A safe and clean water supply is becoming a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. With growing population and rapid industrialization, the demand for water has increased dramatically. This in turns pushes the demand for energy and fossil fuels resulting in further increase in global warming. According to WHO (World Health organization) specifications, a clean and safe water should be free from pathogenic organism such as bacteria and virus, and also the TDS (Total dissolved solids) levels should be below 500ppm (parts per million). Unfortunately such quality water is not readily available from surface or ground water. The water stored in catchment area for supply of drinking water to cities requires certain chemical and biological treatments before it can meet WHO specification.
In many smaller cities especially in developing countries such treated drinking water is not available. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Satellite or GRACE orbiting earth in tandem, two satellites are able to measure the water storage on ground and below across the world. The NASA data shows that most of area in Northern India will be facing a severe shortage of water in the near future because farmers are pumping ground water at an alarming rate. The ground water is getting depleted faster than it is being replenished. The water table has gone deeper and deeper and many of the pumps they used five to ten years ago cannot pump water anymore because the water levels have gone so deep. States like Punjab, supposed to be ‘wheat bowl of India’ are facing water shortage. Farmers who have used 100 feet bore well are now digging their bore well up to 900 feet. To make the situation worse, many of coal-fired power plants are licensed to meet the increasing power demand in India. Both quantity and quality of water has a direct impact on energy demand and global warming. The rainwater which replenished the ground aquifers are unable to match the water sucked by these pumps. About 114 million people living in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana including the capital city of Delhi are facing water shortage.
The likely alternative for these states is to desalinate the seawater from the west coast of India and pump them all the way to Delhi, which are thousand of kilometers from the coast. The increasing economic growth of India has increased the demand for power, often based on coal. Power industry is one of the largest users of water. Plants located on coastal are able to use seawater for their ‘once through’ cooling system and for boilers. But the plants located inland have to use only surface water like rivers. They cannot use ‘once through’ system, but use a closed circuit cooling systems where they have to store large pool of hard water.
It is a vicious cycle. Water shortage increase the demand for power and power shortage increases the demand for water. Desalination is the only alternative but it is a very energy intensive and a costly solution. Changing climate, global warming, deforestation, and water shortage are ominous signs of Nature’s fury against human greediness.
When countries like Australia set up their largest desalination facilities, the country experiences the heaviest rains in decades with flash flooding in many parts, making politicians wonder whether their water management decisions are right. Unfortunately Science cannot solve our greediness only human beings can learn lessons from Nature and take right decisions.