The search for fresh water sources

The worldwide implications of growing water scarcity is already manifest acutely in Bangladesh today. With its more than doubled population since its independence, Bangladesh today is faced by a crisis of fresh water. The major cities of the country are under a serious mismatch between the demand for fresh water and its supply. Increasingly, all over the country and in Dhaka city in particular, water levels have fallen alarmingly in the absence of adequate recharge of ground water.
Unpredictable and lower than expected rainfall, heavier human consumption, etc., have led to this condition. But the ceaseless lifting of underground water is causing land subsidence that cannot go on without increasing alarmingly the risks during earthquake to which the country is prone.
The country’s river systems are becoming increasingly too polluted that reduces the opportunity to make greater use of surface water. Thus, the search for fresh water sources as alternatives must start in right earnest without wasting any precious time. Any lethargy in the matter will only confront the country with a further serious imbalance between demand and supply of the sort that is seen today in the power sector.
According to media reports, the demand for fresh water in Dhaka city is about 2.25 billion liters per day and against it some 1.9 billion liters can be actually supplied. The demand for water in the city is projected to rise to almost double at 5 billion liters per day from the consequences of rapid migration of people to it by 2020. But even if the existing plans for increasing water supply by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) are all carried out neatly by that time, the shortfall in supply would still be some 500 million liters.
Thus, the planning and implementation process for augmenting fresh water supplies call for urgent reevaluation. It is high time to think of realistic planning–immediately–with an eye for the near future. The plans need to be drawn up swiftly and funds need to be mobilized as fast to start work on them for the country to avoid an awful crisis related to fresh water shortages even in the near future.
The scope for intensifying underground lifting of water, as noted, is very limited. Thus, alternatives must be considered and acted upon quickly. The water desalination plants designed to separate salt from sea water and then supplying the same for all kinds of uses as substitutes for fresh water, comes to mind in this connection. Such plants are already operating in many countries of the world and meeting large parts of their water requirements. The costs of building and running such plants are not so prohibitive either that a country like Bangladesh cannot afford them. Besides, the costs are also noted to be falling.
A lot of fresh water from rainfall during the monsoon months now goes to waste in Bangladesh. But water from rainfall can be preserved and utilized. This process is called water harvesting and is popular in many parts of the world whereas it is at nascent stages in Bangladesh .
Then, there is vast opportunity to increase fresh water availability by building the Ganges Barrage project. This project, on completion, can stop the dying effects of the river system in the south-west of the country by mainly storing waters of the monsoon seasons and then routing them into the rivers with lean flows during the dry season.