Why should we change our water use and water management paradigm?

Why should we change our water use and water management paradigm?

Dursun Yıldız

C.E Water Expert (MSc.)

28 January 2023

The amount that we can use as fresh water in all the waters of the world is only 2.5 %and most of them are very difficult to reach. Only 1 %of the surface fresh water is available in lakes and rivers. Although the groundwater water is 100 times the sweet surface water, most of them are more deep than the surface as brackish water. Approximately 50 %of those close to the surface are constantly drawn as drinking and use water and decreases in quantity and quality.

Considering that the freshwater resources of our world are dispersed unequally on the world surface with the population and the increasing needs are taken into consideration, water resources are regionally finite resources according to the ground and time.

Water resources are unequally dispersed on the earth and under the pressure of climate change, population growth, migration and contamination. Currently, nearly 2 billion people have difficulty access to clean water and live away from a healthy environment.

We are Pushing the Limits of Natural Resources!

Our current resources in the world are capable of feeding 12 billion people annually. However, unfortunately, the resources that can be produced in one year worldwide have been depleted earlier and earlier every year since the 1970s. In terms of resource use, scientists explain that we now start consuming the next year's crop just after half of each year. This date is going forward rapidly every year. Nature needs to renew itself in certain periods for regeneration. However, by consuming more than what is produced, we do not give nature the time it needs to regenerate itself.

Human beings's ecological footprint grows every year. The gap between the world's biocapacity and human ecological footprint is widening. Under current production and consumption conditions, a  1.7 times larger world annually would be required for biocapacity to be sufficient for the ecological footprint.

We have been pushing the limits of our natural resources for more consumption for a long time. This includes our water resources.

Approximately 65- 70% of freshwater resources in the world is used for irrigation purposes. Approximately 40% of the world's total food production is produced on irrigated lands. Irrigated agriculture is, on average, at least twice as productive per unit of land as rain-fed agriculture. It allows more intensive production and product diversity. As the effects of climate change increase, the need for irrigated agriculture and therefore the need for water will also increase. For this reason, more efficient use of water in all sectors is vital. Therefore sustainable water management becomes much more important.

Could Alternative Water and Food Production be a Solution?

Before we consider alternatives to vital basic needs for humanity, such as Water and Food, it would be beneficial for us to review our consumption habits for both needs.

Rapidly developing technology seems to have become capable of meeting both of these needs theoretically from seawater desalination facilities and food production laboratories. However, we should think again before getting water and food needs with technology-supported artificial production. It will be difficult for us to talk about a natural environment and life in a world where these solutions become widespread because they will enable rapid production due to the consumption frenzy. For this, we have to use our existing natural resources more consciously and create a more livable and sustainable world. Since the early 2000s, the United Nations has set many goals such as reducing poverty, adapting to climate change, and ensuring sustainable development. For this, 17 global sustainable development goals were determined, which were accepted by all UN member countries in 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals, which are agreed to be achieved by 2030, have three main goals: ending extreme poverty, combating inequality and injustice, and preventing and adapting to climate change.

Considering these objectives, it can be seen that water plays a very important role in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The clean water target, which is accepted as the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, is not only a part of the other 17 goals but also a prerequisite for the achievement of these goals. Within this goal, there are key targets for environmental sustainability as well as drinking water supply and sanitation.

Can We Achieve Responsible Consumption and Innovative Management?

The rate at which we consume the world's resources has long exceeded the rate at which nature reproduces them. Today, the world consumes 1.7 times more than it can produce. Compared to 1900, per capita energy consumption has tripled, raw material use has doubled, and the world population has increased 4 times. If this consumption trend continues the same, water resources will also be adversely affected. Today, the interrelation between water, energy, food production, and environmental security has become much more intense than in the past. In this case, the increase in demand in any of these areas will have consequences that will directly affect water resources and management. This will require a flexible water management approach with the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions and rapid decision-making and implementation. In addition, the water management of the 21st century will address many uncertainties that will arise from climate change effects. In order to overcome these uncertainties water management needs to be innovative, adaptable, and  multi-functional


Sustainable Use and Management of Water

The pressures and uncertainties facing water resources require us to make radical changes in our understanding of water management and water use. In this context, our need for water management that is participatory, transparent, sensitive to the ecosystem, open to nature-based solutions, and socially realistic and dynamic planning emerges. In order to meet the increasing water demand, it is necessary to put into practice the understanding of using the existing water in the most efficient way before deciding to develop new water resources. In this context, the reuse of treated water, especially in industry and agriculture will be a very important step for sustainable water use. In fact, new plans such as smart cities and new production concepts such as circular economy will create infrastructures suitable for treating water and using it again.

In water resources management, it is important to meet the water demand of not only humans but also all living life in a sustainable manner. Water is not only a vital need of humans but also the basic need of our natural environment and the basic element of ecological balance. As a result, a balance will need to be achieved between economic, ecological and sociological goals for the sustainable management of water resources. Achieving this balance is often difficult and some goals are compromised. Pressure on water resources is increasing worldwide, but technology is also developing. Therefore, water management will now need an innovative water management approach and the effective use of digital technology in water management for the sustainable management of water to ensure this balance.

For the sustainable management of water in Türkiye, we first need a radical change of thought, legal regulation and institutional restructuring at the basin scale.

Dursun Yıldız C.E. (MSc.) is a hydropolitics specialist and Director of the Hydropolitics Academy Association located in Ankara-Türkiye. He is a civil engineer and used to be Deputy Director at State Hydraulic Works in Turkey; completed a hydroinformatics postgraduate course at the IHE in Delft, a Technical training program in USBR-USA, and a master's degree in Hydropolitics at the Hacettepe University-Turkey. He has over 5 years of teaching experience in some Turkish Universities and now works as head of his own Hydro Energy & Strategy consulting company located in Ankara. He has published several international articles and 15 books. He received the Most Succesful Researcher Award on International Water Issues from the Turkish Agricultural Association in 2008 and from the Central Union of Irrigation Cooperatives in 2016. He received the Professional Services Award of Excellence from the İstanbul Çekmeköy Rotary Club in 2021.He becomes a part-time lecturer at the IZTECH International Water Resources Department in the 2020-2021 academic year

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