Water demand will grow 80% in the cities until 2050.
Editor: Isabel Alarcón, Diario El Comercio, 14/ 1 / 2018, Ecuador.
Water is a vital resource that is increasingly scarce, its indiscriminate use, the increase in the global population and the effects of climate change put at risk the future landscape of planet Earth. Approximately 54% of the current population lives in cities; by 2030 an increase of more than two billion people is expected. If the situation continues in this way, it is estimated that millions of people in 2050 would have water shortages. In Ecuador, 80% of the water resource is in the Amazon, large sources are born in the Western and Eastern Cordilleras, it is necessary to stop the advance of the agricultural frontier, work in environmental education and create water reserve zones in the country. Wastewater treatment is an expensive process, most cities do not have treatment plants.
A study published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, predicts an 80% increase in water demand in cities until 2050. The research, which analyzed data from 482 cities, indicates that more than 27% of these sites they will have a demand for water that will exceed the capacity of surface sources. In 19% of these cities, conflicts may arise between urban areas and the agricultural sector, since there will not be enough natural resources to supply both.
José Javier Serrano, a research professor at the Ikiam Amazonian Regional University, explains that the main problem is the increase in population, which forces us to use more space. According to the study, approximately 54% of the current population lives in cities; by 2030 the increase of more than two billion people is expected. The more people who live in urban areas, the more water will be needed to meet their needs and, at the same time, more vital liquid for agriculture. Added to this are the effects of climate change on water sources. When the temperature changes, the patterns of precipitation change and an impact is created on rivers and lakes. If the situation continues in this way, it is estimated that millions of people in 2050 would have water shortages. Countries that already face a lack of this resource have opted to invest in new technologies to “recycle”. In Singapore and Australia, this process consists in cleaning the water from the sewers in order to use it again.
Humberto Cholango, national water secretary, says that in Ecuador 80% of the water resource is in the Amazon and large water sources are born in the Western and Eastern Cordilleras. That is why, he says, it is necessary to stop the advance of the agricultural frontier, lower the animal load, work in environmental education and create water reserve zones in the country. “We should not only think about where we are going to have water, but how we are going to regulate the water flow to supply the needs of consumption and irrigation.” Currently, Senagua and the Ministry of the Environment are working on projects that involve water recharge zones . According to Cholango, the possibility is being sought of creating a public-community alliance to work in the care of water sources, together with the populations that live in these areas.
Wastewater treatment is a problem that is addressed through the Water and Sanitation for All Mission. Being an expensive process, most cities do not have plants for these purposes. According to Cholango, the idea is to encourage this process to return clean water to the rivers and avoid diseases of water origin, which cost USD 310 million to the country, per year. The mission seeks to cover the future demand there will be, but there is one difficulty: the increase in population. According to data from Senagua, until 2035 the demand for this resource will increase by 34% in the main cities of the country. Carlos Espinosa, Operations Manager of the Metropolitan Public Company of Drinking Water and Sanitation, explains that the per capita water consumption in Quito reaches 200 liters. In cities with similar characteristics as Bogotá, the consumption is 140 liters. For Espinosa, it is important that people understand that drinking water should not be wasted in activities such as washing the vehicle, which spends 500 liters of water.
José Burbano, deputy construction manager of Epmaps, explains that three projects are being carried out to guarantee water until 2040. A project is being built in Papallacta to capture 2,200 liters per second, the Paluguillo treatment plant will be expanded, and will build the transmission line from Paluguillo to the eastern parishes.