Many things have changed in the last two hundred years. We can fly across the world faster than our ancestors could get to a neighbouring city. All facts ever discovered (or made up) are available on the internet and madmen can parachute from space if they feel the need. But when it comes to other areas of life things seem not to have changed at all. We don’t have cars that can fly and no one lives on the moon. When it comes to water issues things have hardly changed either. Scientists have not discovered how to turn sand into water and no one lives under the sea like a James Bond baddie. More importantly we still live with water issues that would be recognisable to the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge’s famous poem.
The hero of the rhyme complains there is ‘water, water, every where; nor any drop to drink’. Ever since the industrial revolution water and energy have been issues with which humanity has had to wrestle. Two hundred years ago they were interlinked, as new industrialists sought fast-flowing rivers to power their mills. In the 21st century they are entwined again, particularly in countries that use desalination to create pure water. The process is energy intensive and expensive. Therefore there is a direct link between water conservation and energy requirements. The more that water can be saved and water requirements lowered, the less energy will need to be used in desalination plants.
The world still faces extreme water and energy challenges. There are many technical innovations that can help, but this is only a 600 word blog post, so like a football manager trying to make the most difference as quickly as possible I am going to concentrate on one simple but effective action.
The most important part of the solution is water conservation. If the ancient mariner had conserved water better then his poem might have been a bit more cheerful. This is the area in which most can be achieved in the quickest time. With the benefits of technology all around us, from being able to tweet directly to the government to playing Spies-R-Us with Google Earth we often believe that solutions can only be found by chaps in white coats with test tubes and machines that go beep. In fact everyone has a part to play, from individuals and children saving water in their homes right up to government investment in technology and education. No matter where you live, how old you are or what you do your actions can help improve the situation.
Water wastage is an area where it is possible for much to be improved very quickly. You do not need to be a boffin to make a real difference. Figures from Abu Dhabi show that of the almost 200 million imperial gallons used there daily, over 60 million could be saved. This shows the huge potential that exists. Governments have an important part to play. They must educate, educate, educate. Leaders must also legislate, making saving water both the right thing to do and the financially sensible thing to do.
There are many other investments that must be made to overcome the water and energy challenges of the future. Governments can direct the way with subsidies and education. But as the plight of the ancient mariner shows water conservation can make a real difference very quickly.
Water conservation is vital. If the future generations are not to suffer it is the most important step to be taken to address the water and energy challenges of the future.