The connection of water to infrastructure and sustainable technologies is far reaching. Water is not only a requirement for living, but water quality must be measured and monitored. Supply and delivery of this valuable resource requires sustainable land use management practices and development of well functioning infrastructure networks.
Water is valuable. Fresh water is in shorter supply than salt water. Clean water is in even shorter supply. Water is only second to air in terms of importance to human existence. While some people might think oil is important, by comparison to water, oil is much further down the line. The United Nations has suggested that water shortages will lead to war; causing us to consider water management wisely.
Water has both spatial and temporal components. It can be found at different locations and at different altitudes. For this reason it links directly to 3D technologies and digital technologies in terms of measurement, monitoring and management. A trip to ancient Roman ruins will reveal âaqueductsâ for moving and distributing water. Today we continue to find modern versions of these designs in the form of channels and canals which wind their way across landscapes, delivering water to regions that are parched and dry and those in need of freshwater.
The connection lies in the fact that not only must water be distributed, but the structures to move it must be built and maintained. They must also be planned with a view to wider and wider regions that require water, but also with consideration of population growth.
The measurement and monitoring of water will involve an understanding of landscape terrain â slope and elevation as well as solar incidence and physical structure together with geology. Climate models are heavily impacted by water cycling. We measure the amount of water on landscapes, we measure the amounts of water used by crops and forests. We wish to know how much is consumed for human use and how much is used for industrial use. The measurement of water resources leads to policy decisions for planning and building infrastructure and it leads to policies that contribute to sustainable natural ecosystems which balance water production against overall supply.
- Geospatial tools from airborne imagery to GIS, CAD and GPS along with many others, all contribute to the research, planning and building of infrastructure for sustainable purposes.
- What are the optimum pipe sizes for a water distribution solution in a particular area?
- Which solution will maintain flow over a region?
- Where is it likely to flood?
- How wet is the soil already if it is going to rain, and where?
- How much water is in the snow pack?
- What are the impacts of a newly built dam?
- How much water is each consumer using?
- Where are the emergency water supply sources?
- How do we balance agricultural water use as domestic use?
- Can airborne imagery be used for hard surface modeling?
- Are weather patterns predictable, thus flood or dry areas?
- Does legislation and policy support trans-boundary water resources?
- What is the relationship of forests to water or roads to water?
- Are the fish populations impacted?
- What infrastructure is needed to treat sewage?
There are many questions that need addressing from a wide array of disciplines and functions when water management is considered.
The dynamic nature of water means geospatial tools sets and concepts are widely applicable and extremely helpful for meeting infrastructure and sustainable goals.
UNESCO â Institute for Water Education
Water in Africa
Water for Young Europeans
EU Water Framework Directive
Shifting Mississippi â River Thames â Amazon River
Water Agreement: China – Russia
Transboundary Dniester River Project
Water Quality and Geospatial Modeling for Water Management
USGS Water Quality Data Page
Water is the most critical element for human civilization. Without water we perish, and without abundant stores of water we cannot hope to have ongoing human settlement in an area. Water is the single most important element that affects both where and how we live on our planet.
Water holds a rather unique place in our psyche due to our need for water and the inherent dangers that water poses to our health and the stability of our communities. Water is needed for life, yet if anything goes wrong with the purity of our water supply tremendous public health costs result. Water is also something that we constantly need to balance, as the threat of too much water is detrimental to our structures.
The complex management, treatment and distribution of water requires an extensive infrastructure. A great deal of pipes and conduits are required for water to reach our dwellings both quickly and safely. The process of making drinkable water for our populations requires significant engineering, as does the treatment of human waste. The natural flow of water on our planet requires management, from the mitigation of flood threat to the movement of water for irrigation.
Links Between Development and Water Resources
Harnessing water for drinking, crops and sanitation is one of the earliest toeholds that allowed for humankindâs ongoing settlement in one area. Since our earliest rudimentary attempts to harness water, humans have gained a great deal of expertise in the movement and processing of water. This expertise has placed human settlement on land that could not naturally sustain populations. Diversion and stockpiling of water makes this development possible, yet the finite nature of this resource is inescapable.
All over the world our communities are faced with pressures in dealing with this finite resource. Drought has stricken a great number of communities, exposing our somewhat tenuous hold on the landscape. Thereâs also growing competition for water among communities, followed by complex laws and litigation that keep lawyers busy.
Rapid development in arid and semi-arid locations canât go unchecked without confronting significant challenges to providing enough water to support ever-growing communities. There is a limit to the problems that our engineers can resolve, but thereâs also much more that we can do to make our water systems more efficient and sustainable.
Sustainable Water Management
In order to reach sustainability goals, we must innovate on how we manage storm water, water supply, and wastewater
Much of our drinkable water supply is wasted either in how it is used or how it is distributed. Achieving water distribution efficiency is the first step toward sustainable water management. In cities across the world, there are considerable leaks in the water distribution system with water wastage rates as high as twenty percent. The first line of action toward sustainability is to fix our distribution systems so that wastage is reduced to at least single digits.
How we use water in our homes and businesses can also be greatly improved upon. Over-watering lawns and landscapes is a large problem, but so is the waste of water in the home whether itâs leaking faucets or too much laundry. Each of us are likely to be called upon to reduce consumption during times of drought, but there is also a regular need to reduce consumption to recharge aquifers and improve long-term viability of this resource.
Cities have come across several means to ease the burden of new development. For instance many cities are reusing so-call grey water for irrigation. This water comes from untreated sources and eases the burden of water treatment. Thereâs also the close management of seasonal demands, and the mandate for low-impact development that uses low-water plants (xeriscaping) in arid areas. Las Vegas sets turf limits for its residents and has a large ongoing campaign that rebates customers for water smart landscaping.
Water pollution is another ongoing concern that can harm the entire food chain. Over the past twenty years there has been a significant reduction in the pollutions coming from factories and wastewater facilities. There continue to be issues with contamination from stormwater runoff, and increasing regulations are starting to address that problem.
Big dams and water storage are still needed in some parts of the world, but the existence of these barriers in what were once connected ecosystems, wreaks havoc on the balance in our natural world. There are increasingly new approaches for greater stream buffering and channel alterations that greatly helps in reducing the threat of flood. Hydroelectric power generation has also been altered to require much less disruption in the natural flow of waterways.
Overall, inroads are being made to safely and efficiently deliver drinking water in the developed world, but today more than 1/3 of the worldâs population donât have access to fresh water. From a global sustainability perspective, thereâs much to be done to spread technology and ensure that thereâs a good balance between nature and humankindâs need for this resource.
GIS and engineering-grade design tools have long played a role in all aspects of water management. The physics of water require detail on the third dimension, with water following gravityâs pull. This requirement for knowledge and visualization of 3D space continues to spur innovations on how we collect 3D data, visualize it and analyze it. The modeling of water is a key component of sustainability coverage, and an area where geospatial technologies will continue to contribute greater insight.
Read what Jeff Thurston has to say on this subject here.
Mapping Water Losses â A Success Story, by Jack S. Cook
Water and Sustainability – Pacific Institute
Sustainability and Water – World Population Awareness
Water Use Calculator (Australia)