Water is no more inexpensive and plenty in this country of rivers and canals. Rivers are dying. Canals are getting filled up. Ground water is depleting at a faster rate. Growing population, extensive farming, industrialisation and rapid urbanisation increase the demand for water. Besides, there are gross misuses as well as wastage of water at different levels. As a result, there is crisis of water in some places of the country.
Managing growing demand for water will be very difficult in near future. Though the agriculture sector is the main user of water, industries, factories and business units are also consuming water at a growing pace. Unrestrictive uses of ground water by textile and dyeing as well as some other industries are drying up sources of water for their neighbourhoods. These industries use very high-powered pump to extract ground water. A few days ago, a vernacular newspaper reported that four unions and one municipal area in Chottogram have been facing severe water crisis due to a big industrial unit. To meet a large demand for water, the industry is using very powerful deep tube-well causing depletion of water level in adjoined areas.
Against the backdrop, it is time to introduce a systematic water audit in all the industrial units of the country. Water audit provides a way to make an inventory of all water uses in different households and industrial units. It also guides use of water efficiently. By conducting water audit, it is possible to assess the consumption of water in different industrial units. Once assessed, it will become easy to identify misuse or wastage of water during consumption and also to suggest remedial steps in this regard. Moreover, water audit will help determine the water footprint of a product. It is a measurement of volume of freshwater used directly or indirectly to manufacture a product as well as to run and support a business.
No doubt, water audit will be an ambitious task and requires adequate preparation to conduct it. The country's national water policy, formulated in 1999, didn't say anything about such an audit. But its six-point objective clearly stressed 'harnessing and development of all forms of surface water and ground water and management of these resources in an efficient and equitable manner.' It also underscored developing 'a state of knowledge and capability' to 'design future water resources management plans.' Thus there is no policy bar on conducting water audit.
As a matter of fact, water audit needs to be conducted in all sectors consuming the scare natural resource. Beside industrial units, there should be water audit on household and agricultural activities. Misuse of water is quite visible in irrigation of farmlands. By adopting drip irrigation technology on a larger scale, wastage of water could be reduced. There are some other areas to work on also.
In a fast growing economy and densely populated country like Bangladesh, demand for water will be manifold in the near future. But it is not possible to create and supply water accordingly. Instead, it is essential to take some effective steps to curb the wastage of water in different sectors and ensure efficient use of water. Water audit may be an important move in this direction.