Case Study: India
“21 Indian Cities Projected to Run Out of Groundwater by 2020, Report Says” says Pam Wright from The Weather Channel (Wright, 2018). With almost 600 million of its people facing high to extreme water stress as shown in Figure 3 below, 75 percent of Indians with no adequate water supplies to the area they live in, and 70 percent of its freshwater undrinkable (NITI Aayog, 2018), India is deemed to be one of the many countries at high risk due to their depletion of water sources.
Figure 3: Areas in India facing high to extreme water stress (World Resource Institute, 2015).
Possible reasons for the depletion of water source are said to be the over extraction of groundwater without it being replaced, and also due to the usual environmental issues that India face with. With little rainfall and prolong summers, all of which is because of climate change, India experiences groundwater depletion (NITI Aayog, 2018). Also, the population growth India leading to the increase in the demand for water is also among the few reason for the depletion of the resource. Delhi, the capital of India, is calculated to be the world’s most densely populated city by 2028 (UN.org, 2018). With the population constantly increasing, India’s water demand is estimated to double the current available water supply by 2030 (NITI Aayog, 2018).
However, efforts are being made, and although slowly, things are improving. In a secluded industrial area of west Delhi, a tiny migrant community proved to be a glimpse of hope. Scarce water is said to be equally distributed to each family unit, even though they are in a slum. Water is delivered to their doorsteps every morning and through pipes that are connected to taps. Supported by the government, this taps have two valves to ensure no water loss even if one of them breaks. A group of women, also known as the water guardians, take care of these water networks and ensure that they remain functional (Lou Del Bello, 2018). Working as a group, allowed for water to reach everyone in that area equally and with much convenience. Figure 4 below shows the special taps with two valves that prevent water leakage.
Figure 4: Special tap with two valves (Lou Del Bello, 2018).
As the world faces with water issues, various countries have been coming up with a few different and innovative solutions.
NEWater in Singapore
The NEWater process recycles treated used water into ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water. It is a weather resilient source as it can provide Singapore with water supply in dry weather. Even though it is mainly used for industrial and air-cooling purposes, small amount of NEWater is also used to top up raw water reservoirs when needed.
NEWater has passed over 130,000 scientific tests as well as meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. This ultra-clean and high-grade reclaimed water is produced from treated used water that is further purified by using advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection, hence making it ultra-clean and safe to drink. Figure 5 below shows a more elaborate process of the reclamation of NEWater. Therefore, NEWater has become one of the pillars of Singapore’s water sustainability (PUB, 2018).
Figure 5: Process of reclamation of NEWater (PUB, 2018).
Making Water out of Thin Air
This innovation is developed by two californian architects, winners of the Water Abundance XPrize, which is a competition that aims to help alleviate global water shortages. They prevailed by developing a system that uses shipping containers, wood chips and other detritus to produce as much as 528 gallons (2,000 litres) of water a day at a cost of no more than 2 cents a quart (1 litre).
The system uses two devices. Of which, one of them is, Skywater, a generator that imitates a cloud by cooling warm air and storing the resulting condensation inside a tank. Water in the shipping container’s tank can then be accessed via a tap or water fountain. The condensation process requires electricity, so the architects also incorporated a biomass gasifier into their system as a low-cost energy source, reported by Fast Company.
The other device used is a gasifier that can take in organic material and vaporize it to produce a gas mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide that serves as fuel. A gasifier can be filled with various types of biomass, including coconut shells and pieces of pine trees. The vaporization creates heat and humidity, which helps the water-gathering device operate efficiently. In addition, the gasifier also produces biochar as a byproduct, a carbon-rich substance that can be put in soil to help plants grow.
Hence, this solution has brought new hope to modern technologies by shifting towards a restorative and regenerative model that provides an aid and a solution to the scarcity of water around the globe (Business Insider, 2018).
Strong Actions by Governments
When Cape Town, South Africa, faced water crisis, the local government decided to have a “day zero” campaign, which is a moment when dam level would be very low such that they will turn off the taps in Cape Town and villagers would have to go to the communal water collection points to retrieve water. Even though the campaign caused civil unrest and tourism bookings to drop, it did manage to convince residents to conserve as they have started showering standing over buckets to catch and re-use the water, recycle washing machine water, as well as limiting their loo flushes to 1 flush per day. Furthermore, households that exceed the limit would either face hefty fines or would have a meter installed in their home that shuts off their water once they go over (The Guardian, 2018).
Depletion of Fossil Fuels
The demand for fossil fuels will continue to increase, as its depletion gets worse. The depletion would cause a chain effect and have a huge impact on oil prices, nonpayment of loan repayments, shutting down of company businesses, highly industrialized countries would face threats, and in the long run, a decrease in human population (Peak Oil, 2016).
As the supply of crude oil decreases while the demand for it increases, prices will increase so much to the point where low income citizens would not be able to pay for their electrical bills. The increase in prices can also indirectly lead to the rise of food prices and energy-related commodities like gasoline and coal. Also, businesses including those in the industry sector like gasoline stations, that highly require these depleting resources, may not be able to make enough profits to pay back previous loans to start up their businesses, and will eventually shut down (Peak Oil, 2016). Because of this, the economy may in turn suffer greatly and more people may be forced into poverty.
Highly industrialized countries, like United States of America, Japan and Germany, that depend highly on their natural resources in their economy would be greatly affected (Khan, 2018). If the depletion of fossil fuels continue to worse with no measures taken to improve the situation, the basic needs of humanity cannot be met and this will result in the downfall of the human population.
Case Study: United States
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 76 percent of United States greenhouse gas emission in 2016. 30 percent of the electrical power supply in the United States in 2017, is generated by coal. Furthermore, United States leads the world in petroleum consumption at 19.88 million barrels per day in 2017. Net petroleum imports for the United States were 3.8 million barrels per day. Top exporters to the United States include Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. It is difficult to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil as the world is heavily reliant on oil for transportation (EESI, no date).
As shown in Figure 6 below, about 82% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels and nuclear resources, although the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources has increased in the last decade. The use of many fossil fuel sources such as coal, natural gas and oil/petroleum are still necessary to help meet the energy and electricity demands of many countries due to globalisation as well as industrialisation. However, the overconsumption of fossil fuels can lead to serious environmental issues such as air pollution (Statista, 2017).
Figure 6: Distribution of total electricity generation in the United States between 2007 and 2017, by fuel type used (Statista, 2017).
With the advancement of science and technology, humanity has found alternative solutions to replace fossil fuels as fossil fuels contribute to carbon footprints. Sections 4.2.1. And 4.2.2. below describes some of the different kind of clean and green renewable solutions.
Solar Power is a clean, green electricity that is either created by the sun or heat. Today, solar panels are cheaper, more energy efficient and easy to install (Ecolonomics, 2018). According to an article from The Guardian, 10 new solar farms would generate 1.2 gigawatts of energy and reduce carbon emissions by more than 2.5 million tonnes which is the equivalent of taking about 800,000 cars off the road (The Guardian, 2018). Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world. According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, large-scale solar energy is rapidly expanding in Australia, with more than 2 million households that have solar systems installed on their rooftops (Arena, 2018). Figure 7 below shows the actual installation of solar panels on the rooftops of houses in Australia. This shows that the generation of power via solar power a renewable source is increasingly being adopted by many and is becoming a plausible replacement for fossil fuels.
Figure 7: Installation of solar panels on rooftops of houses in Australia (The Guardian, 2018).
Besides using solar power, wind turbines is an alternative solution. Wind turbines converts kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power. With this power, it can be used for specific tasks such as pumping of water and grinding grain. On the other side, a generator can also be used to convert this mechanical energy into electricity to power homes, schools, businesses and many more. Figure 8 below describes the generation of power via the wind turbine with the inflow of wind.
Figure 8: How a wind turbine works (Finger Lakes Times, 2013).
As the demand of electricity is estimated to increase 10 percent each year in China, the country predicted that they would need an additional 800 GW of coal-generated electricity during the next 20 years. But with the current wind energy payments of 0.4 RMB (US$0.059) per kilowatt-hour, wind energy could displace 23 percent of coal-generated electricity. This means that China can reduce up to 9.4 percent of the country’s current annual carbon emissions (World Watch Institute, 2018). This shows that renewable source of energy that is wind, can play a big part in the generation of power and as a replacement for fossil fuels.
Hence, renewable sources of energy is a possible alternative for fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Fuels that are extracted from plants and crops are known as Biofuels. It is blended with gasoline and can be used as an alternative fuel for cars. Plant based fuels comes from a renewable source, can be grown anywhere and have lower carbon emissions as compared to fossil fuels. This reduces greenhouse gases since it emits lesser pollution.
Figure 9: Statistic of biofuels produced in Brazil (OECD Observer, 2016)
Brazil was the largest biofuel producer until 2006 when it was overtaken by USA. According to International Energy Agency (IEA), Brazil’s biofuel production reached 28.5 billion litres in 2010 which is estimated to be 27% of world biofuel production, most of which is ethanol, and only a small portion (2.4 billion litres) of that being biodiesel (OECD Observer, 2016).
The resources, both renewable or nonrenewable, that we have on Earth are very limited. If humanity continue to consume them so irresponsibly, they will eventually run out in no time. Even though most of us humans are aware of the risks and damages the Earth is facing, for decades, improvement on this matter has not been sufficient. If the resources we are using continue to deplete without them being replaced, humanity will face great risk at survival. Hence, by adopting the innovative solutions listed, and many others not mentioned, or by coming up with more, our depleting renewable resources can have a chance to replenish while replacements fill in for our nonrenewable resources.