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Source: The post is based on an article “India’s monsoon faces climate change. Earth needs a ‘soft path for water’ now” published in The Times of India on 9th July 2022.
Syllabus: GS 1 Salient features of World’s Physical Geography; Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent);
Relevance: Water Availability; Monsoon
News: In recent periods, research was released examining the intersection between our global water challenges and other challenges, including climate change, ecosystem impacts, and the failure to provide safe water for all humans.
How does climate change (CC) impact water availability?
Climate change is happening around the world, and some of its most significant impacts will be on water resources. For example, it has altered California’s water availability.
The demand for water will be increased worldwide due to rising temperatures.
Further extreme events, like floods and droughts, are already becoming more severe.
There is evidence that CC will impact snow and ice around the world, including in the Himalayas. This will affect the water availability.
Will climate change impact India’s monsoon as well?
Scientists are concerned that climate change is making monsoons more erratic. It is affecting the timing and severity of the Indian monsoon.
The monsoon is an integral part of refreshing India’s water reservoirs. Therefore, any impact will also alter the water availability in India.
Implications of the water challenges
It will impact peace and security because it would lead to water conflicts worldwide. The number of water conflicts now appears to be increasing.
Historically, the conflicts were restricted between nations but in recent years, the ‘subnational conflicts’ has become prominent. For example, the tension over the Kaveri River in India or between ethnic groups in Africa over access to water and grazing lands.
The ‘water poverty’ or failing to meet the basic needs for everyone to have safe water and sanitation, leads to a lot of problems in human development.
What are the causes of water challenges?
In the 20th century, we followed the ‘hard path for water’, For example, building physical infrastructure and overlooking water for ecosystems.
There is the problem of ‘Peak water’, which means we are running up against limits in the water available to us. For instance: (1) the entire flow of the Colorado river is consumed in the US, and (2) there is a serious problem of over-drafting of groundwater in India, California, and the Middle East.
What should be done?
There is an alternative approach called ‘soft path for water’ to solve the water challenge. It does not require taking more water out of the natural environment but aims to provide new water sources like the reuse of treated wastewater for reuse and storm water capture.
Further, it also requires more efficient use of water as well as protection of water for natural ecosystems.
Peak water: We should not reach peak limits. Water resources should be managed by adopting the soft path.
Examples of sustainable water management transitions: These practices should be driven locally and democratically by the communities.
Singapore Case: It has adopted water conservation, wastewater treatment and reuse and smart irrigation practices.
California Case: Farmers and households are attempting to use water efficiently.