The basics of water conservation

The issue of water conservation appears to be the topic of discussion at the national and international forums of experts. Yet, for effective solutions, it has to be tackled at the micro-level of households, individuals and institutions.

A basic strategy of water conservation is an awareness regarding the problem, information about the prevailing water conserving techniques and practices and policies pertaining to the issue.

About 97% of water on Earth is salt water and not usable. Out of the remaining 3% of fresh water, water bodies like lakes and rivers hold a small percentage, 69% is concentrated in glaciers and ice caps, and the rest 30% is taken up by groundwater source.    

While these facts point to the dire need to protect the hydrosphere, the forecast of world population rising to nine billion by 2050 as well as the estimate that nearly half of the global population will be living with water shortages due to demand outstripping supply with climate change further affecting this natural resource, call for urgent steps to address the problem from the grassroots level.

As things stand, our lakes and rivers are more of dumping yards than water sources. Hence, whether it is for industrial or personal use, groundwater is unsustainably tapped, leading not only to sinking water tables, but also its contamination with salt water in coastal areas. Maintaining the quality of water is very much a part of conservation. 

Flushed out

Affluence has joined hands with increase in population and number and sizes of households to intensify the pressure on water consumption in our country as elsewhere.

The booming construction industry is considered to be the second largest in the Indian economy. Consequently, metropolises followed by two-tier cities and towns are witnessing unprecedented mushrooming of apartments. Thanks to Western influences and lifestyle and age-related problems, Western-style toilets are in vogue, a single use of which flushes out several litres of water!  

A flushless Indian-style toilet used side by side, by whoever and whenever possible, will facilitate less wastage of water and utilising used-water is also a good idea.

Dual-flushes, half and full flushes for need-based water usage, modern shower heads, low-flow taps, faucet aerators, automatic faucet (that curbs water wastage in various ways like cutting water flow into droplets for its effective distribution, eliminating hand use etc compared to conventional gadgets) should be looked into by every builder, insisted upon by every buyer and promoted with rewards by sanctioning bodies in the housing sector.

Washing machines are others culprits of uncontrolled and non-reusable water consumption. Using them to their full capacity and skipping unnecessary water-consuming stages can control wastage. For instance, soaking clothes manually and machine-rinsing them reduces machine-drawn water which is definitely more while also making the soaking water available for reuse.

Urban outdoor consumption of water is another concern for conservationists. Mopping and wiping of vehicles, steps, surfaces, gates, doors etc is as effective as washing and must be adopted. Cleaning of doormats, rags, sandals, socks etc and the bathroom floor itself could be combined with shower time and water.

Save that precious dirty water, it has potential! Water used to clean kitchen ingredients can be utilised for plants; it saves water and also nourishes them.

Stack utensils properly in the sink while cleaning activities are underway in the kitchen, so they are soaked well before scrubbing which reduces effort and water.

Ensure that water does not overflow from overhead and other tanks. Ours is a country that has long known the value of natural resources, and water bodies like rivers and seas are worshipped too. Yet, practices do little to preserve them.

Daily baths are a hygienic practice ingrained in our culture. But, a short one is equally healthy because how well the body is scrubbed is more important than how many buckets of water are poured over it! These may be small steps yet big strides towards water conservation.

Many of our practices have to be reviewed and changed because like conservation of other natural resources, water conservation too, should rest on the pillars of reduce, reuse and recycle. This is bound to leave enough water for life and things around us, an act termed as “habitat conservation”.

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The basics of water conservation

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