A blue, but thirsty planet

We can’t replace water. There simply is no substitute for this essential ingredient of life, and yet everyday water is made permanently toxic and completely unsuitable for human use. You have probably read before that fresh water is a far scarcer substance than we would like to believe, with only 3% of the world’s water being fresh water, and only 1% truly being accessible for human use. Introducing climate change into such a system will certainly be very disruptive, as the traditional patterns of rainfall and seasonal melting that humanity has relied upon change with the weather.

We need to rethink the way we use water in our systems, and value it much more as we move forward. This means considering and dealing with the inefficiencies that exist in periods of relative abundance, so that as water becomes increasingly scarce, we have systems that can still provide. Luckily there are many technologies and approaches that exist, as humans have been trying to manage water for a very long time.

Innovative approaches to architecture and design in general could go a long way to helping us create solutions to our pending scarcity crises. Consider biomimicry, an approach to design that looks at evolution as the research and development of millions of years. With porous concretes and surfaces that naturally funnel water, we could capture much of the water that currently gets drained away in the cities of the world through sewer infrastructure, recharging the aquifers that many populations rely on.

In fact, in most parts of the world, rainwater is fully potable, and as opposed to spending more money on the expensive infrastructure required to move water to and through buildings it could be captured for our use. Additional water savings exist for our buildings and landscaping in the form of technologies ranging from low-flow fixtures to drip irrigation methods, all currently excessive areas of water usage. Huge savings exist in the area of agriculture . Currently the world’s greatest water user, outdated infrastructure and farming techniques also mean agriculture is often our most inefficient user of water. Much of the water currently used in agriculture, for example, evaporates before being used by plants requiring more water used overall for the same effect.

There is also a lot of potential savings to be found in our choices. For those of us with lawns, choosing drought resistant landscaping and simply choosing to water less can cumulatively result in much less water use, to the benefit of reservoirs and communities alike. Even choosing to drink water differently can save water, thanks to the concept of embodied water . Approximately three times the volume of bottled water is used than is actually in the bottle!

There are areas where water can be saved immediately; where there simply exists no excuse to not start conserving this incredibly precious resource. We must not let our sense of water abundance lead to excess and inefficiency, lest we find ourselves in situations of scarcity from which we have no real escape. Applying the lessons we’ve learned from the past, and those that we can learn from nature, we can surely ensure that our current and future generations are never thirsty.

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