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SOLUTIONS

The ways we can escape the water crisis

Reuters/Mike Hutchings
The Theewaterskloof Dam, which supplies most of Cape Town’s potable water, in February 2018.

How do we get out of the water crisis? Theoretically, there’s plenty of fresh water to go around, the big question is allocating it properly, and that’s where things get complicated. There is no magic bullet, but here are five key things that we can do to help alleviate the crisis:

Improve water use efficiency: From flood irrigation to unmetered public use, water runs out of reservoirs and taps and leaks into the ground without doing much good. Metering homes and apartments can cut usage by anywhere from 5 to 39%, depending on local habits, by forcing residents to pay for the water they use. Some 60% of water tapped for irrigation is lost or wasted. Requiring drip irrigation for farms, or lawn watering at night can cut water usage drastically, as can growing crops appropriate for the local climate.

Pricing water properly: This can get tricky, but one place to turn is Los Angeles, which uses tiered pricing, a principal similar to marginal income-tax rates, to cover the cost of supplying extra water and encourage conservation. Rates can be set to not only encourage conservation, but ensure that even the poorest get a minimum amount of water at low or no cost, while encouraging farmers to plant less thirsty crops.

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