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Usually there is a shortage of water resources in arid areas due to low rainfall and high rates of evaporation. The rate of evaporation can be attributed to the high temperatures experienced in arid areas for the most part of the day. Shortage of water resources in arid areas puts into jeopardy the supply of water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. It is, therefore, important for water managers to have a clear understanding of the challenges and constraints, as well as the opportunities of the available water resource base (Heyns n.d.: 2). This knowledge will help water managers to design and adopt appropriate methods of providing water in arid areas of the world.
There are numerous water provisioning techniques available to water managers in arid areas. They include conservation, use of saline water, storm water capture and treatment, ground water development and treatment and surface water imports (Standish-Lee et al. n.d.: 8598, Yuen et al. 2001). Other methods include water transfer and reuse or water recycling. This paper will focus on only two of the water provisioning methods.
Water Provision Techniques in Arid Areas
1. Use of saline water
Most of water in arid areas is saline. Being saline, the water will be of little use in both domestic and industrial applications. Since saline water is largely unsuitable for drinking and washing due to its corrosive effect on other substances. However, the presence of saline water in arid areas can be an important opportunity for water managers to lay down strategies for water provision. There is plenty of saline water in arid areas, found mostly in seas and oceans, as well as ground and underground water.
Saline water can be used for irrigation. Use of saline water for irrigation has been on the increase due to shortages of fresh water over the world, rise in population, thereby exerting pressure on the limited sources of fresh water, the expansion of agriculture and the growth of industries. There are several examples of the use of saline water for irrigation in arid areas. This is mostly applicable in the growth of medicinal and aromatic plants.
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An example of medicinal plant irrigated using saline water is Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Research shows that saline water has no negative impact on the quality and quantity of oil in Chamomile (Darvishi & Farahani 2010: 11). This means that saline water present in many arid areas can be put into productive use. Water managers in these areas have to harness salty water in arid areas for irrigation.
This shows that proper management of saline irrigation water can ease the great pressure exerted on fresh water resources and increase the efficiency of water use in medicinal and aromatic plants farming and increase yields. Water management can, therefore, overcome salinity problems by putting salty water to good use. This would also enhance agricultural production in arid areas. This would ensure that the practice of water conservation and use are sustainable.
Alternatively, saline water can also be desalinized. Desalinization is the process of purging salts from saline water, effectively converting it into fresh water. Since there is an abundance of saline water in arid areas, this would be a viable water provision practice in those areas. Desalinized water may be used for domestic consumption while salty water can irrigate crops.
2. Water harvesting
Most arid areas have a history of flash floods. This produces a lot of water that easily go to waste. This water can be harvested for the future use by people living in these places. Besides, collection of rain water can be a viable solution to the perennial problem of flooding in arid areas. Traditionally, people have been harvesting storm water for use, but on a smaller scale, the main challenge being the conservation and preservation of such water. Water managers, therefore, can consider the feasibility of harvesting and treating storm water for future use.
Water harvesting is mostly requires in urban centers where a large part of the surfaces are impervious to water, increasing surface run-off. There are a number of water harvesting techniques, which can be used by the managers. First is the creation of swales. Swales refer to opened and vegetated channels that are designed to reduce the speed of run-off and promote infiltration. By reducing the speed of run-off, the water is able to percolate into the ground, recharging or increasing the amount of ground water.
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Another common method is harvesting rain water from roofs (Hart 1986: 62). This can be achieved in several ways. First, gutters can be constructed around the roof to channel rain water into tanks. The water collected in such tanks can then be treated for domestic use, or can be used directly for washing and irrigation purposes. Alternatively, water from roofs can be allowed to fall off into garden beds, stone mulch or grassed areas. However, it is important for people harvesting roof water to allow for a moment for the roof to clean itself before channeling the water into tanks.
There is also the use of infiltration basins (Waters and Rivers Commission 1998: 118). Infiltration basins are open excavated basins, especially used in soils of high permeability to enable ground water recharge. The collected water can then be used for irrigation, or be channeled into an artificial aquifer. From the artificial aquifer, the water can be pumped out at a later date for use.
Water harvesting is a viable option for provision of water in arid areas. Since arid areas occasionally receive excess water in the form of flash floods or sporadic rains. The excess water so received can be harvested and stored for future use, easing the problem of water shortages rampant in such areas.
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The problem of water shortage affects most places in the world. Nevertheless, arid areas are usually the worst hit due to shortage of water resources in those areas. There are fewer water bodies in arid areas compared to other places. Moreover, arid areas receive insufficient rainfall. This calls for proper management of the limited water resources available to avert a water crisis.
Consequently, water managers in arid areas have their work clearly cut out for them. Therefore, their task is to implement water provision techniques that would ensure there is a steady and sustainable supply of water for use in arid areas. Such methods include use of saline water for irrigation and harvesting of water. These measures would go a long way in addressing the problem of water shortage in arid areas. Keeping in mind that water is life, it is important for every individual to uphold good practices when using water resources. Otherwise, the limited sources of water may be easily depleted, resulting into a catastrophic quagmire. In order to have a sustainable water supply, not only in arid regions, it is important to conserve the water that is available for use today.
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