Water is vital for drinking, crop irrigation, animal farming, industrial manufacturing and energy production, as well as cleaning and several other daily human activities.
The global population tripled in the 20th century, which resulted in a dramatic increase in the usage of water. This, coupled with a 55% drop in available freshwater since 1960 puts a massive strain on available resources in our increasingly industrialised and thirsty world.
When untreated water flows back into the environment, the hazardous compounds within the water mix and react with one another, potentially becoming more complicated to treat once the supply is abstracted further downstream. A shocking 80% of wastewater returns to the environment without adequate treatment, rendering this water contaminated for future use by humans and potentially harmful for aquatic ecosystems.
The flow chart below highlights some of the hotspots for the contamination of the environment and drinking water sources with hazardous compounds, including areas such as industrial manufacturing, medication disposal/excretion and landfill leachate.
Source: Arvia Technology Ltd. 2018
All activities detailed in the chart occur on a global scale and are vital in the maintenance of our modern world. For example, the ongoing production of clothing, medication, technology and many more, so these activities are only set to increase as populations grow.
Furthermore, in order to feed our existing 7.5 billion population, the agricultural sector accounts for 70% of the world’s total water consumption, compared to the 20% for industrial manufacturing and 10% for domestic use. Unfortunately, irrigation is not always conducted using the most sustainable methods.
The process of irrigation provides soil with the essential moisture that plants need to grow and the frequency and volume of water for irrigation is determined by the size and type of crop in production. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations describes ‘irrigation efficiency’ as the ratio of the volume of water required for irrigation over the volume of water diverted from the source of supply. This is a calculation which should be monitored carefully to assess both water consumption and loss.
To put this into perspective, it is estimated that the production of one slice of bread requires the equivalent of 40 litres of water and 100g potatoes require 25 litres. This is why it is of paramount importance that water efficiencies are closely scrutinised as freshwater is not an infinite resource and it is already under strain.
The graphs above detail our population growth alongside the volume of freshwater we are withdrawing to drink, manufacture items and grow crops/raise livestock. There will eventually not be enough water to fulfil our needs. Therefore, innovative solutions are required today in preparation for the inevitable global gap between supply and demand.
Arvia Technology Ltd. have designed a range of tertiary Nyex™ solutions which clean water to a high enough quality to be discharged directly to the environment without causing harm to natural ecosystems. Nyex™ treated wastewater can also be safely reused in the manufacturing process or in other areas of the business, such as for irrigation or toilet flushing.
Not only does reusing water have environmental benefits, it is also more cost-effective. The ongoing charges associated with disposing of contaminated wastewaters are high but by reusing water, businesses can achieve operational efficiency.
Some early adopters of water reuse are setting themselves apart from their competitors through their water conservation efforts due to increased public awareness around the issue. Consumers are actively looking for more sustainable options when they are purchasing products. Water usage is everybody’s responsibility as the effects will impact us all, and are already being felt by millions.
The bottom line is that water availability goes hand-in-hand with food crises, the spread of disease, natural disasters, climate change, unemployment, interstate conflict, and ecosystem collapse. In order to protect our drinking water sources and ourselves, the time to act is now.
United Nations University, Global Water Crisis: The Facts – https://inweh.unu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Global-Water-Crisis-The-Facts.pdf
Science News, More than 2 billion people will lack safe drinking water – https://www.sciencenews.org/article/future-will-people-have-enough-water-live
World Bank Group, 70% of freshwater is used for agriculture – https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/chart-globally-70-freshwater-used-agriculture
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Water for Sustainable Food and Agriculture – http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7959e.pdf
Lenntech, Use of water in food and agriculture – https://www.lenntech.com/water-food-agriculture
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