‘Water scarcity’ is a common phrase that appears in many technical conference proceedings is real and as the result of which many children die annually due to water-related diseases and as lakes dry up drought stricken farmers have committed suicide. All these bring home the bitter truth that water related problems do exist and that people in many districts lack access to clean drinking water. In the recent drought the districts of Ampara, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mulathivu, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala had to be provided water bowsers and water tanks for the people in these areas. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board, had also requested the people to limit water usage to only what was required for domestic activities, as water supplies diminish rapidly during the dry weather that result in increase in the consumption of water.
With the island nation blessed with an average rainfall of 2200 mm a year and drier regions having 900 mm, Sri Lankan have a finite resource on the one hand and an increasing demand on the other, with populations and economies growing all the while. A growing population not only means an increased demand for water but also cause negative impacts on water availability from denudation of forests and even on quality due to salinization is a physical scarcity. This is when available water resources are insufficient to meet all demands.
Added to this is the economic scarcity resulting in inadequate investments or human capacity to conserve the water that is available; with 85% of water used for irrigation the water availability in some districts in the dry zone will be a significant constraint for future social and economic development. While some districts in the wet zone with ample per capita water supply too be severely water-scarce in the economic sense and they will have to develop a substantial amount of withdrawals over the present level to meet their future needs. It is important to note the sad truth that not all water received in the country is utilized in all provinces, that includes the dry zone of North and East provinces.
With a drinking water crisis prevailing in all five districts in the northern province, that is prevailing in many other provinces due to the dry weather experienced in several parts of the country each year. It should be taken up as a project within a National Plan to find a permanent solution, taking into account all water resources available both from nature and man-made sources. All stakeholders must participate in this process, until implementation of the said pilot project. Any temporary measures already taken to provide water to the affected areas through bowsers should be continued in all districts.