22 March 2022


Author: Elisa Condez

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- World Water Day, celebrated on the 22nd of March every year, celebrates water and intends to raise awareness of the 2 billion people still living without access to safe water today. At the same time, its core focus is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030..

Source: Elisa Condez, Iceland, 2021

UN theme for World Water Day 2022 is 

“Groundwater – making the invisible visible”

What is groundwater?

Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which feeds springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands, and seeps into oceans. Groundwater is recharged mainly from rain and snowfall infiltrating the ground and it can be extracted to the surface by pumps and wells.

Why is groundwater important?

Almost all the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater, supporting drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming, industry and ecosystems.

Groundwater might be invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere. Most arid areas of the world depend entirely on it. Life would simply not be possible without groundwater.

The problem begins when, as in many situations, groundwater is being overused, where more water is abstracted from aquifers than is recharged by rain and snow. Continuous overuse leads eventually to depletion of the resource.

On the other hand, the quality of groundwater is threatened, either by natural contamination or by human activities (anthropogenic contamination), including the effects of agricultural intensification, urbanization, population growth and climate change.

Source: UN Water poster available on https://www.worldwaterday.org/

What can we do?

Exploring, protecting and sustainably using groundwater will be central to surviving and adapting to climate change and meeting the needs of a growing population.

What about water in Portugal?

At the end of February 2022, more than 60% of the territory was in extreme drought.

According to the IPMA’s Climate Bulletin, February 2022 in mainland Portugal was classified as very hot and extremely dry.

Regarding the drought situation monitoring:

Groundwater Index (GWI)

Compared to the end of January, there was a decrease in the percentage of groundwater in the North and Center regions. On the districts of Bragança, Guarda, Alentejo and Algarve, the percentage of groundwater was lesser than 20%.

PDSI Index

The Palmer Drought Severity Index is based on the concept of the water balance taking into account data on the amount of precipitation, air temperature and available water capacity in the soil and allows the detection of periods of drought by classifying them in terms of intensity (weak, moderate, severe and extreme).

According to the PDSI index, at the end of February there was a worsening of the meteorological drought situation throughout the territory with an increase in the area in the most severe, severe and extreme drought classes. On February 28, more than 60% of the territory was in extreme drought, with emphasis on the districts of Bragança, Viseu, Guarda, Castelo Branco, Leiria, Lisbon, Santarém, Setúbal, Évora, Beja and Faro.

Thus, the percentage distribution by classes of the PDSI index in the territory is as follows: 4.5% in moderate drought; 29.3% in severe drought; and 66.2% in extreme drought.

Legend: Spacial distribution of drought index in 31 January (left), 15 February and 28 February 2022 (right). Source: February 2022 Climate Bulletin, IPMA.

The situation of drought is naturally related to the amount of precipitation, that in the period from October 1st 2021 to February 28th 2022 was 39% of the normal value. This way, the year 2021/2022 is the second driest since 1931, only preceded by 1999.

Legend: Cumulative precipitation from 1 October 2021 (left) and percentage in relation to the average 1971-2000 (right). Source: February 2022 Climate Bulletin, IPMA.

From theory to practice...

Well, I’m sure we are all aware of the situation of drought that is currently affecting Portugal, and also of the energetic crisis that is already affecting all of us.

For me, more important than theory and reports (which are essential though, to better understand the problems and think about solutions) is actually to take real action, individually and collectively.

Hence, I leave you here a list of tips to save water. Most of them are such simple things, that the majority of us already does in our daily lives, that we might forget sometimes that being sustainable is exactly this, to save in every aspect, both the planet and our bank account. 

1. Close the tap when you’re not using the water (while bathing, brushing teeth, washing hands or dishes).

2. Take quick baths (the length of a song for example).

3. Collect the water of the bath while it is warming and use it to flush the toilet, to water your plants, to cook, etc.

4. Reuse the water with which you cook your vegetables – this water is highly rich in nutrients, thus it’s great to water your plants, for instance.

5. Avoid unnecessary toilet flushes and use a toilet flush which consumes less water.

6. Replace toilet paper by the bidet: you can use the conventional bidet, that exists in most of our houses, you can install a toilet bidet shower or use a portable bidet.

Did you know that in order to produce 1 single roll of toilet paper, we need about 140 L of water?

That’s true. These data are well described in literature and, here in our home, we became aware of this thanks to Catarina Barreiros. I must admit that this change was a bit hard to implement at first, but after trying the portable bidet we realized it was something quite simple and now it’s rare for us to buy toilet paper for our home.

7. Install water pressure reducing valves in your taps.

This simple gesture will reduce water consumption in about 50%. If you install it on the shower, you can save up to 80% of water.

8. Run your dishwasher and laundry washing machine only when you have full loads.

9. Water your plants and garden early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce water loss due to evaporation.

If you notice that public watering systems are operating in the hottest hours of the day, send an email to your city county explaining why they should not do that and asking them to change their watering times. They will certainly understand the benefits of that change.

10. Do not pour used cooking oil down the drain – instead, collect it and deliver it in a recycling center.

11. Replace conventional detergents, which are extremely polluting and toxic, by biodegradable and ecological cleaning products, like the ones we have in our online store, from EcoX.

As we mentioned above, water contamination, especially groundwater, leads to depletion of drinking water supplies, soil contamination and to the destruction of ecosystems.

Protecting water is crucial to our future and survival.

There are probably many other ways to save and protect water. Share your ideas with us.


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