According to the US Geological Survey, more than 99.7% of the Earth’s water is unusable by humans and most other living things, either because it is saline or trapped in glaciers. This leaves a tiny portion of accessible freshwater for humans to use. To add to the pressure, South Africa is a semi-arid region with a mean annual precipitation of 497mm per year, just over half the global average of 860mm per year making it the 30th driest country in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. In addition, research has indicated that total precipitation in the region has declined, and southern Africa’s water resources are likely to decrease further as a result of climate change and rapidly increasing population growth and urbanization The current water crisis in Cape Town is testimony to this with Day Zero still looming for the city into 2019, and water security very much in the balance. Enter Zero Mass Water’s SOURCE Hydropanels: a world-first technology which uses sunlight and air to make safe, pure drinking water.
Powered entirely by solar, SOURCE extracts pure water vapour from the air and converts it into liquid water similar to distilled. This water is mineralised with magnesium and calcium before being delivered directly to a tap. Completely infrastructure-independent, SOURCE makes water without any external electric or water input. This significant advancement in drinking water access is made possible through the combination of thermodynamics, materials science, and controls technology.
Developed by Zero Mass Water founder and CEO Cody Friesen, a materials scientist and associate professor at Arizona State University, SOURCE utilises an ultra-absorbent material that collects water from the air around it in even arid conditions. Producing an average of 3-5 litres of water per panel per day, the Hydropanels are built in arrays designed to meet the drinking water needs of each application. For developers and architects incorporating smart-home technology into their designs and offerings, SOURCE is a differentiating feature of any modern home. Providing drinking water security and quality without any environmental consequence, SOURCE Hydropanels are vital for every resilient home and community.
For the hospitality sector, SOURCE adds value when built into scalable arrays. The SOURCE Hydropanels are modular and can be aggregated to meet the drinking water needs of a hotel, lodge or office building. “With the high-cost and environmental damage of bottled water, hotels and attractions need a better choice for their guests. Our system provides a daily supply of delicious, high-quality drinking water while offsetting the carbon footprint of bottled water.
With renewable water made on-site, SOURCE offers an infrastructure-free and cost-saving alternative to bottled water, without the hassle or logistics of purchasing and delivering it,” says Friesen. With the technology installed for emergency situations, in municipalities that have failing infrastructures, and homes for families looking for a better drinking water choice, the scope of applications for SOURCE Hydropanels in South Africa is seemingly endless, and will certainly go a long way to ensuring water security for all.
the Drakensberg-Maloti Park, at the headwaters of the Mooi and uMngeni rivers. On route to Pietermaritzburg, the ‘journey’ goes past the Spring Grove, Midmar and Henley dams and through the communities of Mphophomeni and Edendale.
The ‘journey’ ends on Thursday, 14 May at the Natal Canoe Club in Pietermaritzburg, also the starting point for the Dusi Canoe Marathon which each year is bedevilled by water contamination issues. Here they will be welcomed by some of the local paddling community and have a chance to test their arms alongside Dusi champions.
The Journey of Water is a WWF South Africa campaign that highlights the threats to South Africa’s water security and showcases what ordinary South Africans are doing about it. It traverses the full range of South Africa’s pressing water issues, from catchment protection in water source areas – usually out of sight and out of mind – to the myriad of challenges present in informal settlements.
This year’s Journey of Water takes a literal journey through KwaZulu-Natal to meet experts, local landowners and communities as they follow the waterscapes that bring water to our dams and cities. The key message to South Africans is: Water does not come from a tap. In fact, it makes a long and complex journey. This campaign exposes the stories behind that journey.
Among the participants this year are rapper ProVerb, LeadSA’s Catherine Constantinides, vocalists Aya Mpama, Nomsa Mazwai and Louise Carver, and presenters Azania Mosaka and Vuyo Ngcukana.
South Africa’s water security depends on many of the people that this group will meet, those who live on the front-line trying to resolve issues, protect the living landscape and survive in places where water and sanitation is a daily challenge.
Research by WWF-SA and the CSIR shows that 8% of South Africa’s landscape provides half the country’s water supply but these water source areas are poorly protected and at risk from degradation and mining. This research has also identified 21 critical water source areas in need of protection. These are national assets that provide for a disproportionate amount of run-off for the rest of the country and are generally found in the high-altitude escarpment and Drakensberg mountains which receive the most rainfall.
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In 2050 there will be enough water to help produce the food needed to feed a global population expected to top nine billion, but overconsumption, degradation and the impact of climate change will reduce water supplies in many regions, especially developing countries, FAO and the World Water Council (WWC) have warned in a paper published today.
“Towards a water and food secure future”, calls for government policies and investments by the public and private sectors to ensure that crops, livestock and fish are sustainably produced in ways also aimed at safeguarding water resources.
Such actions are essential in order to reduce poverty, increase incomes and ensure food security for many people living in rural and urban areas, the paper stresses.
“Food and water security are inextricably linked. We believe that by developing local approaches and making the right investments, world leaders can ensure that there will be sufficient water volume, quality and access to meet food security in 2050 and beyond,” said Benedito Braga, President of the World Water Council, on the occasion of the launching of the paper at the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu and Gyeongbuk, South Korea.
“The essence of the challenge is to adopt programs that involve investments in longer-term returns, such as the rehabilitation of infrastructure. Agriculture has to follow the path of sustainability and not the one of immediate profitability,” added Braga.
“In an era of accelerated changes unparalleled to any in our past, our ability to provide adequate, safe and nutritious food sustainably and equitably is more relevant than ever. Water, as an irreplaceable element of achieving this end, is already under pressure by increasing demands from other uses, exacerbated by weak governance, inadequate capacities, and underinvestment,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo.
“This is an opportune time to re-visit our public policies, investment frameworks, governance structures and institutions. We are entering the post-2015 development era and we should mark it with solid commitments,” she added.
Agriculture will still account for most water consumption
By 2050 some 60 percent more food – up to 100 percent in developing countries – will be needed to feed the world while agriculture will continue to be the largest user of water globally, accounting in many countries for around two-thirds or more of supplies drawn from rivers, lakes and aquifers.
Even with increasing urbanization, in 2050 much of the global population and most of the poor will continue to earn their living in agriculture. Yet the sector will see the volume of water available to it reduced due to a competing demand from cities and industry, the FAO/WWC paper notes.
As such, through technology and management practice, farmers, especially smallholders, will need to find ways to increase their output on the limited land and water available.
Currently, water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people in the world, a proportion set to reach two-thirds by 2050.
This is largely due to overconsumption of water for food production and agriculture. For example in large areas of South and East Asia, in the Near East, North Africa and North and Central America, more groundwater is used than can be replenished naturally.
In some regions intensive agriculture, industrial development and growing cities are responsible for polluting water sources, the paper adds.
Policy changes and investments essential
Improvements aimed at helping farmers increase food output using increasingly limited water resources — including in the area of crop and livestock genetics – are widely needed. Empowering farmers to better manage risks associated with water scarcity will also be critical, according to FAO and the WWC. This will require a combination of public and private investment as well as supportive training.
To address degradation and waste, water institutions should be more transparent in their allocation and pricing mechanisms, the two organizations argue. Crucially, water rights need to be allocated in fair and inclusive ways.
In particular the paper highlights the need to guarantee security of land and water tenure and access to credit in ways that enhance the role of women, who in Africa and Asia are responsible for much of farming.
Addressing climate change
The effects of global warming including unusual rainfall and temperature patterns and more frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts and cyclones, will have an increasing impact on agriculture and water resources in particular, today’s paper warns.
Mountain areas provide up to 80 per cent of the world’s water resources, but the ongoing retreat of glaciers as a result of climate change threatens the existence of those supplies in the future.
Forests on the other hand use water but also provide it – at least one third of the world’s biggest cities draw a significant portion of their drinking water from forested areas.
This underscores the importance of stronger efforts to protect forests and upland areas where much of the world’s freshwater supply originates.
Today’s paper calls for policies and investments to enhance adaptation at the watershed and household levels, such as improved water storage facilities, wastewater capture and reuse, as well as research that generates more resilient agricultural production systems for smallholders.
The World Water Forum (12-17 April) is the largest international event aimed at finding joint solutions to the planet’s main water challanges. In addition to jointly producing the White Paper with the World Water Council, FAO also teamed up with several partners and issued the 2030 Vision and Global Framework for Action, a set of policy guidelines and recommendations to improve groundwater management, during the forum.
Source: All Africa
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