I am writing this while in transit to Mumbai to start Water Innovation Lab India. This is my first time blogging on a smart phone.
There are 7 themes that make up the WIL experience, and our “resource guests” (aka experts who provide the knowledge context stories excitement etc) have provided us with readings on the 7 themes. I read these and these are my initial thoughts. Before I delve into my reflections, here is what my mobile work desk looks like! (Shout out to Maricor – you got me this notebook!)
1. Water scarcity: water use and conservation
Scarcity of water is a result of humans, mainly unsustainable practices over the long term. Extracting water, interrupting rivers by building dams, climate change – all are ways that humans are causing water scarcity.
When climate/hydrological factors lead to decreased water levels in the ground, this leads to drought, but only defined as such when it impacts human water issues. Seasonal droughts may not be a big deal, e.g. dry season agriculture requires more groundwater then it becomes replenished in the wet season. So context is important. And groundwater varies with climate, topography, geology, etc.
3. Impacts of industry on water resources
Mining, oil and gas traditionally are heavy water users. This is well known. Currently local populations are opposing these industries to protect their water. I have some fairly strong opinions on this area already. Regulation needs a heavy hand on industry. I love that people are empowered to protect their local environments. On the business side, this is leading to “stranded assets” as promising projects are not being developed.
4. Urban water quality and access
I learned from a report about Mumbai’s environment that 60% of its population live in slums. There are water treatment plants in Mumbai but not potable water everywhere. Who do these plants serve? Why some and not others?
5. Climate change impacts on agriculture
India is very dependent on agriculture – 70% of its population gets their livelihood from this industry and 43% of land in India is dedicated to it. Food yield is directly linked to monsoon rains. There are two agricultural seasons : khalif (summer) and rabi (winter). The more monsoon rain, the greater the food yield, unless flooding damages plants. Climate change, monsoon and el nino all interact, changing these knowns. Climate change, if we continue emitting as per status quo, will reach or exceed 2C of warming by 2030-2045.
6. Interface of traditional wisdom and modern water technology
Wells for India provided some local context readings for this theme. In arid and semi arid areas of Rajasthan, many traditional methods for storing water existed. There are specific words for each container and each use of water! E.g. kua for individual dug wells, kohars for community wells, and baolis for step wells / philanthropic wells. These practices fell away during colonial times and are now getting a resurgence as population and agricultural pressure require it.
7. Making water technology more accessible: frugal innovations & water financing
The readings for this section were mostly cool and cost effective water treatment systems. Over many years of involvement with engineers without borders, I learned to be wary of technology solutions in developing countries, and instead I learned to think in terms or systems instead. Many technological solutions have failed before for simple reasons – didn’t fit local practices, replacement parts were not available, maintenance tips unknown or not taught… And on and on. It is unfortunate to see these problems repeat again and again and I hope this will break that mold.
OK those are just some initial and random thoughts! Please forgive poor writing – I need to sleep! But I will wait until Mumbai to do that.