Are We Prepared to Live Without Water?

 

Our world is headed towards a great exigency- the water crisis. While we know that 70 percent of our globe is made up of water, we miss out on the fact that only 2.5 percent of this is actually ‘fresh drinkable water’. With global climate change alongside a growing population, there is a lot of stress on the world’s resources such as water. The rise in overall temperatures of the globe will lead to exponential evaporation of water, which may not be harmonized with the increased demand for water. According to the ‘Water Crisis Report’ published by United Nations, some of the arresting facts about this crisis are:

  • 40 percent of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity
  • There would be a 40 percent gap between the demand and supply of water by 2030
  • Water scarcity coupled by climatic changes could lead to some of the countries losing their GDP by 6 percent
  • Globally, the demand for water is expected to grow by 50 percent by the year 2030
  • Eighty percent or more of the waste water returns to the environment without proper treatment.

Why are we facing this crisis?

While the consumption of water is defensible, there is a gap in tracking associated losses in the distribution of water along with risks associated with pollution and contamination. Pollutants such as plastics, pharmaceuticals and nitrogenous elements from fertilizers are some of the common sources of contamination of water. Increasing levels of water salinity is another major problem that hampers agricultural yields.

Our freshwater resources are depleted and there could be two main causes for this- physical and economic water scarcity. Physical water scarcity implies that there is insufficient capacity in the reserves present in a region to sustain the local population there. Whereas, economic water scarcity implies that even though adequate resources might be existent, nonetheless a privation of apt management of resources would be there. This economic scarcity might be a consequence of negligence by governments or ruling authorities, whereby there is a lack of essential water infrastructure and an absenteeism of necessary investments in this regards.

Thus water security can breed food insecurity as it might be difficult to feed the growing population in the future years. What is worse is that, it is a direct threat to human security as poor quality of water can jeopardize the potential of human beings, which in turn interferes with economic progress of countries. If such similar trends persist, many more people and ultimately countries are going to fall under water poverty in the upcoming decades.

The Impact

The impacts of water crisis on the day-to-day and economic lives of people have been considerably intensified in recent years. One of the major examples of such impacts could include hydrological hazards such as droughts and floods, which results in displacements, health concerns and something as severe as death. Over the last decade, floods have been really frequent all over the globe. With all this, economic growth has a high probability to be constrained in the upcoming years. This would deeply impact the people already living below the poverty lines.

A little glimmer of hope in this situation is that in many countries, international water agreements have been signed. There are 276 trans boundary basins, shared by 148 countries. However, it remains to be seen that how will these countries be able to effectively cooperate to manage this looming crisis. In this era of globalization, even if one country is affected by this crisis, other countries will share the burden too. For developing countries, one of the main constraint is how to finance investments, and cover maintenance costs for water storage and improved water supply.

Way Forward

Technology may be able to be mitigate the risks of water security. Artificial intelligence has been employed by various countries to monitor this crisis. For instance, in Greece, a feed forward neural network trained algorithm has been used for the stimulation of decreasing ground-water trends. Other than this artificial intelligence has been employed by United States for prediction of pesticide quotation in groundwater. Similarly, Iran has modeled the rainfall runoff process using ANN MLP and Singapore has developed a training algorithm for prediction of coastal water quality[1].

Similarly, a Pakistani startup, ‘Aqua Agro’ has developed a technological solution for the farmers to yield more crops with fewer water resources using artificial intelligence. They have developed solar-powered IOT enabled devices to work in the field that monitors environmental conditions such as soil moisture, temperature, humidity, and various other parameters. The data is then sent to an AI-based cloud platform that decides whether the crop needs irrigation or not. Later, farmers are communicated through SMS, email and a mobile application. This system has resulted in saving water by 50 percent[2]. Pakistan can also employ artificial intelligence to perform water analysis and identify the leakages in major pipelines[3]. This would help in reducing water wastage and can aid in water management.

Pakistan was among the 36th most water stressed countries of the world. Our economic growth- already threatened by debt, inflation and unemployment, may further be hampered by this existential threat. The future lies in developing and implementing effective strategies to manage water and mitigate the risks of water insecurity.

References:

[1] Adibhatla, B. (2018, November 25). Solving Global Water Crisis with Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved from AIM: https://analyticsindiamag.com/solving-global-water-crisis-with-artificial-intelligence/

[2] Munir, S. (2018, December 31). This Pakistani Startup is using artificial intelligence to combat water shortage faced by local farmers. Retrieved from TechJuice: https://www.techjuice.pk/this-pakistani-startup-is-using-artificial-intelligence-to-combat-water-shortage-faced-by-local-farmers/

[3] Pakistan, T. (2019, January 23). Smart irrigation model predicts rainfall to conserve water. Retrieved from MIT Technology Review: http://www.technologyreview.pk/smart-irrigation-model-predicts-rainfall-to-conserve-water/

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