In the guide below, we outline what what global ‘quantity’ related water problems are, and what some potential solutions to them might be.
It complements our separate guide on ‘quality’ related freshwater problems.
What Are Quantity Related Freshwater Problems?
Quantity related freshwater problems relate to a local population (i.e. a city or town) having an inadequate quantity of internal freshwater resources (either potable, or non potable water) to meet their demand, over a specific time period.
Some cities can have secure potable water supplies, and experience scarcity with non potable water supplies (which was the case with Perth in Western Australia). So, different types of water can be experiencing quantity related water problems at different times.
The problems may sometimes be minor (e.g. light water restrictions having to be implemented), but may sometimes be major, in the case of extreme water scarcity, water shortages, or even a lack of basic water services.
Water stress, water scarcity, and water shortages are some of the common terms used to describe different water quantity related problems, but, water quality related problems like water pollution can also be a contributing factor to these problems because they can limit the amount of water available to use (at least without treatment).
Water availability and access can also impact water quantity.
Potential Causes Of Quantity Related Water Problems
There can be a range of causes for freshwater quantity related problems.
One, or sometimes multiple causes, can contribute to these problems in an individual city or town, over a specified time period.
They include but aren’t limited to:
– The withdrawal rate from a city’s freshwater resources vs the replenishment rate
The withdrawal rate exceeding the replenishment rate may lead to resources depleting over time
Water restrictions are one way to limit water withdrawals on water sources
– Slow replenishment rates of water sources
In general, the recharge rate of natural sources can be impacted by rainfall (which can vary year to year, natural events like droughts, evaporation, the size and effectiveness of catchment areas, and so on)
Some water sources like some ground water sources may particularly be slower to recharge than other water sources.
For example, in some regions, ground water aquifers can take up to 5 years or more to see meaningful changes in their water level.
Separate to natural water sources, there’s man made water sources to consider, which can generate a certain amount of water yearly e.g. desalination plants will produce a certain amount of water each year
– Groundwater sources may other issues of their own
Apart from a slower recharge rate than some surface water sources, ground water sources can have issues with salinity, being overdrawn, and being hard to track the water levels of.
Groundwater typically responds slowly to climatic changes, especially in comparison to surface water.
The sustainability of groundwater systems is subject to the pressures of climate, extractions and population growth [and …] Groundwater levels are influenced by several factors including climate, land use and extractions
Both bloomberg.com and wri.org may indicate that ground water sources in India may be overdrawn for agriculture
– A city’s total water capacity not being large enough
A city’s total water capacity, or total water volume, is the total amount of water they can store and have access to at any one time
In theory, the greater the population size or per capita demand in an area, the greater the total water capacity might be to service this population and meet this demand
But, some cities may not have an adequate total water capacity relative to population size or water demand
Access involve both economic access, and physical access
Economically, a city has to be able to extract water or generate water in an economically feasible way, or be able to afford capital and operation costs associated with water source projects
Physical access can be limited by geology, sinking of cities restricting access to ground water, and other practical factors
– The volume of natural freshwater resources naturally distributed in a geographic region, and how accessible they are
Freshwater resources are distributed unequally across the world, and not all of them are accessible
Places with more natural freshwater resources that are accessible might be seen as being more water abundant, whilst those with less natural freshwater resources, or resources that aren’t accessible, might be seen as more water scarce
If they are, this can be due to a number of reasons
– A city’s financial means/financial capacity
A city’s financial budget and financial capacity impacts how much money they might be able to spend on water infrastructure (construction, and operation/maintenance) to ensure their water security, and protect against future water risk
Building and operating modern water technology like desalination plants, and water recycling plants, can be expensive
– Whether or not a city has multiple water sources for their water supply
This might also be referred to as the diversification of water sources
Multiple water sources might spread out the burden and risk for those water sources to meet the demand on the total water supply in case something happens to one water source
A range of different water sources might include surface water sources, ground water sources, desalination, water recycling, transboundary water trade and transfer, and even groundwater replenishment schemes
– Whether or not a city has water sources that are climate independent
Climate independent water sources don’t rely on rainfall, the climate and natural factors for replenishment, and can therefore service the water supply independent of what is happening with with these variables
Desalination may be an example of a climate independent water source
Hot and dry climates, or places susceptible to natural events like droughts, may especially benefit from climate independent water sources
– Whether or not a city or town relies on transboundary water resources, or the external sourcing of water resources for their supply
The more a city relies on external water sources (and not internal water sources) for their water supply, the more at risk they may be if something happens with that external water source in the future
Some populations are also land locked, and transboundary water trade or water transfers may be challenging
From watersource.awa.asn.au: [In the MENA region] Geopolitics also complicates things – some 60% of surface water resources in the region are transboundary, and all countries share at least one aquifer
– Climate & rainfall
Temperature, evaporation rate, and rainfall levels can all impact replenishment rate, and the hydrological cycle that provides water on Earth (wind, heat, moisture, and the land/soil are all important when it comes to the process of the hydrological cycle)
There’s also the consideration that the micro climate may change in some regions in the future, and what impact that may have on different aspects of the water supply
Having a hot and dry climate may lead to more natural water stress in some regions
In terms of rainfall, seasonality, and shifting or variable rainfall patterns in an area can impact how much water will flow to water sources year to year
From bloomberg.com: ‘Middle East & North Africa [experience water issues due to …] hot climates and increasing demand …
Also from bloomberg.com: … in the south Indian city of Chennai … Heat waves and a monsoon delay in the summer months saw some of Chennai’s freshwater lakes dry up …
– Frequency and intensity of natural events
Using one example, droughts can impact rainfall over a certain time period, and this can impact replenishment of local water sources like dams, lakes, rivers, etc.
Natural events like floods, hurricanes, etc. can also damage water infrastructure, water treatment plants, and contaminate water supplies with different types of contaminants and debris – restricting the overall volume of water supplies that are either accessible, or, of an adequate quality to drink or use
– Poor political or governmental management
There should be a comprehensive, detailed and specific sustainable water resources management plan for each level of government – local, State and national
Having a competent, effective and stable political board in place to implement and enforce laws, regulations, and policy, and perform other political functions, can lead to a sustainable short term and long term water strategy
Corruption can be an issue in some countries, and there can be misuse and mismanagement of water supplies in major sectors and also by the government in some countries
Conflict of interest can also be a political problem (such as sacrificing the long term future to get elected in short term election cycles)
There may also be competing interests between different groups in society on how to use water, which political parties have to consider
Some groups may value water from an economic point of view, and others may want to compromise some economic benefit to sustain water resources at a certain level
– Poor management of water supply by other key water strategy decision makers
Includes a range of things, such as adequate planning, investment in, and maintenance of water infrastructure, and identifying and mitigating future potential water risks and water stressors (such as droughts)
Additionally, institutions, groups, and decision makers should have the technical knowledge to understand water technology, and manage different aspects of a water supply
Governments investing in inefficient, costly or unsustainable solutions instead of holistic and long term sustainable water solutions may be a reason for water quantity problems too
– Not collecting data on, or tracking water related stats across society
For example, not having data on water supply volume, withdrawal rates, replenishment rates, and so on
This data can help with more informed decision making
– Water pollution and contamination, and issues to do with water quality
These issues can impact how much usable potable water or non potable water is available in one area
– Water theft
In some countries, water theft from the public supply is a problem
– Private wells and boreholes
In some countries, private wells and boreholes may deplete the public supply
– Factors that affect catchment of rainfall, and replenishment rate of natural water sources
Catchment areas are responsible for stream flow and inflow to surface water sources like rivers and lakes
Additionally, groundwater can recharge when water percolates downwards through the microscopic spaces in the soil and rock profile.
Factors that can impact replenishment of both these natural water sources might include:
Amount and variability of rainfall
How large, and how effective water catchment areas are (and therefore, changes to these catchment areas can impact replenishment rate)
Rate of evapotranspiration
Amount of water soil can absorb or retain
Concrete/asphalt covering soil that could usually absorb rainfall
Urban growth on water absorbing wetlands
Deforestation impacting catchments where water supply is located in forests
Other Factors & Variables That Can Impact Or Contribute To Quantity Related Water Issues
– Population size and growth
Overpopulation, or a growing population, can contribute to more demand being put on water supplies because there’s more people using more water, and consuming more products and services (that have a direct or indirect water footprint)
– Per capita water consumption
Per capita water consumption can be impacted by a range of factors
Examples include the general rate of consumer consumption (over consumption/excessive consumption vs average consumption), life style choices, standard of living, and consumption of water hungry or water intensive products and services
A growing middle class or increasing societal wealth can result in purchasing of more water intensive products, like some meats, some types of fossil fuels, and so on
Some populations consume above the global average, and some at the global average, or even below.
Consumption rate can be limited with methods like water restrictions.
wikipedia.org describes the different causes of per capita water footprints in some developing countries and developed countries:
People in developed countries generally use about 10 times more water daily than those in developing countries.
A large part of this is indirect use in water-intensive agricultural and industrial production processes of consumer goods, such as fruit, oil seed crops and cotton.
[Due to globalized production chains] a lot of water in developing countries is being used and polluted in order to produce goods destined for consumption in developed countries
– Economic growth
If an economy grows, it’s possible water withdrawals for different industries or sectors grows alongside it
– Level of industrialization, and urbanisation
Separate to economic growth, higher levels of industrialization and urbanisation may mean changes in a country’s water footprint
The more advanced an economy becomes, the more water intensive some economic activities might become (although, water efficiency and energy efficiency increases may be made too)
– Living in rural and remote regions, or low income regions
Rural or remote areas can experience their own water quantity and water quality related problems
For example, some low income or rural regions have housing that isn’t connected to a public water supply, or doesn’t get a consistently quality water supply
Potential Effects Of Quantity Related Water Problems
The general effects of water scarcity and water stress, and what essentially amounts to water insecurity and water risk, can be wide ranging – economic, social, and environmental.
Some of those general effects include, but aren’t limited to:
Financial instability, business interruptions and loss of economic output, and overall net economic loss
Public health issues, risk to personal health and well being, and disease outbreak
Internal and civil conflict (wri.org notes that a drought and water shortages may have contributed to the 2011 civil war)
Minor vs Moderate vs Serious vs Extreme Effects
However, the differing levels of effects might include:
– Minor Effects
Could involve less restrictive water restrictions for the population over a certain time period
– Moderate Effects
Could involve constructing and operating water generation technology, like desalination for example to augment the water supply
However, this may have the effect of permanently increasing the price of water (because of the cost of the technology) for the local population
– Serious Effects
Could involve a water shortage, or water crisis situation, similar to what Cape Town experienced, and there were a range of flow on effects from that at the time.
Water restrictions and a range of social effects were a few examples.
Cape Town avoided ‘Day Zero’, but this would have involved turning off public supply water taps temporarily, and also the highest levels of water restrictions.
If we use agriculture as one example of a sector that may be impacted by serious water quantity related problems like this, farmers experiencing water restrictions may have a flow on effect of decreased yields, decreased profits, decreased or inconsistent food production, and therefore decreased food security, and so on.
– Extreme Effects
Potential Economic Effects
The economic value of water may lead to sizeable economic losses when it becomes scarce.
[The MENA region could face] expected economic losses from climate-related water scarcity, at about 6% to 14% of GDP by 2050
In regards to the economic value of water, soe.environment.gov.au outlines the economic return for water use across several industries in terms of value added per giga litre of water consumed:
Agricultural production—$4 million
Mining industry—$226 million
Manufacturing industry—$164 million.
Potential Environmental Effects
Water also plays and integral part of the environment and it’s eco systems.
From worldwildlife.org: [Water scarcity leads to loss of wetlands, and damaged ecosystems]
Potential Solutions To Quantity Related Water Problems
Water Issues Are Local, & Therefore Require Local Solutions & Strategies
Water issues are local i.e. there’s a different set of problems, factors and variables impacting the water supply and water resources of each individual city or town around the world at any specific time
Therefore, local water issues require local water strategies and solutions that take into consideration factors and variables applicable to that individual city or town
These strategies and solutions are formulated by local decision makers and authorities in charge of managing a city or town’s local water supply.
As outlined by WRI.org: ‘Every water-stressed country is affected by a different combination of factors’
Strategies & Solutions Can Change Over Time
The water supply management strategy and solutions might change over time as different factors and variables impacting a city or town’s water supply and resources change.
To give an example of this, a city can go from having a water shortage or having a water crisis where they are experiencing extreme water scarcity, back to moderate water stress at a later time period, by implementing various water supply solutions, or when certain water supply variables change.
This is why water strategies need to be monitored over time – to identify when things change, and make the necessary changes to a water supply management strategy.
Water issues may never fully be solved and they can be complex. Instead, they may be managed as best they can be.
Solutions Should Consider Both Potable & Non Potable Water
Additionally, solutions may be aimed specifically at addressing either one of these types of water
Solutions Should Consider Direct vs Indirect Water Use
Solutions Should Consider Withdrawn Water vs Consumed Water
Water that is withdrawn might be returned to it’s source after use
Water that is consumed is not immediately returned to it’s source after use. It may be removed from the water cycle in some way, at least for a certain period of time
Short Term vs Long Term Solutions
Some solutions are implemented over only a short period of time to address temporary water issues
One example of a short term water solution is implementing much stricter water restrictions in times of extreme water scarcity, and then lifting these restrictions (to perhaps lighter restrictions) when/if water levels rise
Another example of short term water solutions is importing bottled water, or using water trucks to carry water into cities where water isn’t available in the short term due to water shortages
However, some solutions are more permanent solutions that help the long term water supply strategy of a city, and address more chronic water issues
Solutions On The Society Wide Scale vs Individual Level
Sustainably managing and using water can happen on a broader social level – at the national, State/province, sector or industry, and city/town levels.
It can also happen on the individual level.
Some even suggest that solutions could be implemented on a global level by addressing a changing climate (which impacts hydrological cycles)
Some guides we’ve put together that might be relevant to this are:
Tradeoffs Of Different Solutions
There’s tradeoffs to different water strategies, solutions and decisions.
For example, different water supply technology like desalination and water recycling each have their own list of potential pros and cons to consider.
Understanding That Not All Water Use Is Bad
Something we mention in a separate guide is that not all water use is always bad.
The type of water being used matters (for example, renewable vs non renewable water sources), as well as the net impact of using that water, plus other factors.
So, simply saving as much water as possible (in the sense of using less water) may not always be the top priority when it comes to water management, depending on the potential outcomes of that water use (i.e. depending on the economic, social and other benefits)
Most Effective Or Cheapest Immediate Solutions
Some reports indicate that the most effective and/or cheapest way to address quantity related water issues in the short to medium term might be to try a more holistic strategy first, that focusses on smaller or quicker changes, changes that don’t rely on large investments, and changes that focus on the existing water supply and resources (instead of new ones).
For example, rather than introducing desalination or water recycling immediately (both of which can have tradeoffs and drawbacks to consider), a city might try things such as:
Water restrictions for the existing water supply
Reducing water waste and loss across society where possible
Increasing water efficiency and the sustainable use of water across society where possible
[Governments need to stop investing in inefficient, costly, and expensive mega projects, and other solutions with major environmental or economic problems]
What Are Some Real Strategies & Solutions That Cities Have Implemented?
You can read case studies about strategies and solutions that Perth and Cape Town implemented:
businessinsider.com.au outlines in their report how various countries and regions have addressed their water quantity related problems, such as Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Oman, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia
bbc.com outlines in their report how various countries and regions have addressed their water quantity related problems, such as Beijing, Mexico City, London, and Tokyo
bloomberg.com notes that Qatar now depends heavily on desalination
Many Solutions To Address Quantity Related Water Problems Might Involve Addressing The Main Causes
Many solutions may simply involve identifying the main causes of quantity related water problems in a city or town, and formulating solutions around them.
A List Of Potential Solutions To Address Quantity Related Water Problems
General solutions that may be part of an overall strategy for a city or town might include but aren’t limited to:
– Water restrictions
Restricting water withdrawals from the public water supply might be one of the most effective ways to preserve the remaining water supply in times (so, recharge rates of the water supply have to be taken into considerations too)
Water restrictions can be less extreme, or more extreme (where water rations and other extreme measures can be taken to protect/conserve some base level of water supplies)
Something to consider with water restrictions though is what an adequate ‘per capita’ water use footprint is, and ensuring each water user is able access their share of water supplies
Australia is a good example of how effective management can save a country on the brink of water stress. On the way to its own Day Zero during a millennium drought, the nation nearly halved its domestic water use.
wri.org also notes that Rome utilized water rationing to conserve it’s water resources
Having said this though, weforum.org (paraphrased) notes that ‘… the legal foundation establishing priority to water among different users, [and] the authority to enforce restrictions [needs to be clear]’
– Sustainably managing withdrawals vs recharge rates from different water sources
For all individual water sources, the withdrawal rate might sustainably be managed against the recharge rate of those individual water sources
In particular, some groundwater sources may need to have their withdrawal rates significantly slowed and managed in order to protect against depletion, and other issues that come from overdrawing, or overuse
– Being aware of the three main water withdrawing sectors across society
– Focussing on the largest individual water users across society
In order to be most effective with sustainable water management, focussing on the largest water users might be an area to focus on
One suggestion for large water users to manage withdrawals is to consider regulation of pooled common water resources to make sure everyone is responsibly withdrawing at a fair rate
Another suggestion is heavier reliance on metered usage, or some type of water usage tracking for the largest water users
Penalties, incentives, credits and initiatives for inefficient and efficient water users are other suggestions
– Increasing total water capacity/volume, and per capita water supply
Involves making more total water volume available to the local population to withdraw from and use
Examples of ways to do this might include building a new dam (which increases water storage capacity), or, building a desalination plant (that can generate freshwater from saltwater in the area)
In regards to per capita water supply, the size and growth of the population obviously has to be considered
– Diversifying water sources, and not overly relying on one source
For example, having at least more than one major water source that a local population relies upon for their water supply
A city heavily reliant on ground water for example may look at adding desalination as a secondary water source if they can afford it
– Considering using at least one climate independent water source
Cities whose water supply is at risk of being impacted by the climate, rainfall, natural variability, or natural events (like droughts), may at least consider one climate independent water sources like desalination
– Specifically consider desalination
Desalination is able remove salt from saltwater, and produce freshwater
– Specifically consider treating, and reusing or recycling waster water
Waste water recycling provides the ability treat and re-use various types of waste water from various parts of society that may have otherwise been dumped/discharged into the environment or into sewers
sciencealert.com indicates that the MENA (Middle East, & North Africa) regions might have large potential to recycle wastewater
– Consider other ways to generate, recycle or provide more freshwater
– Studying and analysing catchments’ response to rainfall
Catchments ‘catch’ rainfall runoff and channel streamflow to water storage areas
bom.gov.au gives an example of how catchment rainfall runoff processes have been studied/analysed in Perth, Western Australia, to better understand why streamflows have decreased
– Better and more accurate data collection and tracking of water use across society, and future risk identification/forecasting for the water supply
This is specifically for key water decisions makers like the governments, water suppliers, and water authorities
Collecting data on a city’s water resources and water supply system, tracking the movement of that water and how it’s used across society, and being able to identify what future risks to a water supply might be (and identify stressors and triggers), might all be things that can help ensure a city’s water supply is managed more sustainably, and may also better protect against water risk and water insecurity
There may be better data collection, tracking, and risk identification methods and system available, as well as better tools, software and other things that could help water planners and decision makers get a better understanding of a local water supply picture, and make more informed decisions
Being able to better estimate/forecast future water demand, population growth, economic growth and so on, may also help in understanding external factors that could impact the water supply
Additionally, looking at annual water withdrawal and water replenishment trends can help decision makers understand where water supplies might be trending (i.e. whether they are dropping or increasing year on year), and what actions need to be taken to address a trend
From weforum.org (paraphrased):
[Cities should have access to adequate water data for making water management decisions that impact the future, and to forecast future water demand]
[Cities and businesses can use initial screening tools and risk assessment to identify future water risks, vulnerabilities, shocks and stressors, and water crisis events. Over time, these tools can be improved to better account for multiple water risk factors, and also both chronic and acute water risks and triggering events such as low reservoirs, and basic hydrology, just to name a few]
[Cities can implement better water management strategies and processes as a response to these tools and assessments]
[Cities can start to get very specific with their water management strategies, by defining answers to these types of questions …] When does a city start reducing demand? And to whom? What severity of water restrictions are residents willing to tolerate? When are new investments in supply and storage made?
[Cities should understand their overall water supply picture, and understand how to incorporate all this into good water policy]
India can manage its water risk with the help of reliable and robust data pertaining to rainfall, surface, and groundwater to develop strategies that strengthen resilience
– Governments and water suppliers publishing and updating reports and data on the water supply
Making water supply data and reports publicly available can help with accountability of a local water supply
– Regions with the need for it can establish government bodies just to deal with water issues
From wri.org: [India has set up a national government ministry just to deal with water issues].
– Address political and institutional issues that may affect sustainable and effective public water supply management
Such as incompetence, mismanagement, conflicts of interest, corruption, and so on
There should also be a balancing of interests between competing groups who want to use water in different ways
Cities need to have water management strategies that go beyond election cycles and focus on the long term too i.e. water management strategies should do what’s best for the city’s population long term and not what’s best for the political party in the short term
– Understanding the local climate (i.e. the micro climate), and adapting solutions around it
Cities should understand their average surface temperature, evaporation rates, average rainfall, yearly and seasonal variability, natural event risk, and so on
For example, a hot and dry climate may have to have a different strategy and different solutions than cool climates with heavier average rainfall
– Understanding the natural environment and other local factors (like local hydrology and geology), and planning around them
– Planning for natural events
Such as having climate independent water sources in the case of droughts
But also, having emergency plans in place specifically for natural events and disasters like floods, and hurricanes – which can damage water supply infrastructure
– Consider how allowing and encouraging more rainwater collection and harvesting, and private supplies of water, may ease the burden on the public water supply
Private rainwater harvesting and collection by households and businesses for example could help ease withdrawals from the public supply (as long as it’s safe and practical)
This might especially be the case when considering how little rainfall might actually recharge surface water and groundwater sources.
bom.gov.au for example notes that in Australia: ‘… only a small portion of [total rainfall] becomes renewable resources. On average, 9 per cent of this rainfall becomes runoff and about 2 per cent becomes recharge to groundwater’
wikipedia.org also notes that ‘… found that in an average year, 97% of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, in the southern suburbs of Denver, never reached a stream—it was used by plants or evaporated on the ground’
– Reducing water pollution and water contamination
– Consider introducing more transboundary agreements and shared water agreements for cities and towns that engage in water trade/water transfers, or that share water in some way
This can be between countries, or for regions within countries.
From un.org ‘Around two-thirds of the world’s transboundary rivers do not have a cooperative management framework’
From wri.org: [Internally within the country, Australia’s] water-trading scheme, the largest in the world, allows for smart allocation of water among users in the face of variable supplies.
– Consider how importing water can help some regions
Some regions that are water scarce for example may import agricultural products that would be water intensive for them to produce themselves (and use irrigation on)
These regions may also generally import a certain amount of water in their overall water footprint from other regions that are more water abundant
– Consider how changing water pricing might impact water use
Increasing the price of water across some aspects of society may incentivize more efficient use of water, or conservation
Some suggest a tiered pricing water withdrawal and consumption rates (essentially a progressive water tariff systems) for the highest users of fresh water in society (industries and agriculture being the main two)
When the price of receiving clean water is closer to its actual service cost, efficient water use will be incentivized, and there will be more incentive to invest in effective and efficient water use (wri.org).
Again from wri.org: Saudi Arabia sets water prices to incentivize conservation and has a program set up to set water conservation targets
– More education and awareness around sustainable water use and management across society, and the value of fresh water
Like for example more education and awareness at schools, in businesses, and across other aspects of society
Consumers may also be made more aware of how their consumption habits and lifestyles impact their water footprint
– Consider training programs and other assistance for farmers, business owners and other large water users across society, or for their income
– Consider how legislation, regulations and water policy can play a role
Governments across all levels of society, and local councils might consider how legislation, regulations and water policy (along with other political tools and functions) can best help with sustainable water management
– Consider the utility of public private partnerships between business and governments for new water initiatives and projects
– Consider how economic growth may positively impact water supply for some countries
Although increased economic growth can lead to increased water use (or more intensive water use), lower income regions, or regions that have challenges in affording modern technology like desalination or water recycling, may benefit from economic growth by investing cashflow into their water supply strategy and infrastructure
– Consider the water supply needs of both urban and rural/remote regions
Rural/remote regions aren’t always serviced in the same way urban regions are in some countries
– Consider how cities and countries can share water supply solutions and information between each other
Cities can look at examples of other cities who have already partially, or mostly addressed water scarcity issues
wikipedia.org also mentions that (paraphrased) developed countries might also share cost effective solutions with developing or underdeveloped countries, and also information on hydrological transport modelling
– Consider how external funding or external help may help some countries manage their water supply
borgenproject.org indicates that (paraphrased) Jordan had outside funding for water infrastructure, and external groups helped Djibouti manage their water supplies in various ways
– Preserve ecosystems that store water, or that serve different functions to do with water
One example might be preserving forests for the sake of forest watersheds
But, other eco systems and natural infrastructure like plants, and trees are responsible for clean, plentiful water (by filtering pollutants, buffering against floods, and regulating water supply), replenishing groundwater, etc.
Limiting deforestation, overgrazing, urbanization, and other sometimes environmentally destructive practices may help
– Consider how much of an impact soil can play in sustainable water management across society
As one example, healthy soil in agriculture may have several traits that help water be used in a more sustainable way (such as not having to use as much irrigation, or, having more productive soil that makes more efficient use of agricultural resources)
The world’s soils can hold eight times more water than all rivers combined, yet agricultural practices deplete soils, causing that critical water reservoir to shrink. But this can be fixed by rebuilding soil health.
[Several farming practices can] build the soil’s carbon content and enable it to store more water. Even a one percentage-point increase in soil organic carbon can increase water-holding capacity by some 18,000 gallons per acre. Yet farmers plant cover crops on less than 3% of US farmland and practice conservation agriculture on only about seven percent of cropland worldwide.
– Better energy efficiency, and better electricity efficiency
What some don’t consider is that energy and electricity production has a water footprint (energy and electricity production are one of the biggest water users outside of irrigation and agriculture in society)
Using energy sources that are water efficient, and finding ways to increase electricity efficiency could both help save water.
– Consider experimental water supply ideas
Including but not limited to shade balls, cloud seeding, harvesting water from the air, and towing icebergs from Antarctica (just to name a few)
– There could be potential to save water with new technologies in various industries, or in general
– In the long term, consider how external factors impact a water supply, and what to do about that
For example, external factors like population growth (and overpopulation), continued economic growth (and the potential impact that may have on sustainability), and a changing climate may all have the ability to put stress on a water supply
Cities might consider how they will address these external factors in relation to their water supply over the long term, or consider what the maximum amount of people or maximum amount of economic growth they can support is whilst still sustainably managing water resources
The most cost-effective way of decoupling water use from economic growth … is for governments to create holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle: from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, recycling, reuse and return to the environment.
[Countries like Australia have shown it’s possible to decouple water consumption from economic growth, where] water consumption declined by 40% between 2001 and 2009 while the economy grew by more than 30%.
– What other reports generally say about solutions
sciencealert.com indicates that improving agricultural efficiency, decreasing water use, and recycling and reusing wastewater, are three of the keys to addressing water scarcity in the future
Key Indicators Cities Might Consider To Manage Water Supplies Sustainably
Some of the key indicators a city might pay attention to in order to develop and maintain a sustainable water management strategy are:
– The total internal renewable fresh water resources (surface water, and ground water)
– The total additional man made fresh water capacity (from desalination, water recycling, and so on), plus any additional sources of water like rainwater harvesting, etc.
– Add the above two figures to get a total water volume, or total water capacity. Consider the population size and also calculate the total per capita water supplies
– Differentiate between the potable, and also non potable water capacity
– Consider the ability to increase fresh water resource capacity or volume beyond what they already are (with desalination, water recycling, or other water sources)
– Consider the ability to engage in transboundary water transfers and trade, as well as importing water for different agricultural products, and other products and services
– Consider the amount of water that is of adequate quality for potable and non potable end uses
– Consider the amount of water that is polluted, contaminated, too saline, brackish, or not of adequate quality for potable and non potable end uses
– Consider the yearly water withdrawal amount (total, and per capita)
– Consider the yearly water consumption amount (total, and per capita)
– Consider the total yearly water replenishment amount (and compare this to withdrawal volumes)
Re-Use & Recycling Indicators
Loss, Wastage & Leakage Indicators
Potential Challenges Associated With Implementing Solutions For Quantity Related Water Problems
Ultimately, there might be hundreds of different challenges associated with implementing solutions for quantity related water problems, but a few of them might be:
– Financial limitations in terms of investing in water infrastructure and strategy
– Some water sources are harder and more expensive to use than others in some regions
From bom.gov.au: ‘With higher rainfall and easier access to surface water, farmers [in Australia] rely less on groundwater, which usually is more expensive to access.’
– It’s hard to forecast external factors like future demand for water, population growth, economic growth, a changing climate, natural weather events, and so on
– Ground water can sometimes be poorly managed, because unlike surface water sources, it’s hard to see the levels of ground water.
bloomberg.com notes that this might be the case in Northern India
– Limitations in water management and water risk tools used by government and key water decision makers
weforum.org notes that ‘Water risk tools used by governments and companies have their limitations, and may lack the quality or accuracy of data required (for example – they don’t account well for water use, politics and some types of water infrastructure. They have deficiencies in detecting acute risks’
– Mega projects and expensive large projects have failed in some regions in the past, or has large drawbacks
borgenproject.org notes (paraphrased) this may have been the case with the Great Man Made River Project in Libya
businessinsider.com.au notes (paraphrased) notes this may have been the case with the opening of a gigantic lake in Turkmenistan
wikipedia.org notes that: [Some solutions are hugely inefficient, costly, expensive to run and generally environmentally sustainable nor economically viable – such as mega projects, construction of wastewater treatment plants, reducing groundwater over drafting, and so on]
1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides
21. Downloads/642-progress-on-level-of-water-stress-2018.pdf, ‘Progress On Level Of Water Stress’ (from unwater.org)