Those advances spring from the simple idea that preventing water loss is effectively the same as giving parched countries new sources of water. This view gained widespread credibility in the wake of an IDRC-supported research program designed to assess how the so-called “water demand management” approach could ease the region’s water crisis.
“The idea of using water more efficiently is now on the top of the policy agenda in the Middle East,” says former IDRC program officer Lamia El-Fattal. “Our work provided the intellectual backbone that made it possible for people to move with confidence in that direction.”
Earlier, governments had seen big, costly projects such as dams, canals, and salt-water desalination plants as the solution to water scarcity. By the mid-1990s, the megaproject approach was widely viewed as a poor response to a water crisis worsened by population growth and climate change. However, the “demand management” alternative to developing new supplies of water — for example, reducing the amount of water used, wasted, or even needed — remained unproven.
Enter WaDImena. Between 2004 and 2009, the IDRC-supported program brought together researchers, policymakers, farmers, and community groups to share successes and assess new ideas.
The research was wide-ranging. For example, WaDImena contributors refined the treatment of wastewater to ensure that “greywater” — non-sewage waste — could safely be used for certain types of agriculture. They also examined how watering crops at night (to minimize evaporation) and using technologies such as drip-irrigation could reduce agricultural water demand.
Efficiency plus equity
Many of WaDImena’s inquiries focused on the dual concerns of enhancing efficiency and distributing water more equitably. A delegation of Syrians to Tunisia, for instance, considered how to replicate the successes of that country’s water users associations. These groups empower small farmers to enforce their own methods of fairer and less wasteful water distribution. They are based on the idea that “the best way to manage water is to give power to the people who are using it,” says El-Fattal.
Researchers also pondered how fees for water delivery could provide incentives to save water without penalizing the poor. Cultural taboos against charging for water had meant that “the paradox of this region was that water was very scarce but also cheap,” explains IDRC program officer and former WaDImena project manager Hammou Laamrani.
The solution since adopted in several countries is to have meters on wells that allow some water to be drawn for free, ensuring fair access for poor farmers. At the same time, distribution fees are imposed for greater use, providing an incentive to conserve water.
New ideas have led to policy changes at many levels. In Jordan, for example, building codes have been changed to require waste-water recycling to be incorporated into new construction.
In Morocco, government subsidies for efficient drip-irrigation technologies are also used as a lever to encourage farmers to grow value-added crops that make better use of scarce water.
Water demand management, concludes El-Fattal, “has gone from an idea to practical solutions that people are committed to.”
The article is written by Stephen Dale, an Ottawa-based writer
This story is part of the Lasting Impacts series that highlights how IDRC-funded research has improved lives in the developing world.
Stephen Dale | Research asia research news
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy