Quantum of Solace!
I read this article today in local News paper and found very very interesting and extremely necessary to be aware of the issue, so thought of sharing with you all.
In far too many parts of the world water has been treated as a free gift to humanity, but it is a natural resource which is under increasing stress through overuse and wastage. It is becoming imperative that we all start to treat the global water crisis with the same seriousness that we treat carbon emissions and global warming. Water shortage is not an issue that we can afford to put on the shelf and wait for it to go away, because if we do, in time we will all be fighting for our limited share of this increasingly rare resource.
The world needs to act on two linked fronts: the water bubble that we have been living in for so long will burst as the supply fails to meet the increasing demand. This gap between supply and demand is made much worse by the way that we continue to waste water in an alarming fashion by pouring it away and making it unusable through pollution and the discharge of industrial effluents.
Hiding the problem
In most parts of the world abundant rain and massive rivers allow governments to ignore the mounting problems, but the Gulf has no rain or rivers. Instead, it has hidden its water problems by importing what many call virtual water, which is the amount of water that is embedded in any food or product needed for its production.
For example, one kilo of wheat requires about 1,000 litres of water to be produced, so if a Gulf state imports a kilo of wheat, it is by implication saving itself 1,000 litres of water which it is importing from somewhere else.
Over time, it will be essential that governments, companies and individuals become aware of their water footprint, just as they have done for their carbon footprints. Today, the buyer of a large car knows that he is buying a car with a large carbon footprint, and he has to be prepared to face his neighbours’ scorn. Building up a measure of the water contained in anything that we use or buy means that pressure can be applied to use it more carefully.
For example, if a kilo of wheat takes 1,000 litres to grow, it takes between five to ten times more to produce a kilo of meat. A very basic survival diet will use about one cubic metre a day for one person, while a vegetarian diet will absorb 2.6 cubic metres a day; and over 5 cubic metres a day are needed for a Western-style meat-based diet.
By virtue of their geography the UAE and other Gulf states are right at the frontline of how to find a way forward. They do not have rainwater or rivers, so desalination is the only answer. Of all the water in the world, 97 per cent is salty sea water, and of the three per cent which is fresh water, two per cent is locked up in the polar ice caps, leaving us all to fight over the one per cent left of free fresh water.
Obviously desalination is vital to find true long-term sustainability, so investing in desalination puts the UAE ahead of most.
The UAE has prepared well for this major step. The government has seen clearly that even its abundant gas reserves will not last for ever, particularly since they can be sold as a valuable resource rather than burnt to produce power.
The UAE doubts that efficient solar power on the huge scale required will be ready to supply the whole nation and the government has, therefore, decided to go nuclear. Through nuclear powered desalination plants, it will boil the sea water to generate the steam to drive turbines to make electricity, and use the steam to harvest fresh water.
But this clear route on the supply side has not yet been matched by clear action on addressing the wastage of water. Most buildings in the UAE have been built without thought to water preservation, which is not such a surprise since the government has only just started thinking about enforcing controls over carbon emissions, which are far better known.
The main control over water is high cost, which is forcing some people to rethink the way they use water. But UAE nationals do not pay water fees; so that control mechanism does not apply for some sections of the population.
As the UAE and other Gulf states invest large sums of money in new desalination plants, they also need to become much more conscious about how they use this expensively produced resource.
There are many practices which can be looked at: wasteful industrial processes which treat water as a free medium, flood irrigation of fields in which a large percentage of the water evaporates and using water fit for human consumption for washing cars and watering gardens.
But the first issue is to make sure that we all know that this is a problem. Water is an issue waiting to move to the top of the international agenda. It is a wise government and people that prepare for this now.
Source: Gulf News
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