The year is 2073. You are eagerly waiting for the communal bus with your water jars. Unlike most colonies, yours still has a wide paved pathway, and services like bath-house, communal toilets, transport, and drinking water delivery twice a week. As your bus approaches the bazaar, you watch the tank park in its spot where people have already queued up with pitchers. The few surviving kids of the colony are bustling around the water tank. Cities after cities are being struck by cholera, diarrhea once again is a commonplace ailment. Globally, 3 infants die every minute, 2 of infection, 1 of dehydration. Compared to the global charts, your colony is comparatively better. Which is why you migrated all the way down here after losing your home to the flood.
This seemingly dystopian picture is not drawn purely out of imagination. For over 844 million people in today’s world, the water crisis is somewhat the same. If you are privileged enough to have a tap with water flow, here is how the rest of the world is doing in comparison. Women and girls collectively spend over 200 million hours each day to collect water. Every two minutes, a child under 5 dies of water-borne diseases. And if the current usage continues, in ten years, we will only have 60% of the water we need. In twenty years, we will not have enough drinking water for the entire population. Thirty years from now, in the year 2050, the area of the land struck by extreme drought will increase 5 folds, causing 5 billion people to suffer from water shortage.
When dehydration is the threatening lives in the drought-struck places, other parts of the world are struggling to survive long-lasting floods. A lot of people are already living through this. People living in the southern part of Bangladesh go through the flood as a yearly business. The port city Chittagong plays a significant role in keeping the country’s waterway connected and the economy running. But a day of heavy rain and the city itself faces a hard time staying connected. Kids skip school, office goers get stuck midway, or worse, in the office. The water eventually runs down the hilly roads and clog the lower areas of Chattogram. The waterlogging becomes a hotbed for contamination. Surrounded by water, or at times, submerged, people from underdeveloped area languish for drinking water. For the people in Barisal, flooding has already been incorporated in their lives. They are already opting for a creative solution and hacks like using accumulated hyacinth to do simple cultivation. The damage faced by this country on every flood is absurd. Just in the year 2017, severe flooding has destroyed half a million houses. A record amount of 450000 hectors of cropland was damaged. Flooding is a nationwide calamity for Bangladesh that affects people, livestock, crops, lands, housing; in short the entire economy.
Around 87 percent of Dhaka’s water comes from groundwater reservoirs. Dhaka city has been experiencing a sharp declination in groundwater table with more than 20 meters lower down during the last seven years at a rate of 2.81 meters per year (m/y). Considering the existing depletion rate, the study predicts that the groundwater table will go down to 120 meters by 2050.
Bangladesh positions at number 86 among 142 countries with respect to drinking water quality. So why that these facts have not caused an upsurge yet? The scientists have already warned world leaders. Policies are being proposed. But there simply hasn’t been enough root level movements addressing the massive global crisis we are heading towards. We are scrolling in the toilet, singing in the shower, wasting water every step of the way without a clue. But as we get more immune to reality, the water level is going lower; water scarcity is slowly creeping into our backyard.
AN EFFICIENT COLLECTIVE
While the nonprofit organizations like WaterAid, Clean Water Action, and Charity: Water etc. are bringing sustainable change in the global water scene, we as a collective must also learn the role we can play. There are success stories strewn around the world that we can learn from. In India, a Rashtriya Jal Biradari (National Water Community) is formed with the efforts of Tarun Bharat Sangh. They have already established water harvesting structures in many villages around India, working on projects to protect rivers, and are an active voice against water privatization.
On February 26, the people of Toledo, Ohio voted in favor of a rather unusual referendum. The bill passed granting Lake Erie some of the same legal rights as a human. After a series of incidents resulting in contamination, people of Toledo decided to take the matter into their own hands. With the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund, they drafted the bill that proposed that Lake Erie have the rights to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve”. A special election was held, the bill passed, opening the provision for the people of Toledo and concerned bodies to sue polluters or anyone infringing the natural (and now legal) rights of the lake.
Lake Erie is an instance of a growing movement. The first time a natural entity gained legal rights and representation were in 2006. The people of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania fought and won the right to protect the area from dumped wastage. Soon, success followed worldwide. People in Ecuador have sued a company for polluting a river and won. India has granted legal rights to the Ganges and the Yamuna River. Similar rights are granted to the river Rio Atrato by the Colombian government, and to the Whanganui River by the New Zealand government. Back in 2009 Bangladesh High court directed the government to demarcate river banks, but that is not yet implemented.
But unless we as a collective are willing to change up our habits, the water crisis is not getting anywhere near a long term solution. The scale of reform necessary is too massive for the government and agencies to handle by themselves. So if you want to build a community that conserves water, there are some actions that you can take –
– Seal that leak. While children in developing countries are dying in need of fresh water, gallons and gallons of it are getting lost to leaking pipes and broken faucets. Take the initiative and get the maintenance work done.
– Start a communal waste disposal system. The structure is going to vary based on geographical and demographic differences. But the focus remains the same: don’t dump waste in the water.
– Push for policy change. What if the disposal is being done by an industry? Success stories of RJB and Toledo are paving ways for finding new means to hold the polluters accountable. Work collectively to draft and propose policies that will ensure change.
– Learn to identify and defy the anti-environment lifestyles and habits that are promoted to us. Generations after generations have grown up across the suburbs of America believing a standard model of a family house is incomplete without a lawn. A lawn sprinkler will spend about 1020 gallons of water in an hour to keep alive a patch of green grass for aesthetic purpose only.
– Opt out from decorative fountains –instead install a filtered water vending machine. This could help in several ways. When drinking water is becoming scarce, these fountains are not adding any value to the public. Whereas, setting up water vending machines to bring down both water wastage and diseases contaminated by water. Reduced purchase of bottled water means less plastic ending up on the ocean, which is already crowded with plastic waste.
– Have a plant as a pet. Water circulates in nature through a specific cycle in our ecosystem. Our gray habitat is not designed in harmony with natural cycles. In order to keep the water cycle uninhibited, countries like China and Germany are constructing sponge cities. It’s a city design that allows all the urban activities to continue while keeping enough green patch through the city to absorb and release water. Planting enough trees is a big step towards conserving water.
A SMARTER YOU
Every day, an average of 3400 liters of fresh water is consumed by a person. If the number is a little hard to wrap your head around, here’s a breakdown. With every relaxing bath, you spend around 80 gallons of water. Keep the shower running for ten minutes, around 50 gallons of water go down the drain. Doing dishes for ten minutes? You’ve poured 30 gallons into the sink. But the numbers still don’t add up to a staggering consumption of 900 gallons without counting in the seemingly dry water consumption we do every day. Enjoy beef steak? Producing a pound of beef requires roughly 2000 gallons. How much water is in your coffee cup? If you say a cup, you’re making a common mistake. A pound of roasted coffee takes 2500 gallons of water to produce. That’s water worth of 50 frivolous showers. Your all-time favorite leather jacket took roughly 16000 gallons of water to make. Every consumption you make on a daily basis contributes to the water consumption directly, or virtually. The change has to come from you. Here are some habits you can switch up to save water. The rule of thumb is Reduce, Reserve, and Recycle.
– Reduce water consumption. Refrain from using excess water. Broom your pathway instead of aiming a hosepipe at it. You can save hundreds of gallons by running the washing machine only when you have a sizable load of laundry. The same approach can be taken with the dishwasher.
– Are you guilty of leaving your tap on while brushing and shaving? You can change that. Instead of rinsing something under running water, try washing it in a sink. Not just razors and brushes, fresh produce can take a bath in the kitchen sink.
– You really don’t need 50 gallons a day to stay clean. Try developing an efficient shower routine. If you can manage to shed off even a couple of minutes, you’re also curtailing water wastage by 150 gallons a month. Or even better, go for a bucket bath. That way you have a fixed budget for your bath before you get into it.
– Be water conscious and stay that way. Read up on water consumption by agricultural and other manufactured products. That will help you make lifestyle choices that consume less virtual water. Replace a few cups of coffee with tea. Try to eat one vegetarian meal every day. In general, the focus is to avoid products that are environmentally detrimental due to excessive water consumption. Research and incorporate.
– Reserve water. Try rainwater harvesting. Plant a garden on the rooftop that will thrive on rainwater. Instead of flowing down the drainage, the water will feed plants, which in turn can feed you.
– If you are not much into gardening, you can put up a rain barrel that will collect the rainwater for future use.
– Reuse water. If you, your pets, your plants, and your dishes are consuming the same water, it’s time you downscaled your water. Pour the water in your glass you don’t want to finish in your pet’s bowl, or water your plant. Use any leftover or dropped water to finish cleanup work. Wash your car on your lawn. It’s time to treat drinking water as the precious thing it is.
– Establishing a reuse facility in the residence can make the whole process much efficient. You don’t need the same grade of water supply in your sink and your toilet flush tank. The infrastructure will collect used water from selected outlets of the houses, put it through simple filtration, to inputs like toilet flush tanks and communal gardens, which do not require drinking grade water.
– Adopt eco-friendly technologies.
For an individual, paying attention and effort every step of the way can be tedious at times. With growing concern for water scarcity, research on water conserving technologies has spiked too. Efficient versions of appliances are becoming available alongside new technology built to contribute to the cause. Household appliances have mostly caught on to this trend since there is an increased demand for such products now. Watch out for these products when you try to incorporate water conservation into your household culture –
Dual Flush Models: Dual flush models of toilet flush tank has been around for quite some time now. The tank comes with two modes of flushing, using less water on a number 1 and slightly more water on number 2.
TapNFlush: If you can’t install a new flush tank, you can use this converter in your existing setup. The regulator comes with nobs that allow you to adjust how many minutes the water will run for number 1 and number 2. Once you’ve setup converter, it will start regulating the amount of water you use to dispose of liquid and solid waste on behalf of you.
Faucet Aerators: The aerators control the water supply using air. The air pushes the water to leave the tap more forcefully, in the process less water is released. The reduced water does not trouble the flow because of the force.
Moisture Sensors: In most cases, by the time a leak is discovered, a significant amount of water has already escaped through it. Moisture sensors can come handy in preventing such loss. The system will notify and halt water distribution in case any of the sensors pick up a clue of a leak.
Consumption Meter: If not already known before, by the end of this article you know the average water consumption of your daily activity. This, however, doesn’t help you measure your personal daily consumption. Consumption meters are slowly being introduced in some countries which will measure the monthly consumption of water of a household. The water bills will have their water consumption enumerated and categorized. This will allow consumers to be smart about their water usage.
Water conservation is not just about recycling water or reducing water pollution. What this problem needs is not a choosing among non-profit organizations, or individuals, or government. This global phenomenon needs an aggregated effort on every scale. The general people will have to go through a lifestyle change while the country has to bring about policy changes. With mass effort, we can make the year 2073 a better future for people around the globe.