Water: more than something to drink

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on November 2, 2017 | Print

When we think about water and water projects, we usually think about people gaining access to clean drinking water. While this is a huge part of water, we need to mention some other strategies on water and water projects.

Other “water” uses and topics that we can think of relating to water are…

      1. Water for household use. When a community attains a good source and quality of drinking water, they also begin thinking about other water needs such as household use: cooking, cleaning, washing, sanitation/toilets, etc. We definitely want to focus community water systems on providing water for human consumption first. However, we should consider (especially in relation to the capacity of the system we come up with) the household use needs for water as well.
      2. Water for power generation. This is typically small-scale power generation. If there is enough volume and a swift enough flow (which can be enhanced by engineering efforts), there are small generators that can be used for homes or small communities to generate small amounts of electricity. Also, don’t forget that there is the potential to power machinery with moving water such as a grinding mill for food processing.
      3. Water for agriculture and food production. This is somewhat a separate yet related topic. Most agriculture water is not considered safe for human consumption and it is not intended to be so. These are usually surface flow waters that are either diverted from open streams or runoff to production areas or, in some cases, pumped water from sources usually for higher valued crops. The majority of the world’s irrigation systems are “flooding” type systems where water is diverted to farms in a series of canals and controlled by gravity. Fields are “flooded” with the diverted water thus improving crop yields. In general, this is a fairly inefficient way to use water but is centuries old and necessary for certain water loving plants such as rice. 

        More and more, we are seeing the emergence of more water-efficient irrigation systems such as drip irrigation methods. The drip irrigation schemes typically use only a fraction of the water of flooding schemes and places the water delivery at or close to the base of the plant. This is done with “emitters” that allow a slow but efficient “dripping” of water to where it is needed most and when it is needed. Drip irrigation projects can be small (a raised bucket/barrel for a home garden) or fairly large (high valued vegetables for sell in a local market).

Water is a powerful tool for communities. When we bring water to a home or community, we not only provide clean drinking water, we also provide water for food, cleaning, power, and more!