We are all aware of the global water crisis. Droughts in California, South Africa and other African countries have been front page news the last few years.
Praying for rain can’t hurt, but the only real solution to the crisis is strategic water management that will provide water for generations to come and not just tactical solutions that “put out fires.”
Our next two blogs will talk about water management, what it is, what its short- and long-term goals are, as well as tips and strategies for good water management.
What is Water Management
Water management is basically making optimal use of your available water resources through good planning, development and distribution.
Water management should, in theory, ensure that all of our different water needs are met, from water for cooking and drinking to water for personal hygiene, handling waste, irrigating fields or gardens, and more. With climate change having a drastic impact on the supply of fresh water, however, the first step in good water management is to reevaluate our water needs and lower our water requirements to the greatest extent possible.
Where Does Our Water Go?
Only 3% of the Earth’s water is fresh water and this is the primary resource for which all our water needs compete. The current average distribution of water usage around the globe is 70% agriculture, 17% industry, 11% for household needs and 2% for miscellaneous requirements. The map below, however, shows that these proportions differ quite widely from region to region. In the United States, for example, agriculture and industry are equally dominant when it comes to water usage. On the other hand, countries with a lower socioeconomic profile tend to use 90% of their water on agriculture and only 2% on industry. 
Water Management Guidelines
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has established a list of criteria for countries and municipalities when forming their water management strategies. To get started the FAO suggests the following:
- Planning and analysis—Map out all the present and future water needs: agriculture, industry, health care, sanitation and hygiene, etc.
- Institutionalize everything: There should be clear and pragmatic rules and a board of directors to ensure that the rules are being followed.
- Smart water usage: Economic incentives should be in place to encourage water saving measures.
- Public education: Programs and projects should be developed to educate the public about the importance of the long term water management strategies.
The bottom line is that water management strategies should be: acceptable and feasible for those who will have to administer them; sustainable, efficacious and efficient; have a positive environmental impact; and be fiscally responsible. 
What is Water Sustainability?
Water sustainability is defined as a nation’s ability to provide the water needs for the three main water usage sectors: agricultural, industrial and municipal. The water supply should stay consistent, despite drought or flooding. Additionally, water sustainability has to make economic sense. You can’t bankrupt a country or city just to meet their water needs. 
Ultimately this is the goal for all water management strategies. Proper water management has to be long term, for generations to come and take into account all of the external factors.
The Final Note
Next month we will be looking at what should and should not be done to achieve water sustainability. This will include measures that can be implemented immediately, as well as steps to be taken today that will pay themselves back in our children’s and their children’s generations.