Water scarcity and drought has become a critical issue globally, with approximately 4 billion people, especially those in communities across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, are impacted by severe water scarcity and drought.
A wide range of measures to adapt to climate change and combat growing water scarcity and drought have recently been put in place since most governments identified water scarcity as a major priority through the Sustainable Development Goals.
Modern thinking though, is that we need a major shift in the current paradigm of merely building large dams, reservoirs and pipelines to store and increase water supply. What we need to do is to focus on pro-actively managing the increasing demand while improving supply, which of necessity will require new policies, regulations and incentives to reduce water abstractions, re-use water and replenishing water resources.
We also need to create water markets that allow water users to trade the right to use water. This will allow farmers who have an excess of water to sell their right to abstract and use water to neighbouring farmers or industrial water users, for instance. The key to the success of this type of water rights trading scheme is securing legitimate water rights and promoting investments in water use efficiency.
We need to embrace a range of new technologies, including desalination and water re-use technologies, decentralised water systems that use rainwater harvesting, local water re-use, Nano-technology to purify groundwater, and any other innovative solutions that may yet become available.
In order for this to work, our engineers need better access to the latest developments and be part of a much faster technology transfer. National engineering standards need to be updated, and latest technology developments must be utilised.
Significant efforts to raise awareness and change the attitudes of the general public towards water, and education and information on appreciating the tremendous value water has for our lives, families, communities and nations must also be done.