Sustainability of Water

Eng. Kavitha Krishnan
B.Eng, M.S, M.Eng, IES, LEED AP

Sustainability of Water

It is a known fact that the human beings leave an indelible impact on the environment causing immense and irretrievable damage to the ecological system, thus depriving the future generations of the most essential element of Water. The environmental experts were not able to make a clear assessment of the damage caused individually and collectively, affecting the world around them. The study of calculating the negative effects on the planet Earth by the human beings is a fairly new concept / subject to many people, as this subject affects all human beings without any differentiation of race, colour or ethnicity, this needs to be raised as a matter of serious concern and highlighted into the global consciousness.

Most of the human beings are not even aware of the extent of damage that the Earth has undergone. It is pertinent to create a campaign regarding this matter. If this present situation/trend continues, it will not be possible for meeting the essential daily requirements of the human beings and we would be forced to shift the growing population to many planets, similar to the Earth. These facts can be scary and force you to take remedial measures including finding new ways of conserving the natural resources. That is the very intention of this article: open your eyes to your consumptive nature and the urgent need to make alterations to your lifestyle accordingly.

We all know that the Water covers more than Two Thirds of the Earth. Water is one of the most essential requirements for all human beings. The earth is rapidly getting depleted of its various resources, the most important being water; the negative effects due to the callous behaviour of the human beings have increased exponentially over the last one hundred years. The only way to counter these effects is to take some concrete small steps in our everyday life, to reduce the negative impact on Water.

Sustainability of water means that the practice of managing water consumption to meet the long-term requirements of human beings by setting goals to replenish, enhance and retain water for future generations. We can continue to enjoy a high standard of living in Arab countries in future, if we consciously safeguard water while developing the local economy. The cities of Middle East today, with their gleaming skyscrapers is a world apart from their humble origins. It takes a lot of effort and resources to provide water to the growing population in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. But the water resource constraints continue to remain. As the economy and the population keep growing, there will be an increasing pressure on the Town Planners and the Governments to provide water, as there is very limited understanding of the impending crisis that will be faced by the people in these towns. Hence well planned water conservation strategies are to be established so that the countries in GCC have the chance to bring in a sustainable conservation model for all emerging markets.

It is a known fact that the GCC countries record the least rainfall among the countries of the world. It was recently reported in the newspapers that the Gulf countries have lost some of their water sources and that the replenishment of the existing sources is a matter of urgent priority.

Present Scenario in GCC Countries.

On a regional Middle Eastern scale, the efficient use of the earth's natural resources is a necessity and a pre-requisite and NOT a luxury. If we look at the atlas, Four fifths of the Arab world is barren desert, with very limited water holes. The scarce water resources coupled with a population which is one of the fastest growing in the world, makes the region from Morocco ( in Africa ) across to Iraq ( in Asia ) most vulnerable to unimaginable changes to the ecology. Consequent to rising water demand, it is rapidly becoming a scarce resource for most countries in the arid and semi-arid regions. Hence new methods and innovative approaches for water conservation and judicious use are the needs of the hour. However, the GCC countries have a tremendous appetite for consuming water. With each year, the water deficit grows larger, making it potentially more difficult to manage in the years to come.

Water Resources in GCC Countries

GCC countries depend mainly on groundwater resources, desalinated water plants and recycled wastewater (to a limited extent), to meet the requirements of the population and the industrial units.

1. Ground Water

The quality of the groundwater resources has been affected by the increasing levels of pollution. The salinity in many local areas has increased from less than 500 ppm to more than 10,000 ppm or even more. Using such poor quality water for daily use has negative environmental impacts.

2. Desalination Plants

In order to meet the growing requirements of drinking water, the GCC countries rely mainly on desalination plants to produce water, that is used either directly or blended with groundwater. To meet domestic water demands, which is a function of population and urbanization growth, the GCC countries are going ahead with construction of large desalination plants, despite their high costs, which range between 4 – 12 AED/m3. The following figure shows that the GCC countries have 57% of desalination plants in the world.

Sustainability of Water

Figure: 1 Global Desalination Capacity
Source: Centre for Strategic & International Studies, Abu Dhabi

Table 1 shows the existing and future planed desalination plants in GCC countries. In total, there are 199 desalination plants existing and 38 are planned and to be constructed in near future.

Table:1 Existing and Future Planned Desalination Plants in GCC Countries

Sustainability of Water

Reference: International Journal of Environment & Sustainability

Impacts of Desalination Plants

Although, desalination of seawater offers a range of human health, socio-economic, and environmental benefits by providing a seemingly unlimited, constant supply of high quality drinking water without impacting natural freshwater ecosystems, concerns are raised due to potential negative impacts. These are mainly attributed to the concentrate and chemical discharges, which may impair coastal water quality and affect marine life, and air pollutant emissions attributed to the energy demands of the processes as shown in Fig.2.

Construction of desalination plants causes sea bed disturbances, increased level of ambient sea water salinity, increased marine water temperature, green house gas emission, reduced dissolved oxygen levels in seawater, higher chlorine concentration and increased concentrations of heavy metals. Think! What happens, if this present situation persists for another 500 years? Hence it is essential to minimize the number of desalination plants to improve our environment.

3. Reuse of Treated Waste water

Introduced in the early eighties in most of the GCC countries, treated waste water represents one of the most important alternatives that can be used to meet some of the present water requirements and to lessen the long term supply vs. demand imbalance faced by these countries. Due to completion of sewage water treatment facilities and urban sewage networks expansion in most of the GCC large cities, relatively large volumes of treated wastewater have become available, and because of environmental considerations, have been treated completely or partially regardless of their utilization.

Sustainability of Water

Figure: 2 Schematic Diagram of Desalination Process

Table:2 Treated Wastewater Production and Use in GCC Countries

Sustainability of Water

Reference: International Journal of Environment & Sustainability

Table.2 represents that the 769 MCM (Million Cubic Meter) of treated wastewater is reused in GCC countries. In addition, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have introduced ESTIDAMA and LEED certification system for all new and existing buildings, industries and schools in order to enforce water conservation in UAE. Therefore, each individual building will have water conservation strategies, such as wastewater treatment, storm water storage and reuse. Treated wastewater can be reused for toilet flushing, irrigation, car washing and soil compaction, which reduces fresh water consumption. There are several techniques to treat wastewater in cheaper and greener way.

Sustainability of Water

Along with the government’s efforts, all individuals either citizens or residents will have to make personal adjustments to their lifestyles in order to save water, by considering earth as the single planet for survival regardless of which country they belong to. All individuals should take a pragmatic approach to sustain water. For an instance, Singapore is the pioneer in treating municipal wastewater and reusing it as potable water. Therefore, if our government brings such option, as a citizen or resident, we should offer our whole hearted support to implement such plans. We need a ‘whole of nation’ effort to make Arab cities more sustainable. The Governments have to invest more in technology to find new and sustainable solutions to overcome our water resource constraints. Cities around the world face the same challenges of achieving growth while reducing the negative impact on the environment. As we innovate to overcome our challenges, we can in turn contribute to solving the world’s most pressing problems.

Individual Responsibility to Conserve Water
Conserving water is not as hard as typically perceived. With a bit of inspiration, motivation and effort, we all can be leading sustainable lifestyles. By reducing the water usage at home, not only will you help in saving water, you will also cut down on your utilities bills.

Get Started Today!

  • Take a quick shower, instead of a bath in the tub. A full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower saves water by using 10 to 25 gallons only.
  • A front-loading washing machine is more water-efficient than a top-loading machine.
  • Instead of a running tap, fill your kitchen sink with water when washing dishes or raw food.
  • When washing the kitchen floor, use a mop and bucket instead of a hose.
  • For watering your plants, you can collect rain water or water from rinsing vegetables.
  • It is better to water plants during the early morning hours, when temperatures are cooler and you willavoid evaporation.
  • Hosing down the car wastes a lot of water. It is more effective to use a bucket of water and a piece of cloth.
  • Repair leaks and dripping taps immediately to prevent water wastage.

These are simple things that have a big impact on how much water we can conserve for future use. There is no emergency exit from our planet earth, if current situation continues. So, Think globally; Act locally.

In addition, the municipal authorities can set plan to reduce the per capita water consumption to 147L by 2020 and 140L by 2030, through the promotion of waterefficient devices and water conservation. Arab countries have to invest more in technology to find new solutions to overcome the water resource constraints. The time to act is now. By working hand in hand today, we can bring about a good transformation of Arab cities into a high value, innovation powered economy within cities of gardens and water. Above all, we can build future Arab cities that we all aspire to – a liveable, lively and well-loved home – as our gift to our children and future generations of this world.

Giving a sustained environment to your child is a good assert.

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