Water Conservation

Water is an irreplaceable resource, vital to sustaining life, driving ecosystems, and supporting socio-economic development worldwide. Yet, despite its fundamental importance, the world faces daunting water-related challenges, primarily arising from human activities, including over-extraction, pollution, and climate change. Addressing these challenges is not merely an environmental obligation but a foundational pillar for achieving many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Established in 2015, the SDGs are a collection of 17 interconnected goals set out to end poverty, improve health, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The symbiotic relationship between water conservation and the SDGs is profound and multifaceted.

SDG 6, explicitly labeled “Clean Water and Sanitation,” directly calls for universal access to clean water, sanitation, and adequate hygiene. However, its achievement is not solely limited to developing water infrastructure or boosting sanitation facilities. Real progress in SDG 6 requires proactive water conservation to ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply for all. Over-extraction of groundwater, for example, leads to a decrease in water tables, rendering sources inaccessible for many communities and endangering ecosystems. Conserving water through better management practices, water-efficient technologies, and the reduction of wastage ensures that current and future generations can equally benefit from this invaluable resource.

Moreover, the ripple effect of water conservation extends to numerous other SDGs. Consider SDG 2, which aims for “Zero Hunger.” Efficient and sustainable water use in agriculture, which currently accounts for approximately 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, is fundamental to ensuring food security. Through practices like rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, and watershed management, we can produce food more sustainably, reducing water inputs without compromising yields. This not only aligns with SDG 2 but also contributes to SDG 15, "Life on Land," by reducing land degradation and desertification caused by improper water use.

SDG 3, which aims for “Good Health and Well-being,” is likewise intimately connected to water conservation. Polluted water sources, often a result of inadequate wastewater treatment or industrial emissions, result in millions of deaths annually. By promoting conservation, we emphasize the need for cleaner water sources, inherently advocating for better wastewater management and pollution controls. Such efforts directly translate to reduced waterborne diseases and enhanced public health.

Furthermore, water conservation plays a pivotal role in combating climate change, central to SDG 13. Wetlands, rivers, and lakes act as carbon sinks, absorbing significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Over-extraction or mismanagement of these water sources can disrupt their ability to function effectively in this capacity. Additionally, efficient water use reduces the energy consumed in water treatment and transportation, subsequently lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Water conservation isn't just an isolated endeavor to save a precious resource but is intertwined deeply with the holistic vision of the SDGs. By emphasizing water's pivotal role, we underscore the need for integrated and collaborative solutions that recognize the intrinsic relationship between water and the myriad aspects of sustainable development. Whether directly through SDG 6 or indirectly by bolstering efforts in health, food security, or climate action, water conservation remains a cornerstone in our collective journey towards a more equitable and sustainable future.

This book chapter advances SDGs 13, 12 and 15 by discussing climate change and its causes and effects on water resources and implications for adaptation.
This chapter advances SDG 6 by presenting major challenges and opportunities concerning groundwater utilization and climate sustainability.
This chapter advances SDG 6 and 11 by exploring the technological landscape of water purification in India, focusing on strategies for treatment of wastewater as a potential water source.
This chapter advances SDG 6 and 11 by reporting on the various laws and policy governing water supply in South Africa as well as the current state of water and wastewater infrastructure in South Africa.

Water Conservation and Wastewater Treatment in BRICS Nations, Technologies, Challenges, Strategies and Policies, 2020, Pages 321-328

Considering the significance of the indigenous knowledge systems toward addressing key environmental concerns, in this chapter, an attempt has been undertaken to address the indigenous knowledge system for water conservation and management.