Today’s water challenge: You’re in charge of a water-poor country. What do you do?

March 21, 2018 Dave Bennett

Wastewater reuse can help the world’s most water-desperate countries plan a sustainable future


You hear that low rumble in the distance? It’s growing concern about impending water shortages and water wars ahead. Some say that water is the new oil. For the record, there is no worldwide water shortage. Earth isn’t running out of water. In fact, all the water that’s ever been on Earth is still here.

And that’s the real issue—the location of water. Humans used to go where the water was, but we no longer follow the herd and the green grass. We figured out farming and specialization, which allowed us to stay in one place, eat well, and multiply. Camps grew into villages, villages into cities, cities into mega cities. 


Water-poor countries have about 265,000 gallons of water available per person per year. That's not a lot when it must cover all needs.


Artificial borders for cities, states, territories, dominions, provinces, and countries have evolved over time—largely independent of long-term water sustainability planning. That’s understandable, because the availability of water only emerged as a mainstream issue late in the 20th century. With fixed borders, you’re forced to cope with the water you’ve got. As the trendlines and the consequences of demand outstripping supply are becoming clearer, a lot of entities are realizing they need a plan to buy more time.

So, what exactly do you do if you’re in charge of water planning for a whole country?

_q_tweetable:Unless something changes, Turkey is heading for water stress in the near future. You’re in charge. What do you do?_q_That greatly depends on whether your country is water-rich or water-poor. Divide the annual volume of water available in your country by its population and you get the picture. Water-poor countries have less than 1,000 M3 (about 265,000) gallons available per person per year. That’s not a lot. That must cover all needs: food and energy production, plus personal sanitary and drinking. Water-rich countries have about 10 times that available. More water per person.

Imagine you’re in charge of the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and you’re looking at your country’s numbers. It’s not a good picture.

Water volume per capita in Turkey is estimated to be just 1,500 M3 (or 400,000 gallons) a year. That’s already low. Now draw your trendline for population growth (82 million people today and an estimated 100 million by 2030), the deteriorating quality of your existing supplies, and climate change variability. Plus, drought occurs in Turkey about every 15 years, an event that decreases available water by two-thirds

Unless something changes, Turkey is heading for water stress in the near future. You’re in charge. What do you do? You need the world’s best minds to put together a plan for your country to smartly use the water it already controls more than once—and that means wastewater reuse—country-wide.

Dr. Murat Sarıoğlu, from Istanbul, is responsible for more than 70 water/wastewater projects worldwide and is a renowned specialist in water reuse technologies. Dr. Sarıoğlu is Stantec’s director of operations in Turkey and several weeks ago the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs commissioned Stantec to provide technical support for the country’s Evaluation of Waste Water Re-use Alternatives project.


Water-rich countries have about 10 times the available water per person as do water-poor countries.


The plan will establish best practices for managing Turkey’s existing water sources and will develop avenues for water reuse that can be employed in agriculture, energy generation, industry, tourism, and homes across the country.

Our team will assess Turkey’s overall water reuse potential, identifying potential areas and methods to apply reuse; we’ll examine the current best international water reuse practices and compare those with current in-country practices, including a comparison of risks and costs. We’ll also deliver trainings, workshops, awareness campaigns, and general technical support to ensure the project’s success.

Turkey is taking this prudent step to secure its water future. It’s exciting to help the country do just that.

Every living thing needs dependable access to a sustainable and resilient water supply. So does every business, industry, community, state, territory, province, dominion, and country. When you hear the distant rumble of impending water crises around the world, know that while we aren’t running out of water globally, it takes insightful planning to use the water we have locally as sustainably, resiliently, and reliably as possible.


About the Author

Dave Bennett

Educated in business and co-founder of a well-respected firm that merged with Stantec, Dave Bennett has spent his entire career in construction and engineering consulting, mostly helping communities dealing with too little water.

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