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Challenge 1 [Topic 1] Low Agricultural Water Productivity in Urmia Lake Basin

Low Agricultural Water Productivity in Urmia Lake Basin
The Urmia Lake Basin is a generally mountainous territory containing two of the famous Iranian volcanic peaks (Sahand, 3707 m. and Sabalan, 4810 m.), and with several vast productive plains in the valleys and around the Lake. Most parts of the Basin are located at altitudes above 1280 m and up to 4886 m above mean sea level and its within the 3 cities of West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Kurdestan. Irrigated agriculture and horticulture for long have been the main occupation in the area. Rain-fed cultivation of cereals and to lesser extent peas is also a common practice in all parts of the basin. Main winter crop in the area is cereals (including wheat and barley). Summer crops include alfalfa, potato, tobacco, cotton and cash crops (tomato, eggplant, cucumber, sugar beet, etc). Horticulture is also an important activity particularly in the West Azerbaijan. Apple and grape are the dominant garden production, while other fruits such as peaches, plums, berries, are also largely produced. Land use of the Urmia Lake Basin has been studied in several cases during the last 3 decades. Agricultural sector is the main water user in the basin. Also it is releasing significant chemical residues into water resources. It is estimated that close to 90% of water resources are used in this sector. According to 2006 data, the volume of water used in agriculture is estimated at 5600 mcm/yr. This volume has been 1800 mcm/yr in 1979. It is estimated 200,000 Tons of fertilizer and 4,000 Tons of pesticides and herbicides are applied annually. Residues of these chemicals when transferred to the water resources seriously impact their qualify and ecological attributes. Basin-wide average efficiency of water use for irrigation is estimated at 30%. The traditional downslope plugging of steep foot-hills for rainfed cultivation is also a very important factor for soil erosion in the farms and sedimentation in water resources (rivers and wetlands).

The lake has faced extreme water loss in recent years due to overuse and mismanagement. Over the last thirty years the population in the lake basin has been doubled and the agricultural area fed by water resources of the lake basin has tripled. The mean annual water level is currently more than four meters below the critical level (1274 m above sea level) needed to sustain ecosystems. In October 2015, it reached to the lowest level and southern parts of the lake totally dried. A wide range of users continue to extract water from the basin that feeds the lake and precipitation decreases by 18 percent in Urmia Lake Basin (ULB) compare to its long-term record. Besides, evaporation loss rate and regional demand on water of different sectors, especially agriculture have increased. Therefore, inflows to the lake have decreased drastically and the situation has been exacerbated by continuous droughts, resulting in reduction of renewable water resources and the lake’s water levels at an alarming rate.

Challenge 2 [Topic 2] Septage management in the urban areas of Indonesia

Septage management in the urban areas of Indonesia
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world with a total population of more than 260 million people, of which about 52% live in urban areas. It has been predicted that by 2025, 67.5% of population will live in cities. This situation will create a huge burden for basic urban infrastructure, especially related to water and sanitation systems. It is estimated that about 95% of the human waste in Indonesia ends up untreated or partially treated in septic tanks before being discharged either into open water bodies or onto soil, contaminating the living environment, and causing huge negative impacts to human health and economic development. More than 90% of Indonesian households still rely on onsite sanitation systems, especially septic tanks. However, due to poor design and performance, effluent and sludge generated from septic tanks (often referred to as “septage”), which are rich in organic compounds and nutrients, are often discharged directly into environment, thus exposing a threat of contamination to soil, and both surface and groundwater sources, and human health. In addition, this septage is often illegally discharged into the open environment, or improperly treated or re-pumped into sewerage system without proper treatment (e.g. Bandung city), despite the fact that more than 150 septage treatment plants have been constructed in medium and large cities across the country over the past 20 years, but unfortunately only less than 10% of them are in use and well-operated due to both inefficient septage treatment technologies, and insufficient septage for treatment since there is few demand for septage emptying/desludging from households. This problem is also commonly found in many other countries in Asian region such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, etc. According to a recent study, it is estimated that Indonesia experience a loss of 56 trillion Rupiah or $4.2 billion each year due to the poor quality of sanitation (World Bank, 2017).

In term of septage management, Indonesia is now facing major challenges at both regulatory and practical level, due to (i) lack of attentions and investment from local and central government; (ii) weak enforcement of regulations and practical standards; (iii) lack of detailed guidelines on the standard design and proper maintenance of septic tanks, which leads to improper treatment of domestic wastewater; (iv) lack of demand for septage emptying and collection from households, and illegal and uncontrolled septage discharge into water bodies by private companies; (v) lack of integrated approach for both urban domestic wastewater and septage management; (vi) and especially lack of appropriate business model for septage management, which could facilitate the involvement and investment from private sector. These are all major challenges, which have been identified based on our case study on septage management in Bandung city of Indonesia. Unless these challenges can be solved, otherwise it is impossible for Indonesia to achieve the country’s targets as set in the National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2015-2019 as well as Sustainable Development Goal 6, especially the target 6.2 and 6.3 on sanitation and improved water quality, respectively.

Challenge 3 [Topic 3] Choluteca River “Mad Waters”

Choluteca River “Mad Waters”
In Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras in Central America, the majority of its urban dwellers are experiencing numerous environmental and ecosystem burdens which are increasing simultaneously at unprecedented speed. In one hand, the capital city has been devastated by several landslides and flooding caused by the increase of the water levels of the Choluteca River and its tributaries during the rainy season. In every flooding event, the economy of the city is paralyzed as the markets and commercial areas are most affected by the water overflow. The vulnerability to flooding has also paralyzed some assets located in the historic districts the city. Lots located near the riverside are completely degraded and some have been abandoned becoming a nest of drugs and gangs. The floods produced by the Choluteca River and its tributary are a cause for constant concern. On the other hand, during summer the capital is affected by the drying up of its water resources, so that long water rationings have been prevailing already for many years.

The actual situation of the country poses a big dilemma: the limited economic capital is mostly oriented to providing basic necessities for their citizens and improving on priority areas of economic development. Thereby, mitigating the causes and effects of natural catastrophes tend to cripple more its struggling economy and slow more its development.

Since the passing of the a major hurricane –hurricane Mitch in 1998- and after its legacy of destruction within the city, the Choluteca River has been subject to several analyses and project formulations in order to diminish its flooding and landslide impacts. However, these plans have been mostly engineered-based, or consist of large civil engineering projects that are focused in certain areas of the urban waterfront, yet, rivers under severe stress are those where development and land uses within the catchment also have completely ignored their impact and influence on the river system. The catchment area is too frequently forgotten in strategic planning. The challenge, therefore, is to recognize that river and catchment are a single unit and should be treated as such.

Challenge 4 [Topic 4] Problems Pertinent to Prevalence of Excessive Fluoride in Different Water Sources

Problems Pertinent to Prevalence of Excessive Fluoride in Different Water Sources
Fluoride is the most reactive, nonmetallic, harmful inorganic substance affecting the ecosystem and the human health (when it’s ingested above the standard 1.5 mg/L). A human being can ingest fluoride in to its body through food, water, breathing air, drugs and cosmetics. Fluoride in any water source is believed to emanate either from the parent material rocks or from different anthropogenic effects (mainly industrial wastewater). Higher amount of fluoride ion in ground and surface water sources (up to 2,800 mg/L) has been recorded in different countries such as Australia, Middle East, South America, North Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Thailand, China, India and others. Nowadays, more than 200 million people from more than 35 nations across the world are suffering from excess fluoride in water. The existence of excess fluoride in the water has negative effect both on the aquatic life and to the human well beingness. Most countries’ local government has a standard for fluoride level in drinking water and for disposal of wastewater effluents. A fluoride concentration in water bodies as low as 0.5 mg/L can adversely affect freshwater invertebrates and fishes. In aquatic animals, fluoride is accumulated in tissues and inhibit the entire metabolic processes of small animals. These impact on such small animals might lead to the collapse of entire ecosystems as such the effect of fluoride ion in the entire biosphere is significant enough to touch all the aquatic and terrestrial animals. Fluoride also hazardous to the human health. Any amount of fluoride over 1.5 mg/L have its own negative impact. For instance fluoride amount 1.5–4.0 mg/L causes dental fluorosis, 4.0–10mg/L cause dental and skeletal fluorosis and greater than 10.0mg/L cause paralysis, crippling fluorosis. Its effect also leads to other internal disease including cancer and malfunctioning of body organs. To avoid this environmental health impacts, fluoride removal from different water sources has drawn big attention for extended period of time for the reason that it’s complete removal is very difficult to be attained by the conventional methods such as precipitation, ion exchange, adsorption and coagulation. Therefore, an efficient and cost-effective advanced water treatment options based on the state of art technologies is urgently required to liberate vulnerable people and the ecosystem. Various membrane based and hybrid system technologies has been forwarded as one of the best available innovative defluoridation technologies for the removal of excess fluoride from industrial wastewater and from drinking groundwater sources.

Challenge 5 [Topic 4] Recalcitrant Antibiotics Leading to Bacterial resistance Development

Recalcitrant Antibiotics Leading to Bacterial resistance Development
Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have been built, transformed and updated through the years to effectively prevent solids, organic and inorganic compounds (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus etc.), which enter the environment. Micropollutants are (in a high percentage) invulnerable to biological treatment; the transfer from source to the environment is therefore facilitated, leading to further accumulation in the environment; their presence has been associated with health risks and toxicity. The excessive use of antibiotics and anti-depressives has led to their accumulation in surface waters (rivers, lakes…) nearby the hospital effluents. These drugs were shown to develop bacterial resistance to antibiotics rendering bacteria/pathogens stronger than ever. The problem is that these drugs are recalcitrant to the conventional water treatment plants (WTPs).

Challenge 6 [Topic 5] Water Insecurity in Manoka

Water Insecurity in Manoka
Manoka is Cameroon Island located in the Littoral Region, in Wouri Sub- province. The quality of drinking water from boreholes in Manoka Island is a major problem for the drinking water supply for the inhabitants. Particularly in dry season, the salinity of the seawater increases more than 35g / liter in the sea. This increase of salts directly influences the quality of the water of borehole certainly due to intrusion of the seawater into of the water table. This has given rise to high cost of living. The sachet of water costs in average 50 FCFA (0.88US$) for 0.30cl and 1200 FCFA (2.13US$) for the 10liter cans, yet the human body needs at least 1 liter of water a day. The large quantities of water contained in the plastic bags and cans pass through the canoes from neighboring towns: Douala, which is about 23km away. Plastic drums of 250 liters, which amount to 3,500 FCFA (6.22US$) including transport, that is 1000 FCFA (1.77US$) of transport and 10 FCFA (0.017US$) per liter. Available domestic waters are dirty, salty and often muddy. Face with this seaming desolation, the public authorities are still indifferent on how to solve this problem. Presently, no process has been triggered to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants. The core issue is the quality of the drinking water of borehole which remains dirty and salty during the dry season and unsafe for the local populations in total lack. The cause remains the intrusion of seawater to the unconfined aquifer which is exacerbated by climate change. This couple with the lack of political will of the public authority to salvage this people has remained a dilemma.
World Water Challenge Bulletin Board