Student Reporters Iliana Sepulveda and Arjun Bhargava contributed equally to this post. Wars over water? Nowadays, this concept does not sound unfamiliar at all. Shared natural resources offer a challenge from the political standpoint, given that its management has implications for the autonomy and wealth of different countries and states. As the IUCN notes, of the two hundred and fourteen transboundary river basins in the world, one hundred and fifty-five of these are shared between two States, thirty-six between three States and twenty-three between four or more States.
Since the beginning of days humans have always tried to imitate nature, both in real life and in mythology (e.g. Daedalus and Icarus trying to imitate the flying of the birds). As technology advances, many advances return back to the concept of imitating nature in order to preserve a balance on earth. For example, the industrial and municipal water cycle are now being adapted to reuse wastewater. Water reclamation is a reflection of water’s value and increasing scarcity in many parts of the world – there simply isn’t enough fresh water to meet demands. In water reclamation, we emulate Mother Nature, where water is recylced and reused on a global scale. In fact, with the current technology we can do it faster and better. Water reclamation is the treatment of wastewater to make it reusable. The idea is that for some uses, like watering the lawn or some industrial uses, water does not need to be as clean as for others, such as drinking. Water reclamation can also mean that water is treated from toilet to tap, like in Singapore, where wastewater undergoes reverse osmosis and is immediately recycled. Further opportunity exists in reclaming minerals from wastewater, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which are valuable for agriculture.
Student Reporter Iliana Sepulveda interviewed Ron Sawyer, Executive director of SARAR Transformacion, member of the Butterfly Effect coalition and FANMexico network at the sixth World Water Forum. SARAR Transformacion provides a methodology to make projects more sustainable. In this interview Mr. Sawyer explains the importance of education and community involvement in designing and implementing water and sanitation projects carried out by organizations from outside the community. One on the main problems is that when an external organization leaves a community, they take their knowledge with them. This leaves the community project with a high probability of failing in its maintenance.