Water crisis or scarcity represents the many problems faced by the global world. As asserted by the International decade for action ‘WATER FOR LIFE’ some years back, about 1.2 billion people are experiencing water shortages or crisis, with some 500 million people are at risk. Pundits and other concerned citizens have been seeking to understand why there is scarcity of water given the abundant water bodies on the planet earth. Two major reasons can therefore be given to clearly explain this phenomenon in Africa. The first is the change in climate that prohibits proper precipitation. For some years now, the encroachment of the deserts in the northern regions of the continent has been very unfavorable. Countries like Sudan, Somalia, and Chad, where frequent droughts occur experience little or no rainfall and thus the substance water is very hard to find. Though, a natural phenomenon, possible solutions can still be created to avert the grave dangers of water crisis.
URBANIZATION: OVER-MIGRATION MAKES THE WATER PROBLEM INSOLUBLE
Urbanization has greatly affected the amount of water available for human consumption. The persistent movement of people and the rapid growth of cities. With more land needed for human settlement, reclamation takes place and by so doing, the volume of water reduces. A city like Cape Town in South Africa is a glaring example of a city in need of water. Tackling water scarcity in Cape Town remains an issue of great concern. Reports say about four million people in Cape Town would stand in queues just to carry clean water.
There are several reasons why this beautiful city has a thirst. First, the negative impact of global climate change. The second is the rapidly increasing migration and sudden increasing water demand (Cape Town has grown almost four-fifths since 1995). Third, poor city planning by South African authorities.
Cape Town, perhaps the most developed city in Africa, may be deprived of both tourism and viticulture income in the near future due to its thirst.
HOW TO CREATE AN OASIS IN THE AFRICAN DESERTS?
In the 21st century, there is still famine in some African countries due to thirst. However, there is no serious solution to the water problem. On the other hand, the population of Africa is increasing rapidly. From an estimated 140 million in 1900, it had grown to a billion by 2010. According to United Nations “medium scenario” projections, this figure will rise to 2.5 billion in 2050 and more than 4 billion in 2100.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO WATER SCARCITY
A common statement says there is no problem that cannot be solved. Finding a remedy to the water crisis in some African nations including Sudan, Chad and Somalia, foreign aid organizations advocated and provided new wells for fresh water. Projects like irrigation and water infrastructure renewal by governments of the affected nations can receive grants from foreign countries to tackle the water issue.
The development of water infrastructure should be at the forefront of all development projects. For example, tackling droughts in Somalia should be given priority. Road infrastructure can follow after. If institutions such as the UN or EU can relate the water problem in Africa to the migrant crisis in Europe, then quick solutions may surface. The African Union’s attention to the water issue as a priority may also attract the attention of the world at large. Africa’s water problem, which is expected to increase by 2050, will be severe. One may be tempted to say ‘water wars’ remain unavoidable in Africa if it is not contained.
DIRTY WATER THREATENS PUBLIC HEALTH
In 2004, the WHO stated that 16% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to drinking water through a household connection. Poor water networks in countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia can often cause diseases such as cholera. Unfortunately, today in areas such as Freetown, the problem of clean water has reached the deadly level.
ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE: DESALINATION TECHNOLOGIES
Countries that have water shortages such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar have been applying desalination technologies for many years. Most desalination techniques involve a process known as reverse osmosis, where pressure is applied to seawater forcing it through a semipermeable membrane to extract the salt. The reverse osmosis process, which is expensive, is not a very popular method.
Although the desalination process to be a very expensive method for Africa, today’s conditions are combining with other necessary needs, and this offers a rather lucrative method.
For some time now, nuclear energy has been used for desalination processes; however, the potential of nuclear energy is enormous. It can generate much more fresh water than what is being currently produced, and it is more affordable and does not release greenhouse effect gasses. The conversion of nuclear energy is over 80% cheaper than other fossil fuels.
The difference in cost depends on the source of energy used in the process. With nuclear energy, it is possible to achieve an enormous economy of scale, which lowers the cost.
FLOATING NUCLEAR PLANTS: CAN SOLVE THE FRESHWATER PROBLEM?
Small modular nuclear reactors (80-100 thermal megawatt), are the most suitable kind for desalination, often with electricity co-generation with low-pressure steam from the turbine and hot seawater feed from the final cooling system. A small reactor can produce between 80 and 100,000 cubic meters a day. In addition, floating nuclear plants can be capable of generating enough power for 200,000 people.
At the parallel, Russian State Atomiс Energy Corporation ROSATOM recently set up the world’s first floating nuclear power plant. First Russian floating vessel Akademik Lomonosov has two reactors. Each reactors S variant can produce up to 35 megawatts of electricity or 150 megawatts of thermal energy.
One of the same type of floating nuclear power plants, Russia plans to produce 6 more. In parallel with these developments, it continues to build the first floating power plant in China. In cities such as Cape Town and Abuja, which are rapidly growing and have water problems, these ships can be used to meet both the need for clean drinking water and electricity.
In a nutshell, the above method can be used by countries with dirty water such as Freetown to obtain clean water. The same solution applies to Somalia, a nation suffering from droughts.
Of course, one day, such nuclear floating plants wıll be manufactured by Africans .ıt must start today.
Article from AFRIC Editorial.