The water resource in sardinia: availability and quality

The 2019’s World Water Day focuses on the issue of the accessibility of water resources. “Water for all” is the slogan. United Nations have adopted this slogan for several initiatives: it is one of the main objectives of the UN activities. Among the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, the objective of No. 6 is to "Ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" by 2030. What does it mean? It means ensuring universal access to clean and safe water, and ensuring adequate sanitation, especially for the most vulnerable people such as poor people and children.

Do we share the same problem? Apparently not. In Sardinia, almost 100% of inhabitants receives drinking water. Yet we are all aware that supply and drinking water problems have occurred (and are occurring) in several municipalities in Sardinia. Several causes explain these situations: most common are lack of maintenance of the pipes and waterworks; lack in financial resources and lack in management practices. Several issues are related to the absence of urban planning management: many municipalities have expanded over the decades in a confused way, often linked to illegal building. Urban development did not correspond to a reasoned development of public services, such as water pipes or electric network. Thus, in many situations, a waterworks developed for a few users is now supplying ten times of connections, a situation that leads to inefficiencies and difficulties in supply.

The quality of the drinkable water supplied in Sardinia is generally good. Most of the drinkable water comes from one of the 34 artificial lakes built in the last century. Treatments are required to have potable water: all these treatments affect the final cost, as well as costs related to pumping and transport from the dams to the local reservoirs. The situation is different in the few municipalities supplied through wells: especially in coastal areas, salt intrusion is quite common and produces poor water quality. The massive use of salty waters in agriculture produce soil degradation and badly affects agricultural production.

This situation will be strongly compromise by consequences of extreme events, such as heavy rainfalls and drought. These opposite events both negatively affect water quality. Among other damages, extreme rainfalls bring sludge and other debris in the reservoirs. Drought is generally associated with lack of water and rarely associated with deterioration in quality. However, the drought lowers the volume of water in the basins, allowing sunlight to arrive at the bottom of the reservoirs where there are more debris and algae. Light and heat cause an increase in the proliferation of algae and this reduces the oxygen in the water, leading to eutrophication and anoxia, that cause the death of fishes and other animals. This determines the need to increase treatments to make water drinkable with repercussions on the cost of water supply.

The Regional Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (February 2019) http://delibere.regione.sardegna.en/protected/45523/0/def/ref/DBR45368/) states that our Island "will be characterized in the future by a general increase in temperatures (both in average and extreme values), by a general reduction in the amount of precipitation on an annual scale and by a high intensity and frequency of extreme weather events (heat waves with consequent phenomena of drought and heavy rainfall events), which will result, for example, in a loss of productivity and animal welfare effects for the agricultural sector or an increase in the risk of fire and the loss of ecosystem services in the forestry sector”.

In order to secure the water resources necessary for our existence, we will be forced to adopt mitigation and adaptation measures which, however, will not prevent most of the damage if we do not limit the increase in temperature by two degrees compared to the average temperature of pre-industrial times.

Therefore, in the next decades if we want to avoid that "Water for all" also affects us, we must change our lifestyle by reducing water consumption and eliminating sources of pollution, including those that cause climate change.

Vania Statzu, environmental economist MEDSEA

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