How water conservation can affect the reliability of recycling

161004-F-XX000-011For years, I have been reading about the need to conserve water – to use lesser water to brush, bathe, wash and irrigate plants. I have also read a great deal on the need to recycle water – how used water from toilets can be reused for gardening, how used water from washing machines can be reused to clean floors and so on. In Singapore, where I live, NEWater has become such an important source of water that during the prolonged dry spell of 2014, rationing of water to citizens was avoided mainly thanks to the facilities for recycled water. Singapore has also gone out of the way to change the paradigm by referring to wastewater as “used water”.

But, somewhere at the back of my mind, I wondered what would happen to the supply of recycled water if people began to concertedly conserve so much that they produced lesser wastewater and consequently there was not enough water to recycle.   Continue reading

The obliviousness of water footprints

Shopping Supermarket Market Goods Food MeatI was sitting next to a Texas-based businessman from Saudi Arabia on the plane. He was highly amused to see me eating vegetarian. “If you give me vegetarian, I will throw it away and eat you!” he joked and bared his teeth.

I gulped and organised my thoughts on how to use this teachable moment to talk about water footprints without being offensive. He was already well-aware that vegetables were more healthy than meat but didn’t care because he’d rather live short and eat what he loved than live long eating vegetables. He wasn’t even co-relating his numerous health complaints like gout with diet. Caring for animals’ feelings would not cut ice with him because his favourite hobby was hunting.

“How do you like to drink toilet water?” I asked. Continue reading

When tourists consume more than the locals

towels

I had hung up my towel on the rack for reusing. The usual placard in the Delhi hotel bathroom said only towels on the floor would be replaced. But when I returned to my room at night, I found a new towel in place.

That was in 2013, the year when 35 five-star hotels were given notice by the Delhi government for using 15 million litres of water per day of municipal supplies. Half of these hotels did not have a dedicated sewage treatment plant. It was one of the hottest summers and Delhi residents were suffering disruptions in water supply.

Tourism-related water use is very small as a percentage of total water used in countries. And yet, the local picture is entirely different. This is because it competes for the same water used by the local population. Continue reading

Multi-purpose infrastructure is the need of the day

30BE6317-E021-4319-B4DE-6ACAF6483582By now, we all know that cities account for more than half the world’s population. Come 2050, it is expected that another 2.5 billion people will move from villages to cities. In China alone, more people that the whole population of the USA today will move into cities by 2050. These are mind-boggling numbers and present a scary picture of the future liveability of cities or rather the lack of it, especially in South and Southeast Asia.

Already, we see how a day of intense rain causes havoc with flooding. The inexorable march of climate change is bringing more intense rain at odd times or no rain at all. The ‘heat island’ effect of cities with bumper-to-bumper traffic jostling for space with humans gets accentuated during times of no rain. Continue reading

Myanmar on the cusp of change

IMG_1506After decades of isolation, Myanmar is welcoming investments and technical expertise from international organisations. Its water and wastewater sector needs to be built up from scratch. Will Myanmar be able to avoid the mistakes made by countries in the region? Continue reading

Cleaning the Ganga is not about just cleaning the Ganga

http://www.niticentral.com/2014/08/29/cleaning-ganga-an-environmental-cultural-need-236845.html

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