Water resources are being used in several ways towards world development. Water scarcity and decline in water quality have been the end result of economic activities which use water. We have understood the reasons behind the scarcity and decline in quality as those of a high demand for water, improper water utilisation and the progressively increasing population. It is the turn now to know and understand the ethics behind the use of water and water resources management.
Much as we use water for our daily activities, there is a certain moral responsibility on our part to use it and this is the water ethics. How should we assume and take the responsibility for the ethical use? There are in fact two ways in which water ethics could be assumed and taken care of.
1. It is a moral responsibility for all of us to use the water resources without much waste and contamination and realising them in the light of the fact water is available free and in plenty. There is a need to use it in quantities absolutely necessary than waste it. It is important also to be concerned with the needs of others who have the compulsion to use it just as we do. Distribution with justice is in effect good water ethics.
2. We should not be the perpetrators of water contamination nor should we be the silent spectators to the acts of violation of water ethics by others.
It follows from above that, in short, all our water related actions should always be such that everybody benefits from its use, in an ethical way. This way we all should be able to take an appropriate role in the water management.
Water is a renewable resource. But in the next 15 years, water scarcity will be very high in 30 countries of the world. It has also been estimated that, by the end of the century, the water need would either double or treble the quantum of need in 1980. It is possible to satisfy the needs of the world population, if only we could follow a careful water management strategy. There are opportunities also for satisfying the need in excess of demand.
Irrigation Department is a major user of water. Of the global water use, 70 per cent is accounted for by irrigation. With irrigation, 12 per cent of the world's crop lands obtain benefits. There are chances for the crop lands to double by the year 2000 A.D. This means that irrigation might demand greater water use in the near future.
Water use in a country depends very much on its efficiency in water use. Even in most technologically advanced country, the efficiency of irrigation is only 30 per cent. As the people of California, in the United States of America, and Israel use water ethically and with enormous care, the efficiency in use is high. They are also good in water management activities. For example, drip irrigation has been used in Israel as well as California to best effect. The farmers and horticulturists make the water drip drop-by-drop at the roots of the crop plants. This system of irrigation has now come into use in India too. With this method of irrigation, a high output of crops is being harvested with small amount of water. In this way, salination of the lands is also averted to a great extent.
Israel is an exemplary example of water use. In this country, 95 per cent of the water resources has been brought under use. Desert has become a flourishing agricultural land. A fifth of the industrial and domestic waters are treated and then used in irrigation. In 1962, 20 cubic metres of water was required to produce US $ 100 worth of goods. In 1975, it took only 8 cubic metres of water for the same level of production. And today, Israel uses much less water than 8 cubic metres to produce goods worth more than US $ 100.
The one area we have to tread carefully in water ethics is that of the political dimension of water use. Today's political climate is such that water use is opposed to ethical uses. More than 75 per cent of the World's 200 major rivers are shared by two countries each. India and Bangladesh are entangled in a dispute involving the Gangetic waters while Brazil and Argentina are at dispute involving the La Plata. In the world, there have been constant and continuing disputes between countries in respect of 6 major inter-national rivers. It will be beneficial to approach these disputes through mediation and cooperation.
A river basin is a natural region. The basin does not place importance on the national boundaries. But ' the basin is a resource' is an important value. In the countries the Nile and the Danube flow, water is considered a valuable resource. As for the Nile, Egypt and Sudan reap enormous benefits. Egypt carries out its agricultural and industrial activities in an integrated manner.