Published on: 21/04/2014
Water security means universal, sustainable access to water – and managing the impact of pollution.
What works in one situation though may not work everywhere. The right balance has to be found between water for people, industry and the environment in each location.
There are areas where water resources are scarce due to absolute water shortages. Dry land environments where rainfall is low and surface and groundwater resources are limited. Areas where resources have been so extensively developed that aquifers and river flows can no longer meet rising demands, and are rather a source of competition and conflict.
How to manage large numbers of diverse and distributed water users is the challenge.
In other places, water is not accessible because of the lack of appropriate infrastructure to abstract, store and supply water. Here the challenge is economic rather than absolute water scarcity. The need is to invest and build appropriate infrastructure.
Elsewhere, abundant water resources can pose a different kind of risk, whether because of natural contamination of groundwater with fluoride or arsenic, or the pollution of ground and surface waters from unsafe disposal of human and industrial waste. Flooding also causes enormous damage to water and sanitation infrastructure. The subsequent disease and hardship greatly increase the costs of such disasters.
Scale is a critical issue in these water resources management challenges. There are urban areas where cities are large, and powerful water consumers and polluters can impact water resources over huge distances. In rural areas, individual water supply systems or farmers may have little or no impact by themselves but represent a large use when combined. How to manage large numbers of diverse and distributed water users is the challenge.
Water resources management is about the future. Ensuring that future water demands can be met.
IRC has developed tools and approaches for water resources management that are appropriate to the settings in which we work, particularly when there are limited institutional capacities for planning and regulation. We promote multiple uses of water for different household and community needs through practical approaches that link domestic, agriculture, small-scale business and other water requirements. We have helped to develop and test the introduction of new technologies from water harvesting to shallow groundwater development. And we work on innovative solutions for the disposal of wastes, including those that treat these materials as a valuable resource rather than something to throw away.
Water resources management is about the future. Ensuring that future water demands can be met. But the future is uncertain with climate change just one major factor that will impact on the management of water resources over the coming decades. We have particular skills in scenario-based planning that we have used to strengthen water supply and sanitation in climate change adaptation programmes.