Global Water Disasters: Solutions to a Looming Environmental Crisis? 

February 1, 2018

Water-related disasters are affecting more and more people around the globe every year and 2018 will be no exception. Around 90% of the world’s disasters are water-related, including floods, droughts, hurricanes, storm surges and landslides. To face these growing threats, we need to create and manage adaptation measures to build an international community that has the capabilities to face a constantly changing environment.

According to UN Water, water-related disasters have two different impacts on human life:

  1. Direct impacts: Damaging constructions, infrastructure, crops and loss of lives and properties
  2. Indirect impacts: Losses in productivity and livelihoods, increased investment risk, indebtedness and human health impacts.
These impacts are resulting in larger repercussions on our daily lives as we experience an alarming increase in frequency and magnitude of natural disasters. The economic cost and toll of these impacts should be a red alert for governments and civil society organizations to increasingly focus on preparedness, prevention, and adaptation.
A clear example of how humanity is currently facing water-related disasters is Cape Town. The second-largest city in South Africa has been suffering from water scarcity due to a long drought and inadequate water management. The city is approaching its ‘turn off the taps’ moment on April 16, which is known as Day Zero. Currently, more than four million people are affected and as soon as Day Zero arrives, Cape Town will be the world’s first metropolis to run out of water. With less than 90 days’ worth of water in its local reservoirs, many residents are still wasting water, as only 35% of people are using the prescribed 87 liters of water a day. After Day Zero each resident will only have 25 liters of water a day at their disposal, whereas the worldwide average including developing countries is 250 liters a day!

Even the more developed world is facing severe water-related problems. Paris, the city of lights, is suffering the consequences of its heaviest rainfall in 50 years. The famous River Seine has peaked at about four meters above its normal water level to 5.84 meters, and since last week, nearly 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the high risk of a major flood. The rising levels of the river have affected walkways and bridges, stopped the circulation of tourist boats and caused the closure of several metro stations. The current plight of Paris is a prime example of how water-related disasters can cause a major shutdown in a developed city.

Climate change is undeniable and while our actions to revert the damages caused to the environment are showing results, cities like Cape Town or Paris are still suffering from natural disasters. The increasing number of hydro-hazard impacts and their costs are attributable to the increased event frequency and magnitude, unplanned urbanization, degradation of ecosystem services, and inaccurate public perception of risk.
Now, the challenge is to build resilient communities that can adapt to change, effectively utilize available resources, recover from adverse situations and secure lives, livelihoods, and assets. To face the consequences of water-related disasters certain measures need to be implemented:
Introduction of water management policies adapted to region, language and cultural diversity to guarantee the correct use and protection of this unique resource.

Improved management of freshwater ecosystems like wetlands to increase resilience and mitigate natural disasters.

Investments in modern flood forecasting, effective early warning systems that reach local communities and information sharing across national boundaries to save lives and avoid economic losses.

Cost reduction of rehabilitation after disasters by investing more in risk mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

 

Water plays a fundamental role in the global economy and across a variety of vital industries like agriculture, energy, and manufacturing. We must improve our utilization of this invaluable resource by choosing sustainable solutions to continue with our daily activities while reducing man’s impact on the environment through continued efforts against climate change.

At Primal we are reducing and optimizing the use of water at our plantations:

Using a precision irrigation system and investing in the construction of our eco-dam, which has a holding capacity of over one million square meters of water and a bleeder to regulate the water flow, we are securing the valuable resource for us and our projects in a sustainable manner.

Utilizing dry coconut palms and shells to protect and prepare our soils, we are able to improve water retention and maintain the growth of our crops during the dry season in Brazil.

Avoiding the use of unsustainable energy sources wherever possible, such as the energy from the Brazilian national grid, by producing renewable energy with our solar panels and our own Zero Carbon Footprint Plan.

Implementing modern infrastructure and using technological resources to create sustainable solutions will allow us to fight climate change, avoid water-related disasters and efficiently utilize the world’s most vital resource: water.