Water is an indispensable need and a very precious resource. It is vital and it supports all human, animal and plant life around us. Thus being a source that sustains life on Earth, our planet one must be aware of possible solutions to conserve water, especially in our schools. Such recommendations to save this life-giving liquid are explored in this article. Where there is no water, no life can exist.
Water covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface. However, less than 1% of the water on the planet is readily available for drinking or for agricultural purposes. This is because about 97.5% of the water on Earth is salt water found in oceans and 2.5% is freshwater. 68% of the Earth’s freshwater is found in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland, 30% is in the ground in the form of soil moisture or in underground aquifers. Only 1% of the world’s freshwater is available for direct human uses. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and shallow underground sources. (1.)
Water is used for irrigation.
Plants and animals are mostly made up of water. We use water for drinking, for agricultural purposes to grow crops, for cooking and hygiene purposes. Water is also used to generate electricity, by manufacturing and hospitality industries and by facilities such as hospitals and schools.
Although we are used to taking the constant supply of fresh water for granted and are taught that water is a renewable source, we are living in a world where the supply of this precious need may decrease because of growing demands on agriculture, an always increasing world population, energy production and climate change. Over one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Every eight seconds, a young person in a third world country dies from insufficient water supply or lack of pure water. (2.)
The Maltese islands have no mountains, rivers or lakes. With a population of about 420,000 (3.) and which is always increasing, the water problem, along with Malta’s small amount of rainfall, has been a constant worry. The island has only a few springs, a high rate of evaporation and very little means of retaining the rainwater that stops it from flowing into the sea (4.).
Efforts to conserve water date back to the building of the prehistoric temples which contained cisterns so that rainwater could be collected and stored. The Knights of St John had also built an aqueduct to transport water for over 15km by gravity. The water was collected by subterranean conduits from several natural springs and galleries cut into limited freshwater aquifer. Houses in the newly built city of Valletta had to have a well to collect rainwater. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the demand for fresh water was increasing, boreholes and subterranean collection galleries were cut. Covered reservoirs were also built. (5.) In 1983, the Seawater Reverse Osmosis facility at Ghar Lapsi began to be used. There are two other Reverse Osmosis plants at Pembroke and Cirkewwa. (6.)
As the Maltese population increases, the demand for water continues to rise. In 2000, the total water consumed was 23,092,385m3 while in 2011, it was 25,455,083m3. In the Domestic Sector, 135 litres of water are used per capita per day (7.). According to the European Environment Agency, among European countries, Malta has the least freshwater resources – 50Mm3 per year (8.). The different Governments have taken various measures to conserve water. These include the building of more and larger reservoirs, building of dams in valleys, installing distillation plants, encouraging hotels and factories to have their own water supply through private desalination apparatus and carrying out education campaigns to encourage the good use of water (5.).
Schools can also help in the conservation of water. Our schools contain two wells and a rainwater catchment system where water from the rooftop in one of the blocks is collected into a borehole. Such water is used mainly for toilet flushing and washing of hands in restrooms, in laboratories, for the washing of floors and for gardening purposes. The school has extensive gardens which contain around one hundred and twenty citrus trees. There are also cypress, medlar and other trees and various flowering and non-flowering plants. These are watered using water from two wells.
However, tap water is also used since this store of water is not enough. In summer, about three bowsers of water are also brought to school for such purposes.
|Rainwater Catchment System in Girls’ Secondary School, Zejtun (St Margaret College).
As a result, I would recommend that when planning and building new schools, the issue of water conservation is addressed. Rainwater runoff can be reduced by installing systems where rainwater is collected and stored for future use in cisterns or wells. This water can be used for toilet flushing and hygiene purposes. For improved efficient use of water, low water volume or dual flush toilets could be used. Water used in the laboratories can be recycled for toilet flushing. Using reminders such as stickers, signs and other awareness tools in bathrooms/toilets can help students to be mindful about water usage.
Water means life. Each one of us needs to be aware of the importance of efficient and wise water usage. We must adopt ways to save water today so that we will have enough water for tomorrow.
Sources of Reference:
- http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/freshwater_supply/freshwater.html accessed on 16/01/2014
- Geography of the Maltese Islands by A. Azzopardi (1995 Edition)