Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Erica Van Althuis makes this connection in Mumbai, India. This current event was reported in Bloomberg, on April 5, 2017, under the title, “Failed Winter Rains, Looming El Nino Challenge India’s Factories” by Archani Chaudhary. The droughts in India have also been covered by several other sources, including Richard Mahapatra in Down to Earth magazine, which describes how poor policies and increasingly extreme weather patterns have caused parts of India to experience the worst droughts recorded.

These lowered reservoir levels have decreased not only due to less rainfall, but because of poor agricultural and water conservation practices, this then leads to less water flowing into reservoirs and cities, causing water resource engineering problems both in watershed and soil areas. Water scarcity in Maharashtra is a regular pattern now, as the area has not seen regular amounts of rainfall since 2013 (Chaudhary, 2017), indicating that this is an issue that needs to be solved, not a one or two-year drought that is going to pass. While Chaudhary states that climbing temperatures and decreased rainfall have dropped reservoir levels, it was not indicated when rainfall can be expected and how much more the reservoir levels are supposed to drop before that happens.

Figure 1 – Farmers stand in a field of dried sugar cane (Mahapatra)

The lowered reservoirs impact the well-being of industries, society, and the environment in the surrounding areas, as these three sectors begin to compete for water. Many factories in Mumbai and in the rest of the Maharashtra region are fearing that lack of water will leave them unable to produce, and that they’ll have to pull out of the region (Chaudhary). This will increase unemployment and cause the economy to decline. The reservoirs are suffering not only because of lack of rain, but due to the increased growing of sugar cane, which consumes approximately five times as much water as maize and moong, which were commonly grown previously (Mahapatra, 2016). This degrading of the soil has led to less water flowing into the reservoirs, making droughts more impactful on areas that depend on those reservoirs (Mahapatra, 2016). Last year, when similar droughts occurred, several disputes between states erupted over river sharing and water resources causing political unrest and decreased welfare in the affected areas (Chaudhary). Water conservation needs to improve in both agricultural and urban areas if India’s water crisis continues to worse, waste water engineers will need to innovate new ways to improve water usage.

Reference

Chaudhary, Archana. “Failed Winter Rains, Looming El Nino Challenge India’s Factories”. Bloomberg.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Maharapatra, Richard. It is Not a Drought. Down To Earth [serial online]. May 2016;24(24):20­23. Available from: Environment Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 20, 2017.

 

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