Technology is the key to solve many wicked problems, such as the water crisis. With the right tools and software, we can radically improve its distribution, access, and water quality. Ultimately, we can address economic, social, and environmental damages that are perceptible and lasting due to water conflicts.
The current water crisis we are facing presents, in addition to water problems, the lack of acceptance and understanding of the seriousness of the situation by all people. For this reason, we must remember that when we speak of a water crisis, we can mention three general factors that surround it:
- The distribution: each region presents vastly different amounts of water for its use, for example in some regions it rains three times less than in others
- Access: not all people have the same infrastructure and monitoring resources to consume it, there is an important part of the population still in a vulnerable situation to access drinking water and adequate sanitation.
- The quality: that it is affected by the different activities that develop around it and that are carried out without due care to maintain it.
On the other hand, there is currently a highly productive development of technology that gives us the opportunity to use this point in our favor for a better Integrated Management of Water Resources throughout the planet.
The challenges of the water crisis
In this way, we see ourselves in a context that leads us to tackle two great challenges:
- How to value water in regions where it is abundant?
- And how to learn to manage water in regions where it is scarce? Basically what to do when there is and when there is no water.
For both questions we need to first generate more information, this is key to start facing the water crisis. We must know about the water situation in each basin and for this, we can take advantage of technology both with data measurement equipment and with different types of software that allow the simulation of water behavior with different factors related to climate and soil.
In response to this, as an example we can mention the tool launched by the Inter-American Development Bank called “Hydro-IDB” and which has been made available to Latin America and the Caribbean, it allows hydrological simulations to be carried out with the aim of evaluating the availability of water in the basin and even simulate under changing scenarios such as the growing population or the effects of climate change.
Actions to address the water crisis with technology
Analyze the quantity & quality of water
Continuing with the steps to follow to face our challenges, once we have the quantity of water available in each region we must analyze its quality. In other words, how profitable it is and what assignments it can be given, and here we must make use of all kinds of physical, chemical or microbiological analyzes that are available; even take into account bio-indicators that make it possible to notice any type of change in the water channel.
Currently, there are several types of low-cost analysis that can serve to obtain an overview, we must bear in mind that each quality analysis must be related to the activities that take place around water in each basin, from upstream to waters down.
Value of water for the community
The social perspective must also be addressed: what value and use do the population give to water? What will happen if we do not take due importance due to not having a history that has made us experience the lack of the resource, and in a few years the changing climate test us? For example, Brazil is one of the countries with the highest availability of freshwater, however, approximately 3 years ago they have experienced one of the worst droughts in which its inhabitants had not been aware of any similar one. The consequences were disastrous, access to water was restricted, its famous carnival festivals were suspended in some municipalities, which affected tourism in some areas, all kinds of crops were lost, and the idea of importing coffee for the first time in his story.
The economic, social, and environmental damages are perceptible and lasting due to water conflicts. Why don’t we prepare better by having more and more tools for it?
One of the reasons could be what was mentioned at the beginning: the lack of knowledge about the seriousness of the matter. Consumers need to be educated about their own influence on the water cycle and this may be possible, again with the help of technology, as with the use of mobile applications to assess the amount of volume consumed by each villager.
For all this, once we have information about the quantity, quality, and social perspective of water, we will be able to tackle in detail the problems that exist for each region in particular, as it is impossible to diagnose solutions at a general level. Each place on the planet experiences different situations according to the factors that are associated and that mainly have to do with the climate and soil.
Implementation of the specific technology
Once the problem is detected, the technology is implemented to find solutions that allow us to definitively end the conflict or adapt to the situation with the least possible risk to the population. For example, in the case of urban floods, we can apply technology in sustainable drainage systems that reduce the runoff generated. In the case of droughts, we can apply rain collection systems and irrigation savings to make better use of the water.
All water problems must be solved, but it is essential to know the situation in detail, all the factors involved, and implement all the possible capacity to solve it, and the only way to tackle it is with technology and human capacity.
Intelligent technology will allow us to achieve a better quality of life for all and to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals: guarantee the availability of water and its sustainable management and sanitation for all. But to achieve this objective, it is necessary for professionals to get involved in the water sector and make it a priority.
Everyone must get involved to solve the water crisis
All the activities we carry out involve water, so each professional, regardless of the specialty or branch they perform, must emphasize the importance of properly managing water and must carry out activities accordingly. We cannot continue leaving only a certain group of professionals focused on the water sector, we are all involved with it.
The best solution will always be to predict and prevent it. We must all build a water-wise world.