A future without thirst
About seventy percent of the earth's surface is covered by water; of this, ninety-seven percent is salty and is in the oceans and the remaining three percent is freshwater. Two-and-a-half percent of freshwater is found in groundwater and glaciers, while less than 0.3 percent is available as surface water in rivers and lakes. Of this available water, about seventy percent is used in agricultural and industrial activities and the rest for people's own activities.
Today, humanity is already suffering the consequences of the lack of water; for example, more than a billion people do not have adequate access to the precious liquid, waste and depletion are destroying crops, pollution is destroying the biodiversity of entire regions and increasing and violent conflicts have been generated by the distribution of water in the world.
It is estimated that by 2025 two thirds of the world's population will be living with moderate or severe water shortages. Faced with this projection, and the current crisis of drought and water pollution, raising awareness of sustainable water use and environmental care has become a priority.
Mexico is a country rich in natural resources. The water that supplies human, agricultural, and industrial activities is obtained from dams, rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. Sinaloa is one of the states with the greatest availability of water. It has twelve dams and eleven rivers that supply fertile farmland, which has made this state the most important agricultural producer in the country.
However, in recent years some extreme weather conditions such as droughts and frosts, coupled with inadequate use, have caused problems in the supply of this vital liquid and we have felt the first consequences of water shortage.
According to the Culiacán Municipal Water Board (JAPAC), an open faucet provides ten liters of water per minute and the showerhead up to one hundred liters every five minutes, while the toilet flushes six to eighteen liters. In the kitchen, up to one hundred liters of water are consumed every ten minutes when washing dishes, and up to seven glasses of water are used to wash a glass, while a drip can spill up to one hundred and fifty liters daily.
In industrial and agricultural activities, water waste could exceed fifty percent. Therefore, a massive modernization of the irrigation systems is imminent and urgent, as well as efficient supervision of the conduction in order to diminish these wastes. An alternative to mitigate the inadequate use of water is the reuse of wastewater as an alternative for restricted agricultural irrigation.
Just to mention one example, JAPAC's Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant generates approximately two thousand liters per second of treated wastewater. However, the design of any domestic wastewater treatment technology for reuse in agricultural irrigation must consider the sanitary, agronomic, and environmental quality of the water.
Health quality is determined by the concentrations of parasites represented by helminth eggs and by fecal coliforms as an indicator of bacterial levels, as well as by viruses causing enteric diseases in humans. Agronomic quality is related to the concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and others), as well as those elements that are limiting or toxic to plants, such as salinity and excessive levels of boron, heavy metals and others.
Environmental quality involves all the above-mentioned parameters and others; in practice, it is more related to the concentrations of solids, organic matter, nutrients, and toxic elements that can generate negative impacts. When deciding to install a treatment technology to reuse wastewater for agricultural irrigation, the following aspects should be taken into account in addition to the technical specifications of the process:
Type of crop (different water qualities may be required)
Irrigation techniques and systems (taking into account the content of particles that could block irrigation systems)
Nutrient content (in order to reduce the use of agrochemicals)
Labour management of wastewater and irrigation for the protection of farmers (due to the content of pathogens in water, soil, and plants)
Public health criteria for the protection of consumers (due to the possible content of pathogens in harvested products)
The water issue prevails as a challenge for the state of Sinaloa. It is paradoxical to find that in such a short period of time it has gone from the abundance that supplied large areas of cultivation to a worrying shortage. For some scientific projections, Sinaloa is in a region of the world where the issue of water will have great opportunities for the application of research, development, and innovation.
Without a doubt, awareness campaigns should begin with compulsory education from primary school, where children are made aware of the serious problem we are experiencing, in order to generate a culture of extreme savings and commitment to the vital liquid. We must also accompany this educational scheme with restrictive and decisive policies that force the businessman, farmer, and common citizen to commit to the future of this region.
It is time to rethink the region. It is evident that the current scheme of expansion in the agricultural sector and in the cities is leading us to make more and more of the channels and pipes of transport go to waste.
Some of these ideas may not be carried out, but there is a certainty that this issue has already become a serious problem of importance for our region, so a commitment is needed not only from our authorities, but from all of us who love and live here, since a liter of water that we save now will be vital for a tomorrow without thirst.