This year the United Nations (UN) has decided to link the World Water Day to the climate change challenge. Global warming puts a lot of pressure on the water cycle and, in some cases, threatens the people’s access to this precious resource and sanitation services. Today, 1 in 3 people, around 2.2 billion, live without safe drinking water (WHO/UNICEF 2019).
Extreme rains or strong winds may affect the energy and telecommunication networks which make the water transportation system work. Outages can shut down the system’s essential components, the pumping stations and the treatment plants. Another extreme weather event is drought, which lowers the level of the ground and underground waters that feed the distribution system.
A growing demand for water leads to extra energy-intensive pumping, raising carbon emissions. Moreover, drops in the flow of water mean relatively common pollutants are less diluted, which increase health risks to populations. The lack of rain may also generate problems for the sanitation system: “Sewage networks transport both waste water and rainwater. When it doesn’t rain, waste water flows slowly and deposits build up, leading to fermentation”.
Fears about supplying drinking water on a permanent basis “Climatologists predict that extreme phenomena will occur more often, and this will impact the entire networked infrastructure, be it water, energy or telecommunications. This is why we have to adapt and try to design more resilient and safer networks,” asserts Eddy Renaud, engineer at the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), Department of Water.
Water saving: a new method to detect leaks in pipes A European project called WADI is developing a technology to detect water leaks early, based on data obtained from drones and aircraft using remote sensing cameras. This solution is particularly helpful in monitoring long water pipes in remote rural areas, where they are buried and very difficult to check with traditional ground methods.