A Look Around on World Water Day

Today is World Water Day and this precious resource that pretty much everybody takes for granted, is in serious peril. Water is a non-renewable resource and yet we treat it like its never going to run out. In spite of the fact that 70% of the Earth is covered in water, only a minor fraction of that is potable. Every part of the world is showing signs of major water stress and it is about time that we all pitch in to make an effort to conserve this precious resource.

The situation is especially dire in Asian and African countries. In addition to pollution, inadequate rainfall and lack of proper infrastructure means that people do not have access to drinking water.

16 million Filipinos have no access to safe drinking water. According to the World Bank, Pakistan is on the list of countries of the world that are facing the red zone of water scarcity. People in Nairobi do not have regular access to water, sometimes for more than a week.

Even bigger cities in India like Bangalore and Hyderabad show severe water stress. The government is even considering cloud seeing to alleviate some of the water woes in Bangalore. With summer fast approaching, residents are beginning to wonder where the water will come from in Agra. The water scarcity in Nepal has been described as "horrifying." Parts of Peru especially Lima are in danger of running dry. Many parts of China along the Yangtze show advanced levels of water pollution.

Even Southern California is not immune to water crisis. California's water system, designed to supply water to 16 million people, struggles to serve nearly 40 million residents. The state loses 10% of its water every year due to aging infrastructure. The federal government estimates water lost just from water main breaks is worth about $2.6 billion annually.

Wasted water not only results in economic losses but in times of water shortage we must treat every drop as a precious commodity. Many cities are pushing forward towards more positive changes in water infrastructure and are learning from the Dutch.

With 26% of the country below sea level, several Dutch companies are focusing efforts on projects on delta areas in five countries: Mozambique, Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Out of a population of 16.5 million, the Netherlands boasts some 2,000 companies in the field of water, employing about 80,000 people. The World Bank estimates that $180bn of water infrastructure investment is needed each year until 2030 to meet fresh-water demand.

Water needs a revolution much like renewable energy. And several companies are stepping forward with innovative technologies. Norwegian-based Zeropex, has developed a hydro micro gen technology which harvests the energy produced from a controlled reduction in water pressure and converts it to electricity, which can then be used by the utility or exported to the grid. Icos Capital has invested in Dutch Rainmaker, a company combining windmill and cooling technologies to produce water from air. UK-based Algaecytes, uses algae to produce clean water from waste water.

At the end of the day it is a collective effort that is going to safeguard our water resources. Careful use of current supplies as well as prudent plans for possible  future supplies. Regardless of whether you have experienced it or not, water stress is real and here to stay.

Photo Credit: Poster for World Water Day 2011