Water efficiency is the practice of reducing water consumption by measuring the amount of water required for a particular purpose and the amount of water used or delivered. Water efficiency differs from water conservation in that it focuses on reducing waste, not restricting use. Solutions for water efficiency not only focus on reducing the amount of potable water used but also on reducing the use of non-potable water where appropriate (e.g. flushing toilet, watering landscape, etc.). It also emphasises the influence consumers can have on water efficiency by making small behavioural changes to reduce water wastage, and by choosing more water-efficient products.
Examples of water-efficient steps include: fixing leaking taps, taking showers rather than baths, installing displacement devices inside toilet cisterns, using urinals as opposed to toilet stalls, and using dishwashers and use washing machines with full loads. These examples fall under the definition of water efficiency, as their purpose is to obtain the desired result or level of service with the least water necessary.
According to the Second UN World Water Development Report, two-thirds of the global population will live in areas of water stress by 2025 if present levels of consumption continue. Increasing human demand for water coupled with the effects of climate change mean that the future of water supply is not secure. At present, 2.6 billion people do not have safe drinking water. Added to this are the changes in climate, population growth and lifestyles. The changes in human lifestyle and activities require more water per capita. This tightens the competition for water amongst agricultural, industrial, and human consumption.
In most countries, people have recognized this growing water scarcity problem. Water efficiency, while not yet a major priority in the agendas of governments, has been a growing concern. Global organizations like the World Water Council, the International Water Management Institute, and UNESCO have been promoting water efficiency alongside water conservation.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency, Waterwise, the California Urban Water Conservation Council, and Smart WaterMark in Australia, and the WaterBucket in Canada, are some non-governmental organizations that promote or support water efficiency at national and regional levels.
Governmental organisations such as Environment Canada, the EPA in the USA, the Environment Agency in the UK, DEWR in Australia, among others, have recognized and created policies and strategies to raise water efficiency awareness. The EPA created its WaterSense program to encourage water efficiency in the United States through the use of a special label on consumer products.
The PRC has put forward a 5-year plan (2010-2015) at a cost of Y500 billion ($78.1 billion) to Y600 billion ($93.7 billion) to upgrade most of the 4,000 water plants in China. The government hopes these steps will help to better conserve water and meet demands.
The Indian state of Haryana has implemented State Rural Water Policy 2012; under this policy individual household metered connections would be provided to 50% of the rural population by 2017, to stop water wastage in villages.
A part of the industry sector has also recognized the benefits of water efficiency. Such journals as the Water Efficiency Journal from the USA, Water Efficient Solutions Journal and Water Energy and Environment Magazine from the UK, all mainly directed towards the industrial and professional sectors, attest to the growing consciousness of the need to develop more water efficient solutions.
Further information: Sustainable living § Water
Water efficient solutions in residences include:
Consumers can also voluntarily or with government incentives or mandates purchase water-efficient appliances, such as low-flush toilets and front-loading washers.
According to Savewater, these are solutions useful to manufacturers:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes the following recommendations for communities and utilities:
Utilities can also modify their billing software to track customers who have taken advantage of various utility sponsored water conservation initiatives (toilet rebates, irrigation rebates, etc.) to see which initiatives provide the greatest water savings for the least cost.
Environmental policies and the difference usages of models that are generated by these enforcement can have significant impacts on the society. Hence, improving policies regarding environmental justice issues often require local government's decision making, public awareness, and significant amount of scientific tools. Furthermore, it is important to understand that positively impacting policy decisions require more than good intentions, and they necessitate analysis of risk-related information along with consideration of economic issues, ethical and moral principles, legal precedents, political realities, cultural beliefs, societal values, and bureaucratic impediments. Also, ensuring that the rights of people regardless of their age, race, and backgrounds are being protected should not be neglected according to "The Role of Cumulative risk Assessment in Decisions about Environmental Justice." Also, the article suggests that if a policy protects the natural environment but negatively affects those who in the reach of the enforcement of the policy, that policy is subjected to revaluation. Researchers suggests racial and socioeconomic disparities in exposure to environmental hazards describing the demographic composition of areas and their proximity to hazardous sites. Then, any improvements of a social policy and models that are generated by these improvements should reflect the policy-makers' and researchers' environmental justice beliefs. Therefore, researches and social changes should examine the promises and pitfalls associated with the environmental justice struggles, explore implications of proposed solutions, and recognize the fact that tools necessary to sufficiently carry preceding requirements are yet underdeveloped.
The Reef Plan started as an attempt to come up with a new ways to create models that integrate environmental, economical, and social consequences. Pre-existing Australian water policies were often criticizes previous models for focusing too much on investment prioritization and economic dimensions when it came to policy impact assessment. However, the policy makers and researchers in Australia now suggest that "sustainability focused policy requires multi-dimensional indicators" that combine different disciplines. The Reef Plan allows the policy makers to identify issues relating to Reef water quality and implement management strategies and actions to conserve and rehabilitate areas such as riparian zones and wetlands. With the Reef Plan, Nine strategies were implemented in the Great Barrier Reef region. They include self-management approaches, education and extension, economic incentives, planning for natural resources management and land use, regulatory frameworks, research and information sharing, partnership, priorities and targets, and monitoring and evaluation. And such improvements invoked benefits such as:
Conserved Water Statutes are state laws enacted by California, Montana, Washington, and Oregon to conserve water and allocate water resources to meet the needs of increasing demand for water in the dry lands where irrigation is or was occurring. These laws helps the states to dismiss the disincentives to conserve water and do so without damaging pre-existing water rights. Because any extra amount of water after applying water to a beneficiaries of the pre-existing water policies does not belong to the appropriators, such a condition creates an incentive to use as much water as possible rather than saving. This obviously causes costs of irrigation to be greater than the optimal amount which makes the policy very inefficient. However, by enacting Conserved Water Statutes, state legislatures are able to address the disincentives to save water. The policy allows the appropriators to have rights over the surplus water and enforces them to verify their water savings by the water resources department. Out of the four states that adapted the Conserved Water Statutes, Oregon is often renowned to be the most successful. According to "How Expanding The Productivity of Water Rights Could Lessen Our Water Woes," The Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) has been a success because a high percentage of submitted applications submitted, and the OWRD serves as a good intermediaries that help appropriators to conserve water. OWRD’s programs are not only a success because its effectiveness but also because of their efforts to improve the workers’ working conditions. According to OWRD's website, the state policies regarding the water rights are divided into Cultural Competency, Traditional Health Worker, Coordinated Care Organizations, and Race, Ethnicity and Language Data Collection.
In Malaysia, the citizens have been experiencing harms from water pollutants in the river that have been accumulating over decades due to fast growing urbanization and industrialization. The planners of Malaysia have been trying to coming up with models that indicate the amount of pollutants has grown over time as cities became more industrialized and how these chemicals are distributed in various regions with the usage of econometrics and various scientific tools. Such an attempt is encourages in-depth researches because sources should be able to analyzed numerically and give economic evaluations while also evaluating the environment. With abundance of evidences provided by models which reveal the inadequacy of current policies, the Malaysian decisions-makers now recognize that appropriate treatments are necessary in regions that are industrialized to protect the residents from water pollutants. As a result, the government seeks to increase public awareness and provide affordable water services to residents by year 2020.
Successful policies and assessments integrate environmental, economical, and social consequences which provides better models and potential future improvements of the policies. Understanding the importance of water policies and impact assessments is a crucial part of both water justice and environmental justice issues. Not only does it help to protect the quality of water but also the quality of living for humans who are directly affected by the environment.
In addition, successful policies goes beyond water issues. Beneficial policies that are intended to benefit the general public touches upon subjects such as transportation and other environmental policies that may have significant impact on the surrounding environment. Instead of mere cost-benefit analysis, decisions are made so that they account for the priorities of the people.
Notable benefits of impact assessments:
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