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Water Resource Management

1 Dominant Technologies and their Lock In:
Water resource management is one of the major parts of water cycle management
which deals with planning, distribution, and efficient usage of water. Water resource
management happens mainly in two stages the first being making water available for needs by
acquiring water from fresh water resources like rivers, lakes, ground water and rains, and the
second being efficient usage of water at the place of need. In the first stage of management
dominant technologies used to divert water from resources are different kinds of centralized
technologies like dams, merging of rivers and pumping water through canals. Coming to the
second stage that is at the stage of using water dominant technologies prevalent are drip
irrigation, sprinklers, water guns etc. These technologies are some of the most used
technologies in water resource management.
At the firm level here means we are actually referring to the usage of water at the spot
of need and mostly agricultural purpose which is the largest consumer of fresh water. So at the
firm level most dominant technologies are mostly micro irrigation techniques like drip irrigation
and coming after it is sprinklers and water guns. Actually these methods of irrigation need to be
employed carefully and should be maintained on a regular basis.
Actually before these technologies coming into practice the most used method was to
just let the water flow through fields and allowing the plants to absorb the required water. This
method actually leads to an uneven distribution and wastage of huge amounts of water. These
problems were easily solved by the micro irrigation techniques which lowered the price of
water required by a significant amount therefore though it is a well distributed individualized
technique it is tough to replace this with new upcoming technologies as many farmers are small
scale owners and they are reluctant to switch between technologies easily.
The above discussed was about the efficient usage of water the other side of the coin is
making the water available for usage that is making the water reach the spot of usage. The
main methods followed to make the water available are related to divert the fresh water by
constructing centralized or at least centrally administered infrastructure like dams, merging
rivers and constructing long running canals.
These are highly centralized and totally government controlled. So lot of power and
authoritarianism is associated with these. So To replace these technologies with new upcoming
technologies though they are better yielding is not easily possible. Because the government
institutions try to build certain large scale projects and try to cease power by showcasing the
growth in large scale. Also these projects are built using public money because of which the
expenditure burden is shared among many people so it is feasible to create large infrastructure.
These projects also lot of money and large scale investments by certain chosen private firms
which also sometimes control government policies so replacing these methods is also
obstructed by these institutions. Because of this reason large centralized projects like dams etc.
are more prevalent than other technologies like distributed small scale water sheds and rain
water harvesting.

2 Alternative Technologies:
The above discussed dominant technologies are to be replaced with some better
yielding and well distributed technologies. Let us discuss them again in two stages as we did
above. The first being the efficient usage of water for which the technology I propose is Buried
clay pot irrigation which is developed inspired from an ancient technique used in African areas
of less water availability. The buried clay pot system is one of the most efficient irrigation
methods and is ideal for gardeners and small-scale farmers. Clay pot irrigation uses a buried,
unglazed clay pot filled with water to provide controlled irrigation to plants. The water seeps
out through the clay wall at a rate that is influenced by the plants water needs. According to
researcher David Bainbridge, it was found that the water efficiency was so good. In India, for
example, melon yield with the buried clay pot system was 25 tons/hectare using only 2 cm of
water, compared with yields of 33 tons/hectare using 26 cm of water with flood irrigation.
But unfortunately scientists dont typically study these traditional practices. Wick irrigation can
be used in conjunction with the buried clay pot system. A hole or series of holes is punched in
the buried clay pot and a porous wick is inserted in the hole. The material wicks the water from
the container into the soil and provides a slow, steady source of moisture for plant growth. I
conducted experiments in the California desert on these systems and found 2-10 times greater
efficiency than drip irrigation systems.
Differences between mostly used drip irrigation and buried clay pot:
Drip irrigation can be very effective, but the trick is that it has to be well-managed and
there are many problems associated with drip irrigation. On the other hand, the traditional
system does not require a pressurized water system, which is difficult to establish and maintain
in remote sites. Also, animals chew on the tubing of the drip systems and often, the systems get
clogged due to salt build-up, and it stops delivering water the way it is supposed to. To avoid
clogging, you must use a filtration system which becomes another headache in remote sites.
And even a brief interruption of the water supply in a drip system due to a pump or filter failure
can lead to serious problems and crop failure. But the buried clay pot systems may require
water only once every few days or once a week.
Clay pots have been used for over 2000 years with success, and this is a good argument
to attest that the system works. Most importantly, the system is demand-based, where plant
needs determine the amount of water drawn from the pots.
Crops grown using clay pot irrigation include tomatoes, corn, beans, onions and garlic.
Researchers in India have found that the clay pots provide steady moisture so crops like
tomatoes have flourished
The buried clay pot irrigation technique though is a very old technique it has gone out of
practice these days. So to employ this technique the main challenge is to raise awareness
among the farmers about its ease and advantages. Though drip irrigation and other power
driven systems are tough to be employed and to be maintained, the buried clay pot technology
is not widely used so many farmers mainly in backward areas lack awareness of it so they would
be reluctant to switch the technologies. Also drip irrigation also feeds other industries like
rubber and pipe making industries who would not be willing to invite the new technology.
Recent researches focus on developing easy methods to use buried clay pot technology. Also
their lesser complexity is also an issue because sometimes local knowledge and less complex
systems are not encouraged well.
A closer look towards the traditional methods of agriculture shows us that the
traditional methods best suit the local conditions and people continue to ignore this because of
which the irrigation is getting locked into certain dominant technologies and lots of valuable
pieces of knowledge is being lost. Western agricultural systems are being pushed into places
where they are not advantageous. A lot of scientists from developing countries are often
trained in the U.S., and they promote practices that might be appropriate in Iowa but are not
well suited in their local communities. There is, therefore, a great need to promote sensitivity
to local conditions and local systems. And while were seeing a push towards this trend, it is not
enough. This approach promotes a careful analysis of what people do, why they do it and how
they do it, and its not very expensive. When people in local communities are treated as
knowledgeable experts rather than victims, it also encourages them.
The other side of the coin is water management during the acquisition and distribution
of water that is acquiring water from fresh water sources like rivers, rains, ground water etc. A
well planned system is essential here to reduce the shortage of water and for the timely
availability of water. Till now many centralized techniques like constructing dams, canals,
merging rivers, lift irrigation etc. All these techniques are highly centralized and are associated
with power and management bodies. So we need to look for some decentralized techniques
like water sheds, rain water harvesting, recycling waste water, desalination etc. These systems
can be established in a decentralized manner and can be managed locally which decreases
localization of power. Also some of the techniques like lift irrigation by which water is pumped
from lower areas to higher areas by lifting water using power which may also create other
problems like power shortage and extra investments. So lift irrigation is not feasible in states
with power shortage mainly like Andhra Pradesh where also the water resources are very
unevenly distributed.
Therefore technologies we can go for are Small and medium scale water sheds, Rain
water harvesting, Waste water recycling and Desalination of salt water. These technologies are
largely distributed as we can see rain water harvesting can done near individual houses by
collecting rain water over roofs. Also watersheds can be established by individuals and
maintained but the problem is enough water for agricultural scale cannot be acquired easily so
these must be established in large numbers. Also shifting from dams and other centralized
technologies to these distributed systems is not very easy as the former ones are not only used
to supply water but also for power generation which is a major concern so to shift from them a
change in power generation technologies is also essential that is from hydel, (which though is
not a major contributor a significant contributor) to other non-water based technologies like
solar, thermal etc.
Rain water Harvesting:
Rain water harvesting is the accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse before
it reaches the aquifer. This method is highly distributed and provides an independent water
supply during regional water restrictions and in developed countries is often used to
supplement the main supply. It can be installed in minimal scales. But the problem is it cannot
be used in very large scale to meet agricultural needs which requires lot of water. Currently in
China and Brazil rooftop rainwater harvesting is being practiced for providing drinking water,
domestic water, water for livestock, water for small irrigation and a way to replenish ground
water levels. Gansu province in China and semi-arid north east Brazil have the largest rooftop
rainwater harvesting projects ongoing. In India in states like Tamil Nadu Rain water harvesting
is made compulsory for all buildings to prevent depletion of ground water.
Also other methods like desalination of sea water are very costly and cannot be used as
an alternative though sea water is available in abundance. Desalination is possible only in rich
but dry countries like Australia. Israel is the largest user of desalinated water which produces
50% of its domestic water use from seawater desalination. But the problem is agricultural
needs cannot be fulfilled using desalination as producing such large amounts is not feasible and
too expensive to use.
So Desalination can be used only for domestic purposes but not agricultural though its
usage is increasing continuously. According to the International Desalination Association, in
2009, 14,451 desalination plants operated worldwide, producing 59.9 million cubic meters per
day, a yearly increase of 12.3%. The production was 68 million m
in 2010, and expected to
reach 120 million m
by 2020; some 40 million m
is planned for the Middle East.
From the above discussion some things we can conclude are that it is possible to replace
the dominant technologies used in cultivation like drip irrigation, sprinklers etc. by buried clay
pot system as it is not very centralized and buried clay pot system has got many advantages
over micro irrigation systems like less water requirement, easy management etc. But for this to
happen awareness among the farmers mainly in not so developed countries like India where
still traditional methods are used despite wastage incurred.
Coming to the supply system there are not many alternatives available to replace the
centralized systems like dams, lift irrigation, merging rivers etc. Though some methods like
desalination, rain water harvesting are available they cannot be employed in a large scale to
meet the needs of agriculture which is the largest consumer of water so somehow we are
locked into the dominant technologies in this area of water management which is associated
with lot of power and authoritarianism.
So it is better to concentrate in the area of usage of water that is by employing methods
that reduce wastage and use water only according to the need of the plant rather than supply
of water.

Question 3:

From the chapter Prodigal Sun in the book I Have A Dream, Harish started a new
company Selko and fixed solar bulbs in the village where a lot of power cuts were prevalent.
Each house was spending Rs.210 per month for candles which they used for installation of solar
system as a onetime investment as Rs.9000 for once which they felt was replacing the cost and
was economical. By doing so Harish cleared the problem of power cuts for a good extent. He
himself fixed the systems initially and later took the help of local technicians which shows a
distributed functioning and management of installation. Distributed management implies less
power and authoritarianism associated which is a good sign and no secret information to be
kept undisclosed from the people as the risk element of the system is not present or not very
Gradually came the user segment of products which exactly suited the needs and
financial status of the user. He also developed a system where even if the user requests for no
of systems more than he can afford the technician advises not to go for it. With this kind of
approach the company reached even daily wage labor and installed around 12,500 systems. He
also created a system where in the training process technician is told that the system installed
by you belongs to you 50% by which a master slave kind of environment is not established
which also helped for the growth of company.
Also he took the help from local co-operative banks which funded him to create
innovative financial products. This happened because the banks had a detailed cash flow
scheme according to which they designed the systems so the design was sustainable which
helped the company grow. This is a clear example of how not only the basic use of technology
but also the design and deployment of the technology effects the penetration of the
technology into the society. Because of the above stated fact a lot of emphasis was laid on
design aspect of the product and creating specified targeted usage products. For example
longer lasting batteries and using solar panels in even monsoons and efficiency of systems.
Because of the intrusion of the solar systems the demand for items like candles might
have decreased which was heavy before. This shows how technologies change when
innovations meet institutions. That is one technology taking over the other and continuing to
exist. These kind of changes can be welcomed easily in cases like above but in other
complicated cases sudden intrusion of new technologies may create chaos where we require an
organized structure to do so.