It’s our social responsibility to use water efficiently
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mikhail Gorbachev once said: “We must treat water as if it were the most precious thing in the world.
Be economical with water, don’t waste it. We still have time to do something about this problem before it is too late.”
Unfortunately, most of us do not think of how much water we waste daily. A task as simple as watering plants on a windy day, or running water until the faucet cools for that cold glass of water, leads to a considerable amount of wastage.
Additionally, a lot of rainwater goes to waste because, as a country, we have little or no mechanism to harvest large amounts.
The United Nations estimates that water use has increased twice, more than the global population growth, and that an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity by 2030.
The projected situation gets more dire – during the same period, it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population, including 75 - 250 million people in Africa, shall live in regions with high water stress.
Bearing these grim statistics in mind, just how much water does the world waste?
Save the Water Organisation estimates that the average American uses approximately 300 to 378 litres of water a day.
In Kenya, water consumption averages about 40 litres per capita per day (lcd), with homes in Mombasa and Nairobi consuming the most at 49.8 litres Icd and 37.3 lcd respectively.
Two years ago, South Africa experienced its worst water crisis. Its legislative capital, Cape Town, was approaching Day Zero – water supplies were low that taps were almost turned off.
Whereas the city declared the water crisis a national emergency in 2018, its dams are currently overflowing.
Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town’s largest water supplier has seen an increase in dam levels, from 11per cent in March 2018 to 100 per cent in October 2020.
This was achieved through the city’s management strategies and the public’s water-saving efforts, in addition to increased amounts of rainfall.
Cape Town’s residents reused water, whilst city authorities enforced limits on activities that require large amounts of the resource (filling pools, washing cars and watering gardens at night).
Just like South Africa, the world can avert a global water crisis by putting in place measures to reduce the amount of water consumption.
This is because we are in the last decade of action for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and more specific, clean water and sanitation for all.
We can realise this through water efficiency, conservation and integrated water resources management.
Water efficiency involves using water in innovatively, by focusing on changing behaviour, through simple acts like turning off taps when not in use or replacing leaking pipes.
In industry, it entails replacing old machines with those that save on water and energy. Conservation calls for taking shorter showers, repairing leaks as well as reusing water, among others.
For industry, it can be achieved through reusing and recycling, upgrading equipment and auditing water use.
Water efficiency in industry has endless benefits. It minimises carbon footprint and water treatment costs and reduces pressure on natural sources of water.
Most importantly, efficiency and conservation increase resilience in climate change mitigation, through environmental conservation.
As we head into the future, the challenge we face is how to effectively conserve and manage the water we have.
While our need for water increases as populations rise, our water supply does not.
How we consume water currently has a direct effect on the amount of clean, safe water that shall be available for future generations. We all have a social responsibility to use it wisely. — The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Network Representative for Kenya — [email protected]