The world’s water resources are under siege from a variety of threats. Global change of climate has caused periods of severe drought over large regions while causing floods in other regions. Our water reserves in deep aquifers are being drawn down at alarming rates without being replenished. The quality of our water is being contaminated by pollutants, sediments and sewage. Our riverways are becoming clogged with sediments due to erosion, which increase the risk and damage from floods. The water infrastructure in our cities is aging and losing large amounts of this precious resource to wasteful leakage. In all these problem areas, there is a need for much better monitoring and management of our natural systems as well as our man-made infrastructure. Geospatial technology provides the means to monitor, measure, model and manage these resources from the local to the global scale.
We have systems and sensors in place to take measurements and provide real-time feedback of our streams in North America, but much more needs to be done to integrate these readings on a broader scale to understand the full picture, and assess the current status and trends. Stream gauges that measure water flow as well as quality can be expanded and integrated at broader scales in order to study availability while also monitoring use and helping determine contaminant source. Tying readings into a larger map-based system will pinpoint problem areas at their source, and will improve our overall understanding of our earth systems.
In our built environments, it’s imperative that we model our underground infrastructure and assess the efficiency of our water delivery systems. Around the world 15 to 20 percent of treated and potable water is lost due to aging and leaking pipes, which not only throws money down the drain in terms of lost revenue, it also throws away a vital and already shrinking natural resource. With integrated sensors, and a modeled water system, municipalities can detect leaks and repair worn out infrastructure efficiently, avoiding major outages, and ensuring the efficient delivery of this valuable resource.
In New York City, one of the more sophisticated and wealthy centers of power in the world, a rainy day results in a commingling of stormwater and sewage wast that gets swept into streams and ocean, polluting our environment. By modeling this system, we can get a handle on the causes for this failure, and can work to remediate this broken system and add natural systems such as salt water marshes to help alleviate the damage, by stopping the sewage and filtering it through natural processes.
While there is much that can be done to improve upon our water management systems in the developed world to ensure that we conserve and manage this resource, there are others in the world that struggle daily without access to clean water. It’s easy to take this resource for granted, where it’s there at the turn of a spigot in our multi-sink homes, and can keep our lawns green with our automated sprinkler systems. In the developing word, clean water is a scarce commodity, where more than 1 billion people struggle daily without access, and where more than 38,000 people get sick and die. Be sure to watch this video as part of Blog Action Day to see what you can do to help those less fortunate.