Water Resources Management

Imagine if you became trapped on a desert island. Your first priority would be to find drinking water. But you'd need to manage it carefully. How much water is there? Where can you get more? How often does it rain?

Water Resources Management Water Resources Management

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Table of contents

    Water resource managers consider those questions on a large scale. They consider the water demand over an entire region or country, trying their best to meet the demand without running out of water in the future.

    Has this piqued your interest? Take a dip into this article!


    • Sustainable Water Resources Management
    • Benefits of Sustainable Water Resource Management
    • Integrated Water Resources Management
    • Hydrology and Water Resources Management
    • Water Resources Management Plans
    • Managing Water Resources in the UK
      • Metering
      • Low Water-use Appliances
      • Greywater
    • New Water Resources
      • Rainwater Catchment
      • Reservoirs and Estuary Barrages
      • Unexploited Aquifers
      • Inter-basin Transfers
    • Future Water Resources
    • Water Resources Management: Impact Factor

    Sustainable Water Resources Management

    Water resources management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources.

    It's important for water resources management to be sustainable. If not, future generations may struggle to access clean water.

    Water Resources Management tap StudySmarterFig. 1 – We often take access to running water for granted. Have a think about how different your life would be if we didn't have clean water literally on tap! Source: unsplash.com

    Abstraction is the removal of water from surface water bodies or groundwater. If water is abstracted unsustainably, it affects natural flows and groundwater levels, impacting the natural environment.

    Northern China has been abstracting water unsustainably for decades. Consequences include water shortages, salinisation, desertification, and vegetation decline.

    Benefits of Sustainable Water Resource Management

    Responsible and sustainable water resource management is essential for the healthy and efficient functioning of a society. Water management impacts many aspects of life, like environmental protection, potable water access, or farming.

    Effective water resources management can promote development. How?

    • Reliable irrigation promotes crop growth, limiting food insecurity or famine.

    • Access to clean drinking water prevents diseases.

    • Local water sources limit the time spent collecting water.

    • Flood and drought management mitigates the impact of water-related natural disasters.

    • Hydroelectricity provides electricity in remote areas, enabling industry and development.

    Water availability is closely linked to gender equality. Women and girls usually have the responsibility of fetching water. This time-consuming, physically demanding task leaves women vulnerable to attack and prevents them from getting an education or earning income. Plus, women are disproportionately impacted by poor sanitation.

    Integrated Water Resources Management

    Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is an empirical concept, defined in 1992 by the Global Water Partnership:

    IWRM is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

    In simple terms, IWRM refers to the effective management of water to maximise sustainable development. It encompasses social, economic, and environmental development.

    Hydrology and Water Resources Management

    What is hydrology?

    Hydrology is the study of the movement and distribution of liquid water on Earth.

    Incorporating hydrological knowledge into water management techniques can support sustainable development, and reduce the risk of water-related natural disasters. How does it work?

    1. Networks of stations measure hydrological factors.

    2. Data is collected, stored, and published.

    3. The data is provided to planners, managers, and forecasting systems.

    4. The information and forecasts are incorporated into management – including flood and drought management.

    Water Resources Management Plans

    The UK government requires water companies to prepare and maintain a water resources management plan (WRMP) every five years. The plans set out how the water company aims to achieve a secure water supply while protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

    Each plan must forecast public water supply and demand for at least 25 years and include a range of options to deal with a potential water deficit.

    Water deficit occurs when water demand exceeds supply.

    Managing Water Resources in the UK

    Water resource management may vary from country to country or region to region depending on the particularities of the environments present there. Countries in which rain is frequent will not have the same requirements as countries that often suffer doughts.

    This section will focus on the strategies that the UK uses for managing water resources.

    Water Resource Management Strategy: Metering

    Water meters are useful devices; they keep track of your water usage, and allow your company to fix leaks faster. Keeping track of water usage allows households to cut down on unnecessary use, thus saving water and money!

    A water meter is a device that measures household water usage.

    Customers of North West Water save an average of over £100 per year after having a meter installed.

    Reducing Water Use

    The principle behind metering is being aware of your water use and learning how to cut down on it. What can you do to reduce water use in your household?

    • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth

    • Take shorter showers and turn off the tap while using the soap

    • Fill dishwashers and washing machines to capacity

    • Limit hose use. Instead of using tap water to water your plants, try leaving buckets or watering cans outside to fill with rainwater when possible.

    • Don't flush non-bathroom waste down the toilet – use a bin instead

    Water Resource Management Strategy: Low Water-use Appliances

    New technologies reduce the amount of water required to run certain appliances. Some examples are detailed in this table.

    ApplianceDescription
    Water-efficient showerheadsThese showerheads produce water flows that feel far higher than they are; saving water and energy. They usually operate at a 6-8L/min (litres per minute) flow rate, rarely exceeding 10L/min.
    Low-flush toiletsNew toilet cisterns must not exceed a flush volume of 6 litres. Dual-flush toilets are also becoming increasingly common, with flush volumes as small as 3 litres.
    Tap aeratorsThese caps on the end of taps help water flow out evenly.
    Verified water-efficient appliancesNew appliances with the Water Efficient Product label use less water than traditional appliances.
    Table 1. Appliances with low water use.

    Water Resource Management Strategy: Greywater

    Greywater refers to domestic wastewater without faecal contamination.

    Sources for greywater include tanks, baths, showers, washing machines, dishwashers – basically, any household water except from the toilet.

    Greywater passes through a coarse filter to remove large dirt particles. Then, it is aerated in a treatment buffer tank. Finally, the water passes through a BMT (Berghof Membrane Technology) filter into a storage tank, where it can be used again in the home.

    BMT filters use robust membranes to remove solids from wastewater streams. They have a high flux rate and require minimal cleaning.

    Recycling greywater doesn't require chemical additives; it only needs a supply of electricity to treat water.

    Water Resource Management: New Water Resources

    Extracting water from new resources can reduce the pressure on existing resources, and may provide a more sustainable pathway for future water supplies.

    New Water Resources: Rainwater Catchment

    Traditionally, rainwater is harvested from a roof. It collects in gutters, channelling into downspouts, then into a storage vessel (most commonly a rain barrel). Uses include irrigation and non-potable water for the household.

    Rainwater catchment is the collection of water runoff from a structure or impervious surface.

    Water Resources Management rainwater barrel StudySmarterFig. 2 – A plastic rainwater barrel, used to collect rainwater for domestic use. Source: Wikimedia Commons

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Rainwater Catchment

    AdvantagesDisadvantages
    • Free clean water
    • Control over supply and usage
    • Reduces stormwater runoff
    • Highly flexible
    • Unsuitable in dry areas
    • Requires regular maintenance
    • Unsuitable for drinking without purification
    • Storage limits
    Table 2. Advantages and disadvantages of rainwater catchment.

    New Water Resources: Reservoirs and Estuary Barrages

    Reservoirs and estuary barrages trap water until it is needed. People have been building reservoirs for thousands of years – the oldest-known dam was built in 3000 BCE in what is now modern-day Jordan.

    Reservoirs are artificial lakes used for storing water.

    Estuary barrages are dams constructed across an estuary or tidal bay.

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Reservoirs and Estuary Barrages

    AdvantagesDisadvantages
    • Can be used for recreation
    • Dams or barrages are often used to generate hydroelectricity
    • Provide flooding control
    • Water loss through evaporation
    • Sedimentation
    • Construction causes flooding and ecological damage
    • Construction can alter the surrounding ecosystem
    Table 3. Advantages and disadvantages of reservoirs and estuary barrages.

    New Water Resources: Unexploited Aquifers

    There are unexploited aquifers found around the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Canada, and Russia. Unexploited aquifers are a good source of water, but like other forms of groundwater, they may eventually become depleted.

    Aquifers are rocks that hold groundwater.

    New Water Resources: Inter-basin Transfers

    These transfers can be used to alleviate water shortages in the donor basin, generate electricity, or both.

    Inter-basin transfers describe artificial schemes that move water from one river basin to another.

    A large inter-basin transfer takes place between Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee in DeKalb County, Georgia. In 2008, the water transfer rate was 37.2 million gallons per day.

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Inter-basin Transfers

    AdvantagesDisadvantages
    • Supports groundwater recharge
    • Increases water supply
    • Can improve economic efficiency
    • Large amounts of water lost
    • Expensive and time-consuming
    • Affects river dynamics
    • May impact those downstream
    Table 4. Advantages and disadvantages of inter-basin transfers.

    Water Resource Management: Future Water Resources

    As technology improves, what new resources could we exploit as water sources?

    • Brackish groundwater: water harvested from coastal areas could be used for irrigating salt-tolerant crops, aquaculture, and cooling systems. Indeed saltwater can already be purified for human consumption and is used as a potable water source (after treatment) in countries with low freshwater sources.

    • Offshore groundwater springs: even in marine areas, sources of freshwater can be found underground.

    • Harvesting fog: installing meshes in foggy areas with a high altitude can produce up to 3500 litres of water every year.

    • Desalination technologies: removing salt from seawater isn't a new process, but it's highly expensive. New technologies such as nanoparticle-enhanced membranes and osmosis reduce energy demands. Plus, converting metals and ions from brine to yield commercial products could offset the cost.

    Water Resources Management port stanvac desalination plant StudySmarterFig. 3 – Port Stanvac desalination plant, built on the Australian coast. Operation costs tens of million of dollars. Source: Wikimedia Commons

    • Iceberg extraction: icebergs are towed to supply water to Greenland residents.

    Water Resources Management: Impact Factor

    What is an impact factor?

    An impact factor (also called an impact score) is a measure of the frequency with which the average article of a journal has been cited in the current year or period.

    Basically, the impact factor evaluates the importance of a journal within its field. In 2021, the Springer journal Water Resources Management had an impact factor of 4.426.

    An impact factor of more than 2-3 is already considered good, and 10 is considered excellent. However, impact factors have provoked criticism, as journals can deliberately skew data to achieve a higher impact factor. Plus, a journal's impact factor is not a demonstration of its quality.

    It's important for water resource management to be sustainable. If not, future generations may struggle to access clean water. Strategies for managing water resources include metering, low-water appliances, and greywater use. New water resources include rainwater catchment, reservoirs and estuary barrages, unexploited aquifers, and inter-basin transfers.

    Water Resources Management - Key takeaways

    • Water resources management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources. Effective, sustainable management can promote development.
    • Integrated water resources management encompasses social, economic, and environmental development.
    • The impact factor of the Water Resources Management journal is 4.426.
    • Hydrology is the study of the movement and distribution of liquid water on Earth. It is incorporated into water resources management.
    • UK water companies must make water resource management plans every five years. Methods of managing water resources in the UK include metering, installing low water-use appliances, and using greywater.
    • New water resources include rainwater catchment, reservoirs and estuary barrages, unexploited aquifers, and inter-basin transfers.

    1. ACCG, Interbasin Transfers, 20102. Anglian Water, Water resources management plan, 2019

    3. Australian Water Association, Auditor-General's Report puts spotlight on Adelaide desalination plant, 2017

    4. Kim Rutledge, Reservoir, National Geographic, 2022

    5. Owais Ali, The UN World Water Development Report 2022: Challenges and Opportunities for Groundwater, AZO Clean Tech, 2022

    6. Springer, Water Resources Management, 2022

    7. UK Government, Water resources planning guideline, 2022

    8. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Integrated Water Resources Management, 2014

    9. United Utilities, Water meters, 2022

    10. The Water Efficiency Network, Other Water Savings, 2022

    11. Water World, Experts explore unconventional water sources, 2022

    Frequently Asked Questions about Water Resources Management

    What is the importance of management of water resources?

    Effective management of water resources enables reliable irrigation, access to clean drinking water, local water sources, management of natural disasters, and hydroelectricity.

    What are the three ways of water management?

    Water management in the UK covers metering, low water-use appliances, and greywater usage.

    What is water management (with example)?

    Water management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources. An example is the inter-basin transfer between Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee in Georgia. In 2008, the transfer rate was 37.2 million gallons per day. 

    What are the factors involved in water resource management?

    Water resource management involves economic and social welfare, hydrological data, and sustainable development.

    What is water resource planning?

    Water resource planning is a management plan that companies must produce (every five years in the UK). The plans set out how the water company aims to achieve a secure water supply, while protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Ideally, every human being on Earth should have access to at least _________ of clean freshwater per day. 

    What are some of the dangers faced by residents without access to clean, safe freshwater?

    By _____, which is fast approaching, it is estimated that _________ people will face a lack of water security.

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