of economic and working capital can be lost.

Currently, from the point of view of water management, problems are related to inefficiency, especially due to policy and technology decisions. In the development processes of water supply systems, technology was considered for many years to be the main solution to problems, and therefore it was necessary to transfer it en masse, from industrialized countries to developing countries. . These implemented technologies, without taking into account local conditions, failed and had dire consequences for the population and the environment. They did not work because, apparently, they forgot that the ultimate goal of technology was for people to use it, that it would work over time and that the use given by communities was determined by their sociocultural, economic and environmental context.

Faced with this situation, work has been carried out on water and basic sanitation management models, taking into account the participation of the community, since it has been proven that community participation in development projects gives good results, when the affected population gets involved in the projects and is allowed to contribute their knowledge to their configuration, making the work more efficient and productive. At the same time, the ability of individuals to organize themselves in order to find solutions to the problems that afflict them is increased.

Generating management capacity in the communities implies taking on projects related to the water problem, from a broader perspective, which consider aspects such as:

-Work participatively in interdisciplinary teams because, as knowledge is structured in the modern world, each profession is an expert in a specific field and therefore only interdisciplinary work allows to recover the vision of totality and approach the solution of problems.

-Start by building and strengthening the concept of community so that the project is managed with criteria of solidarity.

-Promote work strategies that allow the participation of all users of the system in decisions and not just leaders.

-Working with the community from its specific sociocultural context, which implies the recognition and appreciation of knowledge.

Despite increasing urbanization, much of the developing world remains rural. Rural communities tend to be poor and suffer from development constraints as a result of poor infrastructure, limited income opportunities, and a lack of voice in the political arena. A field that is not managed properly can be a source of contamination, since sediments from eroded fields can clog streams and dams; Fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste can be washed into groundwater or washed into streams, killing plants, fish, and other animals.

Much has been learned about what works and what does not work in rural water supply and sanitation projects. The principle of the methodology is based on enhancing the capacities of both communities and institutions, by recognizing that each actor has knowledge and that solutions are built with participation, both for technical problems and for creatively addressing the social and legal problems associated with the aspects of water and basic sanitation in the communities.

Considering access to water as a human and social right entails the application of rules, duties and obligations that many States and most private multinational companies do not want to be imposed. But, is there true freedom and justice without rules, obligations and solidarity regarding the right to life for all?

Currently at the global level, administrative policies promote the decentralization of resources and public decisions and management, to the local order. And this, not only in the administrative field, but also in the field of education, communities must be managers of their own initiatives. In this way, it is necessary to make the population aware that water is an economic and social good, and the neglect of this resource and its contamination imply great risks at the environmental level and in integral health. Not preserving water implies the investment of large amounts of money in its treatment and that money finally comes out of the communities' own pockets.

* Cristian Frers

Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication
Tte. Gral. Juan D. Perón 2049 7th. 55.
(C1040AAE) Autonomous City of Buenos Aires
Argentinian republic.

Video: Impacts to Freshwater Aquatic Systems. Managing for a Changing Climate (July 2022).


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