Technological Adaptive Measures

(a) Increased efficiency

A major tenet in water management is that input reduction is the first choice in efforts to extend water resources. The largest gains will be made in agriculture and industry, which are the biggest water users. In agriculture, irrigation accounts for most of the water used. Micro-irrigation, or drip irrigation, is a good example of an adaptive measure. Water is conveyed to crops by pipes instead of open ditches or spray devices that encourage evaporation. This method is especially effective in water-poor, arid regions where large savings in water use can be made over more conventional and extravagant irrigation methods. Similarly, industry can easily redesign production technologies that use much less water. At the domestic level, toilet flushing and showers are at the top the list of water use in the United States and many other developed countries. Installing dual-flush or low-flush technologies and more efficient shower heads are among the simple technical changes that can directly reduce the vast amounts of water used in what will be an increasing number of modern households.

(b) Recycling and reclamation

Recycling is often the next most cost effective adaptation to reduced water supplies or increased demand for water. Used water can be purified and reused in industry, on farms and domestically. "Gray water" is untreated or semi treated wastewater that can be cheaply used for such things as irrigating golf courses, lawns, parks and gardens in urban and suburban areas. It is also effective in recharging groundwater storage. Recycling the same water during production is an example of a design change from improved technology that can save large amounts of water. While such changes may temporarily increase costs, they ultimately lead to increased savings as the price of steadily decreasing water supply rises. Through improved technologies, even now many cities reuse their own wastewater directly in what is called "closed loop reclamation" through the "3Rs of return, repurify and reuse." Water recycling also reduces water pollution.

(c) Substitution

Desalination is the best example of substitution. Clearly, since about 97% of the Earth's water is saltwater, desalination is a means to a huge supply of freshwater. Although desalination is expensive, the costs are trending downwards as the latest and most efficient technologies become available. Clearly, this adaptive option is best suited to coastal communities.

(d) Redistribution

Dams and reservoirs store water from times of surplus and allow it to be used in times of deficiency. They also facilitate routine redistribution of water from water surplus regions to water deficit regions via canals and pipelines. Dams and reservoirs are the most common methods of coping with demand for water during periods of below average precipitation, but they also can have significant environmental and social impacts. They can reduce or eradicate native fish, impede fish migration routes, flood wildlife habitat and agricultural land, displace communities, diminish nutrient flow to estuarine habitats. Many of the impacts are irreversible and, ultimately, all dams have a finite life span as they eventually fill with sediment.

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