Today, as March 22 does every year, marks the United Nations’ annual celebration of World Water Day. Each year, a new theme surrounding various solutions or issues of water preservation is selected. While last year emphasized wastewater reuse, this year’s theme is “Nature for Water,” exploring the nature-based solutions to modern water issues.
Issues of water scarcity and pollution are more pressing than ever as problems in major cities have been foregrounded; Cape Town is fighting off Day Zero when their water supply will run dry, while wastewater dumping in Gaza has hurt fishing, caused infection and rarified potable water. According to U.N. statistics, 2.1 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed drinking water, and volatile climate issues compounded with a significantly increasing population will only escalate the issue as time goes on.
Environmentally, the U.N. claims the number of individuals at risk for major flooding is expected to rise from to 1.6 billion by the year 2050. Also, an roughly 70% of the planet’s natural wetlands have vanished due to human activity since the dawn of the 20th century, all of which, among other pressing matters, beg substantial action now rather than later.
“As climate change progresses, floods, droughts and other extreme weather events will become the new normal for global communities - and threaten the availability of clean water on a day-to-day basis. While our first instinct is often to focus on building bigger reservoirs and more durable pipes, this is not always a realistic approach,” said Trevor Hill, CEO of Fathom, a global water resource management company. “The cost of water is increasing at three times the rate of inflation; in order to build a truly sustainable water future, the affordability of, an accessibility to, safe and healthy water must be taken into account alongside the construction of new distribution infrastructure.”
Included throughout the U.N. website for World Water Day, the organization offers up a variety of natural approaches to water sustainability. Specifically, it mentions the use of sand dams, walls dug into the ground across river beds in order to store water. Beyond this, restoring landscapes by building water harvesting structures can sustain smaller villages. Finally, implementing conservation agriculture by minimizing soil disturbance, maintaining a continuous soil cover of organic mulch and plants, and cultivating diverse plant species can make vital strides in preserving water.
While the U.N. is celebrating green technological solutions to water problems on this day, inevitably a synergy of both green and grey infrastructure will need to prevail to secure the stability of water moving into the future. While many experts believe wars will be fought over water throughout this century, there remains a varied selection of promising technologies that are emerging simultaneously, especially in the ever-growing industrial sector of wastewater management.
Specifically, practices such as Advanced Oxidation, or even Electrochemical Advanced Oxidation (EAOP), offer highly-refined processes that are a result of decades of water treatment practice and technological development. J.L. Kindler, president of OriginClear Technologies, a provider of water treatment solutions, advocates for such practices for future use. “(Advanced Oxidation) can use engineered microorganisms, stronger or more targeted chemicals, better membranes or more cleverly engineered systems,” Kindler said. “Advanced Oxidation is a major innovation and a breakthrough technology that comes in as a whole new class or method of water treatment.”
In any case, the water problems plaguing our planet are many and estimates look bleak, but the vast breadth of solutions available to us already would go far in scaling back this widespread affliction if there were increased proactivity of implementation.