What is Water Sustainability?

Deanira Bong

Water sustainability efforts ensure that adequate amounts of high-quality water supply will continue to be available in the future. The integrated management of water resources is a delicate balancing act that aims to maximize the economic and social benefits that water resources provide while maintaining aquatic ecosystems. Aside from maximizing water supply, these efforts also attempt to minimize water use.

Water pollution is a serious problem that leads to water scarcity.
Water pollution is a serious problem that leads to water scarcity.

Water scarcity results from climate change and bad water management practices such as pollution, wasteful habits and urbanization. As a result, many natural aquifers are over-pumped; half of the world's wetlands have disappeared because of development. More than 1 billion people lack access to clean water and more than 5 million people die each year because of a lack of drinking water. It is estimated that 40 percent of the world population will live in water-scarce areas by 2025. At the heart of water sustainability efforts is the belief that people should stop treating water as if it is a limitless resource and start taking steps to conserve it.

Distilled water.
Distilled water.

To maximize water supply, water sustainability managers build reservoirs, install large pipes and dig deep wells. They also carry out maintenance efforts on water infrastructure. For example, treatment plants require expansion or rehabilitation after 20 to 50 years, while pipes need to be replaced after 15 to 100 years of use, depending on the type of material and environment.

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Water that is polluted by oil.
Water that is polluted by oil.

Water sustainability efforts also aim to minimize water use by eliminating wasteful water practices. Governments that realize the importance of water sustainability have taken steps to reduce their environmental footprint. For example, they increase the price of water and reclaim used water by chemically treating it. They also create incentive programs that encourage participants to reduce water consumption by providing benefits such as grants or interest rate breaks on loans.

Under pressure from the public, corporations are also taking steps to minimize their footprint on water. Such efforts enhance their public image and maximize their business opportunities. Many corporations are trying to utilize water more efficiently and manage the quality of their liquid discharges.

Water sustainability managers also educate people about the issue and encourage them to participate in limiting the amount of water they use. They encourage homeowners to install low-flow bathroom fittings and use water-efficient electrical appliances, among other things. They also teach kids in schools the importance of water efficiency, giving them tips on helping to save water.

A global study involving 1,000 people in 15 countries found that 93 percent of people believe water pollution to be a very serious or somewhat serious problem. The study also found that 91 percent believe a shortage of fresh water to be a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Respondents believe governments have the biggest responsibility for ensuring a clean water supply, with companies and individuals supporting the effort.

Many wetlands around the world have disappeared, posing a threat to water sustainability.
Many wetlands around the world have disappeared, posing a threat to water sustainability.

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