The world is covered with water, but most of it isn’t very useful to humans. Salt water needs to be treated before it becomes drinkable, as does water that has been used in industry or for sewage. Humans use so much water that supplies are starting to run short, which means that clean water is one of the biggest sustainability issues in the world.
Humans rarely focus on sustainability when they are sick or hungry, so it is vital to resolve shortages to give people the chance to switch to sustainable methods. Water is vital for health, and ensuring access to clean water increases productivity while lowering medical costs. That makes it much easier for people to take the time that they need to adjust their lifestyles to make them more sustainable.
Agriculture is one of the biggest consumers of water in the world. Most modern farms use water at an unsustainable rate, and the depletion of groundwater reserves to fuel irrigation is a growing problem. There are techniques that can reduce the need for water, but they also cut down on production, which introduces new problems.
Water treatment is a vital tool for solving this problem. Agricultural water needs to be clean to be safe, and treatment gives farms access to healthy water that doesn’t drain reserves. Desalination can also help with this problem, particularly in arid areas that are located fairly close to the sea. These techniques will likely need to be combined with efficient farming practices to get the best results, but they have the potential to help deal with droughts.
Maintaining a healthy water supply is also vital for developing sources of green energy. Most of those energy sources, such as solar and wind power, suffer from irregular availability. A good storage system is necessary to work around that problem, and water can provide that. The power plant uses excess energy to pump water up into a tower or other elevated area. When the plant is running at a deficit, it allows that water to flow down through turbines to generate electricity. This essentially creates an artificial waterfall that can power a hydroelectric generator. The infrastructure can be expensive, but it is still much more efficient than relying on conventional batteries to store huge amounts of electricity for long periods of time.
Fortunately, green energy also helps to protect the water supply. Coal power plants work by burning coal to boil water. The steam that the process produces spins a turbine to generate electricity. Replacing coal plants with systems that do not require water to generate electricity will preserve the world’s water supply for uses that have no alternatives.