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WAE | Logo
13 Dec
Water Scarcity
By WAE on "Water Scarcity"

Understanding Water Neutrality: How individuals can help!

In most parts of the world, according to a 2018 World Bank report, 70% of the water is used by agriculture, 22% used by the industry, and the rest 8% by domestic households. Read to know more.

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Water may seem abundant, but less than one per cent of the world's water is available for human needs. This amount has to be shared by many competing users. Stress on freshwater resources due to rising demand is already leading to water scarcity in many places.

Water stress starts when the water available in a country drops below 1,700 m3/year or 4,600 litres/day per person. When the 1,000 m3/year or about 2,700 litres/day per person threshold is crossed, water scarcity is experienced. Absolute water scarcity is considered for countries with less 500 m3

As the world gets wealthier, hotter, and more urbanised, water consumption will no doubt increase, making demands harder to meet. Within 15 years, half of the populace, amounting to approximately 4 billion, will be living in areas of severe water stress, predicts UNDP. Rapid population growth and urbanisation could expose more people to water shortages, with negative implications for livelihoods, health, and security.

In most parts of the world, according to a 2018 World Bank report, 70% of the water is used by agriculture, 22% used by the industry, and the rest 8% by domestic households.

At the household level, demand for water is determined by demographic factors, including household size, composition, and age structure. Overall, the amount of water each person uses is expected to increase as incomes grow and consumption increases.

An average urban dweller requires 135-150 Liters of water a day to survive. In theory, it's fine, but what is the reality? Actual average use in water-stressed regions is only 60 to 70 litres a day, i.e. less than four buckets of water to drink, cook, wash, and clean for a whole day.

Drop by Drop – A checklist for what an individual can do

A checklist is an excellent way to quickly show the actions that are possible and desirable in building our resilience and control water scarcity. The government or policy actions are hard to get on the grounds, but many measures can be taken at an individual level. If individuals are willing to put time, efforts, and investment into this, then no further action is needed.


Water consumption can be reduced by either implementing restrictive measures or actively monitoring and limiting your usage.

By switching to low-flush toilets and water-efficient washing machines, one can reduce water consumption by almost 19 and 17 per cent, respectively. These technologies have the advantage of being one-time upgrades!

Shifting to low-flow faucets and showerheads, also have contributions to make. All in all, water-efficient appliances and low-flow fixtures can reduce water use within homes by almost 45 per cent!

Switching to buckets from showers or reducing the average shower time, washing only full loads of clothes, and flushing three times less per household per day can each minimise water use by 7 to 8 per cent. The only thing is that these shifts must become a habit to have an impact over the long term; developing good habits is notoriously challenging!

Reuse and Recycle

The second step towards being water positive is two-fold- reuse and recycle as much water as possible!

Treating the household sewage and greywater, and reuse of treated water for flushing or gardening is a sure way to be water positive. A Sewage treatment system seems expensive, but the ROI is less than 18 months.

The household reverses osmosis system, a common feature in homes now, rejects 75% water, which ends up going down the drain. For every 1 litre of purified water, 8-9 litres end up in the sewers. The water rejected by the system is as good as raw water and can be used for multiple purposes.

Catch, Store, and Use Rainwater

Capturing an extra stream of water through rainwater harvesting is one of the best ways to bring your overall water equation into the positive side. This ancient ingenuity of capturing water through rooftop catchments, land surface catchments, or direct surface recharge is probably the most straightforward and generally available technique.

The best way to send rainwater underground is through direct surface recharge pits. To send off the rain underground directly, one needs to connect the roof to a harvest pit through a PVC pipe. The rainwater then goes straight into the hole and recharges the water table!

In case of rooftop catchments, “for each square meter of area, one can collect about 1,000 litres of water per year. A house of 200m2 area can conserve 2 lakh litres of water every year."

The average consumption of a household is about 750 litres per day as per WHO norms, which means one can easily collect more than what’s needed for a year through rainwater harvesting!

Last but not least, catch the condensation that drips from air conditioners in a container and reuse it for gardening or other cleaning purposes.

Measure what you use

The key is to measure your water use which leads to the effective management of water. Installing water meters at various points of use can effectively lead to understanding consumption and leakage patterns.

Indian cities lose up to 50% of their water to leaks.  The simplest way at the household level to gauze the level of leakage is to install meters at different points of use and to check water usage late at night called the minimum night flow [MNF]. In a system of no leaks, the MNF would be closed to zero.

Measuring water pressure and reducing it to the minimum required lowers the end-use to half and reduces the water lost in leaks.

Start saving now!

The fact that roughly 0.4% of the Earth’s water needs to be doled out among 7.7 billion of its inhabitants makes the current global water crisis exceptionally hard, but it can also inspire individuals to act in unusual ways to solve it.

We’re all familiar with Cape Town’s day zero situation, which was first scheduled for March’18. In January’18, when officials first announced that the city of 4 million people was three months away from running out of municipal water, the whole world was dazed.

But the water restrictions had a profound effect on the people of Cape Town. Residents, communities, and authorities, with their extraordinary efforts, started conserving as much water as they could, and Day Zero got delayed by a month. As more and more people cohesively engaged in this, the deadline was further pushed back to July 9th, then the end of August, and then to next year, 2019. And then, Cape Town got lucky. It rained.

Just within a few months of Day Zero declaration, the city's water consumption was less than half of what it had been four years earlier, from 1.2 billion litres of water/day to 516 million litres of water/day. And all they did was, value this invaluable resource. 

The point is, why wait for a situation like this to happen? Why not start cutting back and saving today?


"What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet."

-Sir David Attenborough





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