Saving for the future

August 07, 2022

Water scarcity remains a grave policy concern in Pakistan

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Water, water

everywhere and not a drop to drink.

W

ith the ongoing supply water crisis, this is very much the situation we find ourselves in. Pakistan is one of the countries most at risk of water scarcity. It ranks 14 in the world in terms of water risk. Despite facing severe water-stressed conditions, Pakistanis do not shy away from wasting a third of the available water. As a result of this, the groundwater availability has fallen below 1,000 cubic metres per person from more than 5,000 cubic metres per person in the 1960s. Approximately 80 percent of the country’s population is facing extreme water scarcity. The agriculture sector has also been hit hard due to depleting water levels; a shortage of 70 million tonnes of food is expected by 2025.

Much of this problem is due to policies that are well documented but not implemented. Water issues have been detailed in the National Climate Change Policy of Pakistan (NCCP), which was developed in 2012 and was updated in 2021 with a focus on adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The NCCP highlights various issues resulting from climate change and focuses on increasing water storage and developing necessary infrastructure, introducing water conservation strategies at the local and national levels, developing a system of integrated water resource management, developing and enacting relevant legislative framework, enhancing capacity for water storage and promoting awareness among the public. The ambitious objectives of this policy remain unachieved. This policy has achieved little in terms of measurable success.

Most of the aforementioned measures could not be implemented due to technological, economic and political impediments. Thus, these policy measures have failed to resolve the water crisis in the short run. Immediate measures are required to resolve the issue. To resolve the water crisis in the short run, it is advisable to use water metering for domestic and commercial consumers. Consumers should be required to pay the price according to their actual water use.

Water metering is a promising solution to excessive water waste, but the public may not welcome the change.

Water metering has been successful in tackling water shortages in the short run as well as the long run in several countries. California State Water Resources Control Board highlighted the effectiveness of water metering in the State of California, USA. An increase of 11 percent in water savings was observed after implementing water metering in the state and water efficiency by 8.5 percent. A significant decrease in water consumption of urban households was also observed. Water consumption reduced from 856,000 m3/year to 661,000 cubic metres per year, i.e., by 22.7 percent per person per day. Similarly, in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, households’ water consumption was reduced by 28.3 percent by installing water meters in the city. The Southeast region of England also benefitted from the use of water meters. Consumption of water was reduced by 22 percent, which was significant as compared to what was found in various studies.

The Canary Islands experienced a reduction of approximately two percent in water consumption owing to the water metering.

Water metering is economical since this will generate revenue for the government through bills. Moreover, this measure can be implemented with meagre technological change in current meters and has no negative impacts on the environment. It is, however, susceptible to political stability in the country since once metering is implemented, it will require policy upgrades over time. Water metering is a promising solution to excessive water wastage, but the public may not welcome the change because it would put a stop to mindless waste and is likely to cost more. The

Punjab government, in partnership with Chinese companies, has initiated a Rs 9.3 billion programme to install water meters in the province and more than 700,000 in Lahore. This is a step in the right direction. The initiative should be extended to other metropolitan cities and water-stressed areas of other provinces as well.


The writer is a freelance contributor



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