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Lecture 14

Water Sustainability
What is sustainability?
Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on
March 20, 1987:
sustainable development is development that meets
the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs

In the sustainability definition the sustainable

development ties together concern for the carrying
capacity of natural systems with the challenges human
societies and addresses environmental issues.
What is sustainability?
The concept of sustainable development has in the past
most often been broken out into three constituent
parts: environmental sustainability(environmental
management), economic sustainability
and sociopolitical sustainability.

More recently, it has been suggested that a more

consistent analytical breakdown is to distinguish four
domains of economic, ecological, political and
cultural sustainability.
What is sustainability?

Providing a water supply for a community

involves tapping the most suitable source of
water, ensuring that it is safe for domestic
consumption and then supplying it in adequate
The World Health Organisation
safe water as . . water that does not contain harmful
chemical substances or micro-organisms in
concentrations that cause illness in any form

adequate waters supply as . . one that provides safe

water in quantities sufficient for drinking, and for
culinary, domestic, and other household purposes so as
to make possible the personal hygiene of members of the
household. A sufficient quantity should be available on
a reliable, year-round basis near to, or within the
household where the water is to be used
Future of water resources
One of the biggest concerns for our water-based resources
in the future is the sustainability of the current and even
future water resource allocation.

As water becomes more scarce the importance of how it is

managed grows vastly.

Finding a balance between what is needed by humans and

what is needed in the environment is an important step in
the sustainability of water resources.
Future of water resources
Attempts to create sustainable freshwater systems have
been seen on a national level in countries such as Australia
and South Africa, and such commitment to the
environment could set a model for the rest of the world.

The field of water resources management will have to

continue to adapt to the current and future issues facing the
allocation of water.
Future of water resources

With the growing uncertainties of global climate change

and the long term impacts of management actions, the
decision-making will be even more difficult.

It is likely that ongoing climate change will lead to

situations that have not been encountered.

As a result new management strategies will have to be

implemented in order to avoid setbacks in the allocation of
water resources.
Water is acknowledged as a major limiting factor in
the socio-economic development of a world with a
rapidly expanding population.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration draws

attention to the importance of water and water related
activities in supporting development and eradicating
Also emphasizes conservation to stop unsustainable
exploitation of water resources

By developing water management strategies at the

regional, national and local levels which promote
both equitable access and adequate supplies.

Improved water management promotes sustainable

How could water resources be
developed sustainably?
Using water resources sustainably is challenging because
of the many factors involved, including changes in
climate, the natural variability of the resource, as well as
pressures due to human activity.

At present, most water policy is still driven by short-term

economic and political concerns that do not take into
account science and good stewardship. State-of-the-art
solutions and more funding, along with more data on
water resources, are needed especially in developing
How could water resources be
developed sustainably?
To assess the state of our water resources, we must fully
appreciate the roles of different parts of the water cycle
such as rain, meltwater from glaciers, and so on.
Otherwise, it remains difficult to develop adequate
protection and mitigation strategies.

Poor water quality and unsustainable use of water

resources can limit the economic development of a
country, harm health and affect livelihoods.
More sustainable practices should be adopted.
How could water resources be
developed sustainably?
When managing water resources, more attention should
be paid to increasing existing natural resources and
reducing demand and losses.

The traditional response to rising demand for water was

to store surface water in reservoirs, divert flow to dry
regions and withdraw groundwater. Now these methods
are increasingly supplemented by water reuse,
desalination and rainfall harvesting. Certain regions are
even going to the extreme of exploiting non-renewable
groundwater resources.
How could water resources be
developed sustainably?
Some countries have programs to reduce demand and losses
from urban water distribution systems but more efforts are

However, this will involve changes in behaviour requiring

education and political commitment.

Such efforts to conserve water and reduce demand are not

only useful in regions where water is in short supply, they
can also bring economic benefits in wetter regions.
How could water resources be
developed sustainably?
Decentralised approaches to water resource management
that focus on river basins are increasingly pursued even
across borders.

Exchanging information between countries that share river

basins will yield both economic and environmental benefits.
Conclusions on water resources
Our water resources are under pressure.

More reliable information is still needed regarding the

quality and quantity of available water, and how this
availability varies in time and from place to place.

Human activities affect the water cycle in many ways,

which needs to be understood and quantified to manage
water resources responsibly and sustainably.
Conclusions on water resources
It has become evident that:
1. Changes in climate are affecting water availability

2. Pollution, water diversions and uncertainties about the

abundance of water are threatening economic growth,
environment, and health.

3. Underground water is often being overexploited and

Conclusions on water resources
4. To augment water supply, traditional techniques such as
rainwater collection are now being supplemented by
newer technologies like desalination and water reuse.

5. Political support is needed to improve information

collection that can in turn enable better decision making
about the management and use of water.
Tutorial 6
Define water sustainability. Discuss how water
resources could be developed sustainably.