Amongst the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) brought into place by the United Nations for the year 2030, number six: “Clean water and sanitation”, is one of the most important because water is the source of life for all humans and living organisms.
According to recent World Health Organization and Unicef statistics, more than one billion people do not have access to drinking water and double that number have no toilet facilities in their own homes. Not to mention that climate change is causing problems in managing water resources, due to drought in some regions, which is already causing the migration of whole populations, and to an increase in extreme weather events leading to the loss of water infrastructures of entire territories, sometimes for long periods. In both cases, the issues bring grave repercussions in terms of hygiene and sanitation, and even survival, for many populations.
According to data from the World Resources Institute (WRI), if serious solutions to water resource management issues are not brought into place, by 2040 33 countries will have extremely high water stress (a measure of resource depletion). Of these, 14 will be in the Middle East, where devastating conflicts are already being seen, which, according to the international organisation, could get worse precisely as a result of the scarcity of this vital resource. Not to mention the entirety of Sub-Saharan Africa, where many inhabitants already have to walk a long way every day to get drinking water. The WRI research shows that water resources will also become an issue for some European countries, such as Spain or South Italy, and for some countries outside of Europe (one only has to think of the water crisis that has been unfolding in the rich State of California over the last few years).
In order to avoid these scenarios, it is crucial that we study new formulas and approaches. Amongst the various solutions, many of which are political in nature, one might be to devise a new way to manage the water cycle: reusing waste water.
Purified water can, in fact, be used for lots of things that are not drinking. Today’s purification technology allows waste water from factories to be used for agricultural, industrial, recreational and civil purposes. Some examples include: agriculture which uses a large amount of water could irrigate fields using water from biological purifiers; industry could reuse processing or cooling water for its own production cycles, purified depending on what it is to be used for; the fountains that adorn our town squares could be fed through a “closed cycle”; in our homes, at least newer or renovated properties, grey water from sinks should be used to flush the toilet.
With a clear vision and a series of mid-term initiatives, water wastage could be reduced and drinking water reserved for human and animal use. There is, however, a long way to go and, in order to meet the 2030 Agenda targets, we will need to promote global awareness and synergy amongst all the countries involved.