All ancient human civilizations were born and flourished around water. We cannot stress enough how essential water is to life. The same characteristic has also led to various conflicts over the control and use of natural water resources since the dawn of civilizations. Climate change and pollution have once again made humanity realize that clean water is a common good, a human right and a planetary treasure and that urgent action is needed to address the global crisis of the water. Access to clean water and sanitation is also a key UN Sustainable Development Goal.
Climate change resulting from human activities is intensifying and extreme weather scenarios are becoming more frequent. As these changes are different from natural climatic variations, they are increasingly causing disruptions in people’s lives, leading to myriad other challenges. Indeed, climate, habitat and society are so closely linked that an imbalance in one will most certainly affect the others. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also reaffirms by stating that “climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying”.
It is important to note that while climate change can be prevented by reducing human-made greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of climate change are primarily perceived by society through its interaction with water. The immediate markers being floods, storms and droughts lead to water crises simply by unavailability or contamination of freshwater sources.
While all stakeholders and industries have their part to play in tackling the global water crisis, the real estate industry can do its part to address it. While ancient civilizations lived next to fresh water resources, the modern cradles of civilization are large urban agglomerations. Real estate is the industry that drives this accelerated urbanization and is responsible for creating these habitats and communities. Therefore, it has a responsibility to lead the way in ensuring that societies remain resilient in the face of any impending water crisis. Real estate organizations can do a lot to conserve, preserve and rejuvenate our freshwater sources.
Consumption can be reduced by simple measures such as installing low-flow plumbing fixtures in homes and offices while using recycled water for secondary uses such as flushing, irrigation, cooling and industrial purposes, further reducing pressure on precious water resources. Water treatment systems also ensure that contaminated water does not find a way to clean ground and surface water sources. More advanced treatment systems like IPR or DPR (indirect or direct drinking water reuse) allowing treated water to be used for drinking or primary purposes have been tested and successfully implemented on a large scale in many cases.
One of the fundamental ways to ensure water conservation is to measure its use. Renowned management thinker Peter Drucker aptly states, “What you can’t measure, you can’t manage.” It is also accurate for water conservation; water metering is necessary to limit water consumption and raise awareness among users and communities about their demand profiles. Simple campaigns to raise awareness among stakeholders can be made more effective if they are based on their consumption data.
Even the best-designed water systems have leaks, if not corrected in a timely manner, they can lead to huge water loss. Use of correct and robust materials in water distribution and regular preventive measures
Maintenance Through continuous monitoring and fixing any leaks in the system using technology, a huge amount of water wastage can be stopped.
Responsible consumption also involves the development of landscapes with a predominance of indigenous, robust and hardy species, which consume less water than non-native species. Efficient irrigation methods such as drip irrigation and timed water release are also important measures that can be adopted in climate-smart designs.
It is essential to preserve and ensure that polluted water does not enter natural water resources. Preservation steps involve treating water to a minimum quality that can be discharged into natural water bodies, deploying filtration chambers and oil interceptors in drainage systems.
As floods are another major cause of water contamination, preventing them in the property by properly assessing the risks and deploying the correct passive and active mitigation measures ensures that underground reservoirs and groundwater sources remain protected from the polluted deluge. It can also help protect the community against waterborne diseases, which result from contaminated water.
According to a report by the Central Ground Water Board of India, India has alarming levels of groundwater exploitation, for self-use and for agriculture as well. We can deduce that it is because India is home to one sixth of humanity, while it has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources.
This can be mitigated by providing recharge and harvesting of rainwater for replenishment of aquifers and surface water resources. Efficient rainwater harvesting is one of nature’s best techniques for achieving water resilience. Limiting runoff by limiting excessive concretion from urban areas is another way to rejuvenate natural water sources. Urban runoff is a complex phenomenon that not only leads to the loss of useful and abundant rainwater, but is also a source of pollution of water resources. A gentler landscape, abundant greenery and respect for the natural hydrology of the soil help to rejuvenate the exploited and vulnerable water sources available to us.
Some of the aspects mentioned above are mandated by regulation, while a few are required by green building certification bodies. Many are still open for voluntary adoption by property developers and communities. Once we recognize that it is our responsibility to leave a better planet for future generations, climate-smart and adaptive designs will become a norm in urbanization and face similar “Day Zero” scenarios that the city Cape Town has had to endure over the past decade. can be avoided. We must come together on this World Water Day to recognize our responsibility and commit to action to achieve a positive future for water.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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