Fresh, clean water is fast becoming a scarcity. While most of Earth’s surface is covered in water, it is salt water which can only be used for human consumption if it is desalinated, which is an expensive procedure. It is essential that water be conserved and steps be taken to reduce water usage as much as possible. Access to water is limited due to contamination in many parts of the world.
There are various reasons why water should be conserved. Using excessive amounts of water puts a strain on septic and sewage systems which result in groundwater contamination. Water conservation reduces energy use and can save money by limiting use of appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. Conserving water at present would permit city planning which uses water more efficiently thus conserving water resources for the future.
The consumption of contaminated water through drinking, washing and other uses can result in diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, scabies and more. Organic and inorganic contaminants in wastewater can lead to negative impacts on human health such as neuropathological disorders, skin diseases and an introduction of carcinogens into the food chain.
It is predicted that by 2025, 1.8 billion of the world’s population will be living with total water scarcity, and two-thirds of all people may be living in water stressed conditions. Pakistan too has an ever widening gap between per capita freshwater availability and the increasing population numbers. It is essential therefore to conserve water and to treat wastewater. A number of solutions have been devised to address this problem. Engineering solutions include wastewater treatment and reuse. 100% reuse of domestic wastewater after treatment, could meet 11.6% of Pakistan’s agriculture water needs while 100% reuse of domestic and industrial wastewater could meet 45% of the country’s agricultural demand. Other solutions are to improve irrigation efficiency and desalination.
Desalination is a process to remove salts from water in order to make it drinkable and potable. It involves uses processes such as reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, vacum freezing, forward osmosis and distillation. There is a first of its kind, desalination plant in Karachi, which desalinates water from the Arabian Sea for human consumption. Other desalination plants in Pakistan are located in Manora; along the Manchar Lake; at Nabisar in Sindh; and there are desalination plants in Punjab set up by Saaf Pani as well.
Infrastructure Development Authority of the Punjab (IDAP) has put in place, water friendly policies, tools, technologies and designs, at many of its project sites. At the Punjab Forensic Science Agency complex site, IDAP has a 122 m3/day wastewater treatment plant, based on coagulation and flocculation, designed in-house. The Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute is another IDAP project where there is a 1600 m3/day wastewater treatment plant based on membrane bioreactor technology in place. In the project involving the revamping and upgrading of 40 DHQ and THQ hospitals around the Punjab, around 35 Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Ultra Filtration (UF) systems of 1 m3/hr and 0.5 m3/hr for providing safe drinking water are in place. At the Information Technology University site, IDAP has a 250,000 GPD wastewater treatment plant based on the Conventional Activated Sludge (CAS) process in place. Additionally, IDAP will be harvesting rain water using artificial lakes of around 3.4 acres in size. Decentralized water filtration plants will also be placed at different places in the University. At the DHQ Hospital in Sialkot, a 250 m3/day wastewater treatment plant based on Moving Bed Bioreactor (MBBR) is functional.
The importance of water conservation cannot be overstated. Changes need to be made in all human activities in order to ensure there is adequate water for human consumption in the coming decades. This would include changes at the individual and organizational levels, as well as at the administrative levels of cities and countries in terms of planning and construction.