Water and water resources are nature’s best gift. The rivers, the streams, the brooks, the lakes and ponds are important components of landscape and enhance the beauty and bounty of the regions where these are found
Water is the main component of the Earth covering 70% of the land. It is also called elixir that sustains all living things existing in nature. Water and water resources are nature’s best gift. The rivers, the streams, the brooks, the lakes and ponds are important components of landscape and enhance the beauty and bounty of the regions where these are found. Water nurtures the agricultural fields, makes the meadows green and makes ponds habitable for fish and other fauna. Where you see water, you can feel life! Water attracts the birds and animals towards it. Water is divine and its sight is both a pleasure and a treat to eyes. However, the increase in population and increase in demand is leading to depletion of this important natural resource. We are also going beyond the Earth to look for this resource. It is the water only that has made Earth a planet inhabited by mankind. The demand is increasing more in industrial and household sectors. Many parts of the world, especially arid regions are already close to or below the threshold for water scarcity.
India, China and the USA are the largest consumers of the global water resources. India is also an agricultural economy and most of our agricultural crops need high inputs in terms of irrigation. The water requirement per unit of crop production is relatively large and because of water-inefficient agricultural practice, water productivity in terms of output per drop of water is relatively low. We waste more water than we use. If we watch our daily chores and activities from dawn till dusk and make a balance sheet of how much water we extract and how much actually serves the use it is for, we use only 30-40 percent of what we take out from the source. The remaining 60% is a waste. So it is important to work on ways and means to reduce the waste. One of the best examples of the wastage is from RO Systems and water purifiers. In many places, water purifiers are not required at all as the water purification techniques are used by the State Water Corporations before public distribution. In fact, when water is not fit to drink, they display public notices and spread a message to boil the water before use. However, the companies have to sell the products and they manage advertisements in such a way that the public is forced to buy a RO system.
The focus today should be on reducing the footprint. Water footprint can be calculated using mathematical variables and quantifying the usage, wastage, money incurred in purification and transport. “The water footprint is an environmental indicator that measures the volume of fresh water (in litres or cubic meters) used throughout the entire production chain of a consumer item or service.” Some of the viable options for a country like India is to adopt production techniques that require less water per unit of product. Water productivity in agriculture can be improved for instance by applying advanced techniques of rainwater harvesting and supplementary irrigation. A second way of reducing water footprint is to shift to consumption patterns that require less water, for instance by changing food habits, changing food basket and including local, indigenous, seasonal food in our diet. This will have a long term impact on many other associated aspects and save countries resources. Another aspect that needs a review is our subsidy policy. Water is a highly subsidized commodity in India. People pay nominal bills for water and hence, there is no control over over-exploitation and wastage. Reducing subsidy will probably help in securing this resource and force every individual to reassess the way we have been using this precious resource. Water costs are generally not well reflected in the price of products due to the subsidies in the water sector. Besides, the general public is hardly aware of the water requirements in producing their goods and services.
A subtler approach to reduce the foot print is to run rigorous awareness programmes using integrated approaches and talk about the negative impacts of increasing footprint on environment, biodiversity and of course the livelihood and economy. Introduction of other incentives such as water credit scheme, certification to resident welfare associations, awards to water warriors, and make people change their consumption behavior. Governments can promote an international agreement on world-wide water footprint reduction. National targets on water footprint reduction can be translated to specific reduction targets for products, producers, industry, and goods so that all the sectors are covered. If something is not urgently done to reduce the water footprint, we would probably be living on a new planet, so hard to perceive, or we shall cease to exist. Choice is ours!
Writer is a Professor, Department of Botany, Hansraj College