How to solve the water shortage problem?

A drop of water from a tap.

The increasing magnitude of the water shortage problem is not caused by a substantial decrease in the supply of fresh water on the earth; that remains fairly constant.

Humans do not create new water, they only reuses the water already here.

In fact, since there is no such thing as brand new water, the next glass of water you drink may contain molecules that were in the rivers during the first century.

If there is no less water now than in past centuries, it is reasonable to ask, Where is the water?

Where is the water?

The water of the earth.

In a broad sense, humans have at their disposal some about 332,500,000 cubic miles of water.

However, about 97 percent of it is salty ocean water, unfit to drink in its present state and unsuitable for most irrigation.

Another about 2 percent is held in permanent deep freeze in glaciers and icecaps.

So, in reality, man is left with less than 1 percent of the world’s total water supply that he can readily use.

Fortunately, the sun daily draws out of the oceans billions of gallons of fresh water and makes a gift of it to the land in the form of rain and snow, replacing the water that is used and that flows into the oceans.

This natural pump works night and day, bringing life-giving moisture to plants and sufficient water to till all man’s needs, if he will use it wisely.

However, human’s needs for water, or at least their demands, are far in excess of the approximately three litres a day per person said to be required by the human body in order to function properly.

With the increase in technology man uses a growing flood of water for washing, sanitation, cooking and comforts such as air-conditioners and swimming pools.

A typical town is estimated to use between 120 and 200 litres of water for each person every day.

In some cities, the use of water per person has soared well beyond 800 litres a day.

Even so, such personal and household application of water constitutes only a small percentage of the total amount used.

It is less than 10 percent.

Nearly half the water used in some countries is devoured by industry.

Though the figures vary according to the efficiency of the company, up to 7.5 gallons of water are used to make one pound of soap; 667 gallons for a ton of glass bottles; 16,000 gallons to produce one automobile.

The remaining 45 percent of the water used goes for agriculture.

Why so much?

You might wonder.

In addition to the water plants themselves use, they release into the atmosphere tremendous quantities of water each day; an average tree about 50 gallons; an acre of corn‘ some 4,000 gallons.

More and more, people are being awakened to the water problem.

The liquid they so long received in unlimited quantities at a low cost is, in an increasing number of places, becoming more costly to obtain.

What they took for granted has become a commodity in limited supply and carrying a price tag.

Look at any statistics, ponder any tables, and you can’t escape the conclusion that our No. 1 resource problem is water.

What are the main causes of the water shortage problem?

Water pollution.

It should not be concluded, though, that there just is not enough water to meet the demand; that is not so.

The main causes of water shortage problem as “rather a case of infinitely poor management.”

A major difficulty in the supply of suitable water for many areas is the fact that the water that is available is polluted.

The water is there, but humans have spoiled it, contaminated it to the extent that it is unpleasant and unhealthful to drink without first being put through a costly purification treatment.

For; example, while New York City struggles with a water shortage, the mighty Hudson River flows along its side.

Every second a million gallons of water sweep past the city into the Atlantic Ocean.

But the Hudson’s high degree of contamination has discouraged its use by New York City as a source of fresh water.

In ancient times towns and villages were often built by rivers so a supply of water would be readily available.

With growth and progress the towns and cities became cleaner and more sanitary at the expense of the waterways.

Sewage slowly polluted the water supply.

Once Londoners could fish for salmon in the Thames River.

By 1823 pollution had forced the salmon 'to abandon the river; yet it continued to be used as a source of drinking water.

Little wonder that London suffered a number of severe cholera epidemics.

This contamination of rivers by sewage has continued to be a problem down to our day, causing many cities to abandon nearby rivers as sources of their fresh water.

While sewage is a contributor to the pollution, and thus to the water shortage, we cannot overlook industrial and agricultural pollution.

Many industries discharge into nearby waterways tons of chemicals and industrial wastes.

In addition they pump out of the rivers fresh water and return it as heated, contaminated water destructive to life.

A UNESCO report observed:

Even one thirtieth of an ounce of oil products can make 200 gallons of water sufficiently poisonous to kill aquatic life and unfit for domestic uses.”

Agriculture shares responsibility for pollution as pesticides are washed into the rivers.

The contamination thus caused is so pronounced that even the seas around Britain and European countries are being affected.

How to deal with water shortage problem?

Picture of the Ruhr river.

The problem is not hopeless!

The waterways and water supplies of the world can be restored to a condition where they will help ease the water shortage.

This has been successfully demonstrated in the populous, industrialized Ruhr area in Germany.

Even though the Ruhr River is threatened by the sewage of millions of people and the wastes from coal mines, steel mills and other industries, it is the cleanest major waterway in West Germany.

The key to success in the Ruhr is an association called the Ruhrverband.

Every industry and community using Ruhr water must be a member.

Simply stated, the principle on which the organization operates is: If you pollute the water, you must pay to purify it.

The more you pollute, the more you pay!

Understandably, in order to minimize their use of water, many factories have re-circulation systems, using water over again instead of quickly pumping it back into the river.

Consequently, some mills that once used 130 cubic yards of water to produce a ton of steel now use only 2.6 cubic yards.

Because of this campaign against pollution, the Ruhr River supplies drinking water for some three million people.

Encouraging steps are also being taken in some areas to eliminate the contamination resulting from sewage.

For years many communities shirked their responsibility to keep the water supplies pure because they felt that the problem was not theirs.

They reasoned:

Why should we go to the expense of installing efficient sewage treatment plants when the other towns on the river do not?’

As a result, the garbage from one city floated to the doorstep of the next one down the stream.

With the growing awareness of the potential water supply available from rivers, communities are taking action.

More and more of them are installing or improving their plants for the treatment of sewage.

In addition to being a method of eliminating pollution in the rivers, proper treatment of human wastes can help relieve the water shortage in another way.

Since sewage is mainly water, why not reclaim the water and put it to use?

At first the idea might seem repugnant, but so is the thought of having no water.

One water expert commented:

Sewage actually is 99 percent plain water. All the pollutants in it amount to less than 1 percent. . . .We have the processes for removing that 1 percent-leaving water purer than when it came from nature.”

Demonstrating the feasibility of this process, one arid town in the United States puts to use the liquid effluent of a standard sewage treatment.

After being given further chemical purification and then filtered, the water is used to fill public ponds.

The people of the community happily swim and fish in this reclaimed water.

After their normal water supply failed, 10,000 residents of another town lived for several months on such reclaimed water.

Even if the water from a sewage plant is not purified to the extent that it is safe to drink, it can be put to good use.

In an experiment at one university, instead of pumping the effluent into a pond or stream, the water was sprayed over trees and land.

What was the result?

The mineral rich water increased the yield from corn and hay crops 300 percent.

Another benefit gained from this use of reclaimed water was that it substantially decreased the yearly drop in the local water table, the underground water supply in the earth.

One major city is lessening its water shortage problem by using the ground as both a filter and a storage area.

Water from its sewage disposal plants and excess water available during the winter is allowed to seep into the earth.

This purifies the reclaimed water and holds it until it is needed; then the clean water is simply pumped out.

In effect the ground becomes a water bank.

What else is being done?

Scientists, realizing that some farms use over a million gallons of water to irrigate each acre of land for a growing season, have been seeking to decrease the amount of fresh water used for agriculture.

Water that is not good to drink may be line for irrigation.

In Israel an experimental garden has been grown using only seawater.

Other experiments have shown that certain vegetables, such as beets, kale and spinach, can be grown on brackish water.

Of course, such water would not be suitable for all crops.

Even the past is helping the present in its water crisis.

In his book Rivers in the Desert archaeologist Nelson Glueck stated about the ancient Nabataeans:

They sought out drops of moisture with the same eagerness that hunters display when stalking game. . . . Their endless effort, crowned more often than not by success, was to make wheat or barley or grapevines grow where none had even been planted before and to tap or to collect supplies of water where none was known previously to exist.”

Today farmers in Israel employ Nabataean methods, such as conserving ‘run off’ water, to grow crops successfully in normally desert areas.

Much has been said recently that might give persons the idea that the solution to the water shortage problem rests in developing economical methods of desalting ocean water.

For example, one proposed atomic-powered desalination plant would turn out up to 150 million gallons of fresh water a day, enough to supply a city of 750,000.

But a noted water scientist at Harvard University remarked:

"If the oceans were all fresh water, it still wouldn’t solve the problem."

There would remain the difficulty of transporting it to distant inland areas.

Pumping costs alone would render such sources as prohibitive for large-scale irrigation.

So while desalination might be a partial answer for places having little or no potable water, for the majority of lands the cheapest solution rests in conservative and sensible use of existing water.

'There is a saying, ‘Tall oaks from little acorns grow.’

In principle that also applies to the water problem.

While the water one individual or one family saves will not solve a country’s water problem, it is a step in the right direction.

Besides, it is a good lesson in economy.

For instance, think of how much water would be conserved if persons did not let the faucet water run until it got cold.

Why not, instead, keep a container of water in the refrigerator?

Do you fill the glass with water even when you want only a sip?

After you finish washing vegetables, could you use the water on some nearby potted plants or the flowers outside the window?

Do you leave the water running while you wash each dish individually, or till a container and use the same water for many dishes?

A great quantity of water could be saved if each person exercised more care in his daily use of this precious commodity.

Just as the water shortage has different causes in different places, so it is that there is no one universal solution to the problem.

Nature has seen to it that there is fresh water available for humans, but humans must see to it that they treat with respect.

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