The water level of Jhelum and its tributaries have fallen drastically owing to dry weather conditions prevalent since the last month in Kashmir Valley. As of September 12 at 9 p.m., the water level of Jhelum River at Sangam measured minus 0.01 feet, at Ram Munshi Bagh it was flowing at 2.20 feet, and at Asham 1.55 feet. Additionally, its tributaries also showed low water levels. Vishow Nallah at Khudwani was flowing at 2.34 meters, Rambiyara Nallah at Wachi -0.48 meters, Doodhganga Nallah at Barazulla 0.58 meters, Lidder Nallah at Batkoot 0.22 meters, and Sindh Nallah at Doderhama 0.23 meters. Meanwhile, reports have poured in from multiple areas within the valley, including the summer capital Srinagar, regarding the scarcity of drinking water. This shortage underscores the critical importance of water conservation and the need to safeguard this invaluable resource.
Understanding Jhelum River's Seasonal Fluctuations
During the spring season, the Jhelum and its tributaries experience the highest flows as the snow in the upper regions begins to melt due to rising temperatures. This rapid snowmelt typically continues until summer. While occasional monsoon showers may help sustain water levels until September, even excess rainfall during this southwest monsoon season cannot guarantee a stable water supply in the autumn. Autumn is the season when Kashmir witnesses reduced monsoon activity and the impact of Western Disturbances is minimal. Moreover, as temperatures in higher altitudes drop below freezing point, the melt-off from glaciers slows down, further contributing to lower water levels in the Jhelum and its tributaries.
This decline in water levels results in water shortages in many areas, prompting people to realize the true importance of water. It is essential to conserve water and recognize its significance because not everyone has ready access to it, whether they reside in cities, towns, or villages. However, we have often taken water for granted and allowed wastage to persist.
Why Water Conservation Matters - A Multi-Faceted Response to Skeptics
It is important to respond to counterarguments from various angles made by those who downplay the significance of water scarcity.
First, climate change has disrupted the traditional seasons, blurring the lines between spring and autumn. An example from last year shows that soaring temperatures, above normal by 10 – 15 degrees Celsius, amid prolonged dry and sunny spells in March and April led to record-high water levels in early spring. However, as the dry weather persisted into May, water levels reached unprecedented lows, resembling the flow typically seen in autumn. This situation led to significant challenges in irrigating farmlands, causing substantial damage to paddy crops, and adversely affecting both the horticulture and agriculture sectors. This unpredictability underscores that water scarcity can arise unexpectedly, even during seasons when it is least anticipated.
Second, religious teachings, such as those in Islam and Hinduism, emphasize the importance of water conservation. Islamic teachings advise against wastefulness, emphasizing that Allah does not favor those who waste resources. Allah has instructed humankind not to be wasteful in the following verse: “O Children of Adam! Take your adornment at every mosque, eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loveth not the wasters” (Surah Al-A'raf, The Heights 7:31). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set an example by using limited water to perform wudu and take a bath, promoting a culture of water conservation. Even where water was available plentifully, such as a flowing river, the Prophet (peace be upon him) still advised not to be wasteful: “Do not waste water even if performing ablution on the bank of a fast-flowing river”. Musnad Aḥmad 7065.
Hinduism, through the Rigveda and other scriptures, also emphasises the conservation of water as a precious resource, and it is said in Rigveda that water is like our mother. The importance of water conservation is depicted in the Hindu religion and can be known from the following quotes:
“There is Nectar in water, there is medicine in water.” (Rigveda 1.23.19)
“Plants and waters are treasures for generations.” (Rig Veda Samhita vii-70-4)
“Waters are healing, and they strengthen one to see great joy.” (Taittiriya Samhita vii-4-19)
Lastly, global water scarcity statistics from UNICEF are alarming, with four billion people, almost two-thirds of the world’s population, experiencing severe water scarcity for at least one month every year. By 2030, intense water scarcity could displace 700 million people, and by 2040, one in four children worldwide will live in areas of extreme water stress. These facts highlight the urgency of the issue.
Making a Difference through Water Conservation
Now, with your awareness of water's significance, whether influenced by climate change concerns, religious faith, or empathy for others, here are steps you can take to contribute to water conservation:
1. Turn off the Tap: While brushing your teeth or when applying soap to utensils during cleaning, you should turn off your tap. Leaving the water running can lead to significant waste. "If you leave the water running, you can end up using as much as four gallons (15 litres) each time you clean your teeth,” the EPA reports. Brush twice a day, and you’d go through wasting eight gallons ( 30 litres) a day, over 200 gallons (~ 757 litres) every month, and over 2,400 gallons (~ 9085 litres) a year.
2. Reuse water: Collect and reuse water from activities like washing vegetables or other items.
3. Take shorter showers: Reduce water usage by taking shorter showers and installing low-flow showerheads.
4. Collect rainwater: Set up a rain barrel to collect rainwater for outdoor use, such as watering plants and gardens.
5. Fix leaks: Promptly repair any leaky faucets, pipes, or toilets to prevent water wastage.
There are countless ways to conserve water, and, hopefully, you'll begin to implement them. Raise awareness about the importance of water conservation and share water-saving tips with your friends and family. Encourage your family members, especially children, to adopt water-saving practices by explaining to them the significance of water.