Water access is crucial to human life and health. Many people still do not have access to clean water. There are, however, numerous ways of addressing the widespread lack of usable water. The three primary means of increasing water access are conserving water, preventing pollution of water resources and harvesting water. Other ways are groundwater recharging and upgrading municipal water systems.
Harvesting water usually involves collecting rainwater or condensing water in the air. Collecting rainwater can be as simple as placing an individual rain barrel under a downspout and as complex and expensive as building massive dams to hold millions of cubic feet of water. Condensers range from plastic devices that provide small amounts of water for plants to large pieces of machinery that can provide water access for numerous people.
Water conservation is also crucial to improving water access. Most water is used for agricultural purposes. Methods such as drip irrigation greatly reduce water waste in conventional agriculture. Less conventional forms of farming such as aquaponics can also be beneficial. Aquaponics requires around 80 percent less water than soil-based agriculture.
Groundwater recharging can be done in a number of different ways. One method involves using rain ponds, which allow collected rainwater to slowly seep into the ground, subsequently raising the watertable. Another method is to use rain gardens comprised of native low-water plants. As with the rain ponds, the rain gardens trap water and let it recharge subsurface water.
Planting trees helps maintain or restore the water cycle. Areas that suffer from a large amount of deforestation often notice reduced rain. Trees also help prevent the soil from washing off in heavy rain. The washed-off soil does not pollute rivers or other water sources.
Another important method of increasing water access is by reducing pollution of water sources. A major source of water pollution is industrial waste. For example, the textile industry uses large quantities of water to process their products. In doing so, they also produce large quantities of wastewater. Improving the textile manufacturing process would use less water and produce less pollutants and wastewater.
Municipal water shortage can sometimes be addressed by improving the quality of the infrastructure. Very old infrastructure will lose a great deal of water to leaks and other causes. Upgrading the infrastructure is often quite costly, and some cities are reluctant to pay the money needed.