Water is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a solvent). It is vital for all known forms of life, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. Its chemical formula is H2O, meaning that each of its molecules contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, connected by covalent bonds. Two hydrogen atoms are attached to one oxygen atom at an angle of about 102.45°.

"Water" is the name of the liquid state of H2O at standard ambient temperature and pressure. The gaseous state of water is steam or water vapor. Water moves continually through the water cycle of evaporation, transpiration (evapotranspiration), condensation, precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea. Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface, mostly in seas and oceans. Small portions of water occur as groundwater (1.7%), in the glaciers and the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland (1.7%), and in the air as vapor, clouds (formed of ice and liquid water suspended in air), and precipitation (0.001%).

Water plays an important role in the world economy. Approximately 70% of the freshwater used by humans goes to agriculture. Fishing in salt and fresh water bodies is a major source of food for many parts of the world. Much of the long-distance trade of commodities (such as oil, natural gas, and manufactured products) is transported by ships through seas, rivers, lakes, and canals. Large quantities of water, ice, and steam are used for cooling and heating, in industry and homes. Water is an excellent solvent for a wide variety of substances both mineral and organic; as such it is widely used in industrial processes, and in cooking and washing. Water, ice, and snow are also central to many sports and other forms of entertainment, such as swimming, pleasure boating, boat racing, surfing, sport fishing, diving, ice skating, and skiing.

Humans and the Water Cycle

Humans are impacting nature very largely, but unfortunately, there are many things that we are ingrained so much that it is hard to change. There is a different amount of water is present in each country but they are using it in some ways. Some of the impacts on the water cycle are by; generating hydroelectricity, irrigation, deforestation, greenhouse effect as well as animal farming, and motor vehicle use.

Hydroelectricity involves changing the stored gravitational energy of water held behind the dam into electrical energy that can be used. While this is a non-polluting renewable way to generate electricity, it does have environmental impacts – especially when mismanaged.

The problem with irrigation is that it removes water from its natural source and often causes leaching and run-off where it is used. This removal of nutrients results in farmers using more fertilizers to keep their pastures productive while the waterways become polluted. Another problem is that salt is brought up from lower levels (salination).

Deforestation causes local and global climate changes. Deforesting in one area can affect the weather in another area because if trees are cut down, there is less water to be evaporated into the atmosphere and subsequently less rain as the water vapors travel from different areas. The land becomes drier and less stable. When it rains, instead of the water being soaked up, there is increased run-off and leaching. Areas can become more prone to both droughts and flooding.

The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon of Earth’s atmosphere trapping a range of gases, which in turn capture infrared radiation to keep our Earth at a moderate temperature range compared to the other planets in our solar system. Human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels affects the overall increase of the Earth’s temperature. Raising the Earth’s temperature may mean that there is an increase in evaporation, melting of ice, or other processes of the water cycle that adversely affect the climate on Earth.

Water crisis: Why is Pakistan running dry?

Pakistan could "run dry" by 2025 as its water shortage is reaching an alarming level. The authorities remain negligent about the crisis that's posing a serious threat to the country's stability, reports Shah Meer Baloch.

According to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan ranks third in the world among countries facing acute water shortages. Reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) also warn the authorities that the South Asian country will reach absolute water scarcity by 2025. Researchers predict that Pakistan is on its way to becoming the most water-stressed country in the region by the year 2040.

Apart from the water storage issue, experts say that water wastage is also a big issue in the country. Abid Suleri, executive director of the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute, says the mismanagement takes place at many levels.

As the water crisis worsens in Pakistan, foreign diplomats and activists have taken to social media, urging people to save water. Pakistan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortages. One major reason is excessive use. 100 liters wasted washing a car with running tap water.

·     Water politics

"We have only two big reservoirs and we can save water only for 30 days. India can store water for 190 days whereas the US can do it for 900 days," Muhammad Khalid Rana, a spokesman for the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), told DW.

"Pakistan receives around 145 million acre-feet of water every year but can only save 13.7 million acre-feet. Pakistan needs 40 million acre-feet of water but 29 million acre-feet of our floodwater are wasted because we have few dams. New Delhi raised this issue with international bodies, arguing that it should be allowed to use the western rivers because Pakistan can't use them properly," Rana said.

In 1960, the World Bank brokered the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that gives Pakistan exclusive rights to use the region's western rivers — Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — while India has the authority over three eastern rivers. The Pakistani government says New Delhi is not fulfilling its responsibilities under the IWT as it voices concerns over India's construction of new dams. Islamabad approached the World Bank complaining that India violated the IWT by building the dam on a Jehlum River basin, which it lays claim on.

Ways to Prevent Water Loss

·         First of all, Pakistan's leaders and stakeholders need to take ownership of this challenge and declare their intention to tackle it. Simply blaming previous governments, or blaming India, for the crisis won't solve anything.

·         Next, the government needs to institute a major paradigm shift that promotes the more judicious use of water.

·         Don’t use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. Every time you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue, or other small bits of trash, you’re wasting gallons of water. Put them in the garbage, or better yet, recycle.

·         75% of the water used indoors is in the bathroom, and 25% of this is for the toilet. The average toilet uses 4 gallons per flush (GPF). You can invest in a ULF (ultra-low flush) toilet which will use only 2 GPF.

·         Take shorter showers, one way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water.

·         Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush. There is no need to keep the water running while brushing your teeth. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.

·         When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing, if you have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water. If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a pan full of hot water. Dual-swivel aerators are available to make this easier. If using a dishwasher, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes.

·         Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge. Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a safe drinking bottle. If you are filling water bottles to bring along on outdoor hikes, consider buying a personal water filter, which enables users to drink water safely from rivers or lakes or any available body of water.

·         Recycle your water where you can. Collect the cold water you run before it’s hot enough to shower or vice versa and use it to water plants or flush the toilet (known as a bucket flush). Rinse water from dishes and food preparation can be collected and used to soak other dishes.

·         Don’t run the hose while washing your car, clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing; this simple practice can save as much as 100 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water.

·         Reuse wastewater where possible. “grey water” is the water draining from your house’s sinks, bathtubs, and laundry machine, which can be used to water plants (as opposed to “black water” from toilets, which needs to be treated). You can harvest greywater in a small way with a bucket in your kitchen or shower, or install a greywater system, which reroutes water from your drains to your landscape. Though not yet legal everywhere, codes are changing to allow more people to take advantage of this source of otherwise wasted water. The simplest systems harvest only water from the washing machine, which can add up to thousands of gallons per year. If you use greywater in your landscape, be sure to use only eco-friendly and plant-based soaps and cleaners in your home so you’re not dousing your plants with industrial chemicals.

          About the Author: Zain Ali is a Green Blogger and a Researcher at Government College University Faisalabad, Pakistan.