When we talk about water, the first thing that comes into our mind is a colorless liquid which is used in domestic issues such as cooking, cleaning, drinking and giving to animals. The use of water, however, as we shall see later goes beyond the domestic boundaries. Since the beginning of man, there has always been the issue of water cropping up in most of the historic happenings. Industrialization is a good example.
Considering all the uses of water, we cannot fail to crystallize its importance in the society today. That is why conservation measures have to be formulated in order to prevent the depletion of this precious commodity. Conservation measures include protecting catchments areas, preventing pollution and regulating the number of boreholes in a given area.
In developed countries such as those countries in North America and Europe, policies governing the issue of water have been formulated and are operational as we speak. However, this is quite different in poor countries. In Africa for example, pastoral communities have been reported to fight over water. This is compounded if the communities live in areas that have been frequented with draught. And worse still if the warring communities belong to two different countries.
Generally speaking, water is found everywhere on earth. Water can be tapped through several ways. However, in economics point of view, water has to be economized. This is done by controlling it. Controlling the use of water is important because it also acts as a way of conserving it. Since time immemorial, water deficient areas were faced with the persistent challenge of conserving water. That’s why wells were secured for a particular community.
Water and its uses
Water is used at every instance of our activities. The primary categories in which we can characterize water use is industrial use, municipal use and in agriculture. Below are some of the uses of water in some of the fields.
Domestic use of water
In the domestic sector water is used in drinking, cooking and cleaning. We also fetch water for our animals to drink. For example washing a sizeable load of laundry uses a good amount of water. Statistics estimate this to be 40 gallons (University of Arizona, 2010). We also use water in agriculture to irrigate plants. Within our bodies, water is used during metabolism. Water is also used in the tourism industry. Water falls and rapids create good scenery for tourist attraction.
In large scale irrigation water is used in agro-economics. Where rice is grown in large scale, water is used to irrigate them. Crops such as wheat and barley which require irrigation are also grown in large scale.
Water in the industry
Water is used in the industrial sector, in the engineering field and in the energy sector. In energy sector hydro-electric energy is produced whereby water is used to drive turbines that generate electricity. Geothermal energy production also uses water whereby water is pumped down a reservoir and comes out as steam through another channel. Engineering uses of water are in construction of roads, bridges and railway lines. Water is used as a coolant in heavy duty industries.
Water in the security sector
Water has also gained its use in the security sector. Thus it can be mixed with other chemicals and be used to disperse rowdy crowds. In Africa this technique was first utilized in South Africa.
Water in the transport sector
The uses of water can also be seen in the transport sector where it is used as a means in which vessels move from one port to another. Submarines, cruise ships, ferries and other water going vessels cannot travel without water. A case study is in river Nile in Africa. In Africa River Nile is used for transport. Water is also used to cool engines of automobiles. In economic terms water bodies are the channels through which goods can be transported from one area to another.
Water in the rescue services
Water is also used in fire rescue services. When mixed with gases such as carbon dioxide, this water can be able to put a fire in control.
Water in the health sector
In medical terms water is used in the laboratories in the manufacture of medicines or in pure water injections.
Water is also used in the chemical industry. Most chemicals are manufactured in the presence of water. Thus water is either used as a medium of iron exchange or as a coolant. Water also exists as a major component in chemicals. For example all acids contain water as a major constituent in their chemistry.
Water in mining
In the mining sector, water is used for provisions in underground mines. It is also used as a lubricant in drills and even as a solvent in mining salt domes.
Case study of river Nile in Africa
In Africa, River Nile passes through Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt. River Nile is used for several purposes. It is used in fishing, tourism and farming. In the tourism sector there are numerous of luxury cruises traveling in River Nile especially in Egypt. In farming, the surrounding communities use the Nile for irrigation and for transporting their goods. Items such as rice, wheat, hay, cattle and many others are transported in the Nile. Fishing is a major source of income to communities living around river Nile.
Pollution of water is simply defined as contamination of water. Water is contaminated mainly by chemicals. These chemicals alter the quality of water by adding some components which can be harmful to human beings, animals, and the entire ecosystem. There is quite a number of pollutants which can cause harm to surrounding water bodies like lakes and ponds. Some of the pollutants include soil, nutrients and microorganisms.
Pollution of water by soil
When it rains, the surface run offs usually erode the soil. This soil is transported and deposited in nearby rivers. In such areas soil usually accumulates to levels where it can kill microorganisms, macro organisms and even the eggs of water dwelling animals. Soil can also clog the gills of fish and cause problems to other water dwelling animals.
When soil contaminates the water, it causes the water to become opaque thus blocking light from reaching to water dwelling plants. This causes these plants to die. Accumulation of soils in large reservoirs also causes siltation thus reducing the volume of water in the reservoir.
This can be deceiving to the surrounding ecosystem which uses this water for domestic, irrigation purposes and for HEP production. As a result, dredging will be required. The process of dredging is expensive and time consuming. Thus to an economists point of view, water contamination by soil causes the society to spend more money on remediation measures. Dredging will also be needed to prevent clogging in the gills of fish.
Pollution of water by nutrients
Pollution of water by nutrients is often an artificial cause. The use of fertilizers in agricultural practices can be detrimental to the soil and water. If these fertilizers are washed away, they can find their way into rivers, lakes ponds and reservoirs. Fertilizers usually contain nitrogen and phosphorus. If it finds its way in a lake, the nitrogen and phosphorus cause eutrophication. Eutrophication alters nutrient levels in the water.
This causes growth of phytoplankton. Nitrogen is a nutrient which is well known for stimulating growth of algae. Phosphorus is also another element well known for this purpose. If this growth occurs the ecosystem is affected. Growth of phytoplankton yields algae. When algae grow to numerous numbers, they cause problems because they use up all the oxygen therefore killing organisms like fish. By doing this, the ecosystem is changed and this becomes problematic (Medline Plus, 2010).
Water pollution by sewage
This kind of pollution comes from sewage spills. When untreated sewage is deposited in a lake, bacteria will grow. As a result of this growth, organisms living in the water will find themselves competing for oxygen with these bacteria. Worse still, if the environment is in favor of the bacteria, the increase in bacterial growth will cause them to use up all the oxygen. This results into death of water dwelling animals like fish.
Causes of water pollution and remediation measures
The types of water pollution have to be established first. As we have seen, point source pollution usually comes from a single source. On the other hand if the source of pollution is not definite it is called non point-source pollution. Hence we have surface water pollution and ground water pollution. However, transboundary pollution may also occur. Transboundary pollution is when nuclear waste leak into the water system in the underground and manifests several miles away.
Causes of water pollution include sewage, waste water and dumping of waste in the marine environment. On the other hand, industrial effluent and nuclear wastes which are radioactive do also cause pollution. In addition to this, oil leaks and leakage from underground storage facilities can also cause great harm to the environment. Deposition of chemicals in the atmosphere, global warming and eutrophication are also major ways of polluting water (Water treatment information, 2010).
Preventing water pollution
Prevention of water pollution is one of the remediation measures that aim at keeping the water clean. Below are ways in which we can help in preventing water pollution;
Dumping in the ocean should be carried off further offshore. This will reduce the concentration on toxic substances in the water. However this method needs to be disallowed because it still contaminates the marine environment.
Public education will help a great deal in ensuring that substances such as pesticides near water bodies do not have effect on the ecology of the water life. Atmospheric deposition should be discouraged so that these chemical substances do not infiltrate into the water ways (Scipeeps.com, 2010).
All people must join hand in ensuring that water conservation practices are upheld. If water is not conserved, it will be depleted hence ending the livelihood of many including animals and plants. Thus, it is a cost effective way for reducing the demand for this commodity.
It is also an environmental friendly way of reducing this demand. Economizing on water also reduces the pressure on sewage treatment systems. If we economize on water, less energy will be used in heating water. For example, population in Los Angeles has swelled up yet the city has been using the same amount of water notwithstanding (Monolake committee, 2010).
Benefits of Conserving Water
The benefits of conserving water include those concerned with energy. Since energy is used in treating and pumping water, the less water we use, the less energy will be demanded by this sector.
Thus conservation of water is accompanied by conservation of energy. Water conservation also goes hand in hand with saving money. This practice is quite easy to accomplish and one does not need a lot of time to save on water usage (Howard, 2010). When money is saved, it can be used in other important areas of investment so that sustainable economic growth is enhanced.
Examples of ways in which you can participate in water conservation are; watering your garden only when needed, capturing cold water from the tap as you wait for the hot water to come out. This captured water can later be used in your garden irrigation. A swimming pool can also be covered using a water resistant fabric.
This can help reduce the amount of evaporation from the pool. Also, there should be proper dispose of hazardous substances so that they don’t contaminate large amounts of water. If chemicals are disposed in a proper way so that there is no leakage, there will be reduced contamination of water. A small amount of chemicals can contaminate a large amount of water. Thus less money will be spent in proper dispose of chemical waste than in treating the contaminated water.
We have to understand that for us to achieve sustainable growth, water conservation has to be given a priority. As we have seen, if we conserve water, other elements will also be conserved. Thus the less water we use, the less energy we consume, hence the less the money we spend. In the end, we can use the money investment to other important fields. Pollution of water takes a great toll in the economy of a country. If water is polluted, it will become unsafe to some uses such as domestic use.
Since its quality has been altered, it may become useless for irrigation purposes and even in some specific industries like those industries which manufacture beverages. Thus if the quality of water is altered, more money will be used in purifying it hence it becomes an expensive practice. Since prevention is better than cure, rather than treating the water, it is better to prevent its pollution because the process of prevention is cheaper in relation to time money and other resources.
Recommendations have to be made regarding the use, conservation measures and methods of preventing pollution of water. Water pollution can cause health problems to the ecosystem. These health problems will end up costing the economy in some sense. Thus environmental policies should be formulated to ensure that water pollution is prevented. Water regulatory agencies should ensure that any company involved with dumping should be monitored.
The use of water should also be regulated. This will be able to enhance conservation of water so that the fiscal budget of water is reduced. In addition the policy of further offshore dumping is still causing problems to the marine ecosystem. Thus this policy should be abolished and new methodologies embraced so that marine ecosystems are not tampered with.
Howard, V. (2010). Economic and environmental advantages of water conservation. Web.
Medline plus, (2010). Water pollution. Web.
Monolake committee, (2010). Water conservation. Web.
Scipeeps (2010). Water pollution prevention. Web.
University of Arizona, (2010). Water resources research center. Water uses. Web.
Water treatment information, (2010). Water pollution guide. Web.