Unconventional Water Resources

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    Manzoor Qadir

    While sustainable development goal 6 (SDG 6) calls for access to safe water and sanitation for all by 2030, more than two-thirds of the global population is expected to face water scarcity by the end of SDG era. The commonly used conventional water resources, such as rainwater or river runoff, may not be sufficient to meet the growing demand for water in water scarce areas. This necessitates considering unconventional water resources as part of the water management and water planning for the future.

    Unconventional water resources may either be generated as a product of specialized processes such as desalination, or need suitable pre-use treatment, and/or pertinent on-farm management when used for irrigation, or need a special technology to collect/access water. Examples of such water resources/sources include, but not limited to:

    Desalination of seawater and highly brackish groundwater; Groundwater, particularly in regions where there is no culture or experience in its large-scale use. Special cases include groundwater confined in deep geological formations, or in off-shore aquifers;
    Physical transportation of water through tankers and icebergs;
    Micro-scale capture of rainwater where it otherwise evaporates;
    Atmospheric moisture harvesting using processes such as cloud seeding, fog water collection;
    Collection and treatment of wastewater, grey water, and storm water; and
    Collection and use of agricultural drainage water.

    The above first five types of unconventional water resources listed above can be considered ‘new water’ while the remaining two ‘used water’.

    Scattered, but there are growing examples of using unconventional water resources or developing new technologies to boost water supplies, both low and high costs, to address water scarcity across the world. Yet, there is no coordinated initiative to date to trigger international and regional cooperation across UN Member States to build and share a global vision to harness the potential of unconventional water resources and technologies. This project intends to fill this gap. It supports UNU-INWEH’s mission to help resolve pressing regional and global water challenges that are of concern to the United Nations, its Member States and their people. In addition, the project is associated with several action areas highlighted in the Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, particularly ‘Environment and Climate Action’.