By: Dr Mustapha ABA, Aquaculture Researcher, Fish Nutrition. Morocco.
Every year, on 22 March, World Water Day is celebrated. Water is a natural resource essential for the survival of all living things on the planet. The human species uses it in many ways, among which we can highlight its use for personal hygiene, direct consumption, food production especially in aquaculture.
Aquaculture is exposed to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, although there are fewer climate characteristics and consequences affecting this sector due to a greater level of human control. The vulnerability of aquaculture communities is primarily a function of their exposure to extreme weather events, as well as their exposure to the impact of climate change on the natural resources needed for aquaculture, such as water, soil, seed, feed and fish quality, and energy. However, changes in rainfall patterns will lead to a spectrum of changes in water availability ranging from droughts to floods which will reduce water quality, salinisation of groundwater and the movement of salt water further upstream in rivers caused by sea level rise will threaten inland freshwater aquaculture.
World Water Day is celebrated every year on 22 March. The date was suggested at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and was celebrated in 1993. Each year a new theme is chosen, the theme for 2020 being « Water and Climate Change ».
The aim of World Water Day is to promote awareness of the importance of water for our survival and that of other living beings. In addition, this date is a time to recall the importance of the sustainable use of this resource and the urgency of conserving aquatic environments, avoiding pollution and contamination.
On 22 March 1992, the United Nations issued a document known as the Universal Declaration of Water Rights. This document presents important points about this water resource, emphasizing its importance and the need to preserve it.
Water is a vital resource for our survival and represents a link between all ecosystems on the planet. In addition, it is used for domestic, industrial, recreational, agricultural, livestock, commercial, navigation, aquaculture, energy and power generation, health and leisure purposes.
Faced with the need to make quality water available to the population and the process of degradation of this resource that affects all living beings, World Water Day aims to stimulate reflection and create strategies for its preservation.
According to the United Nations, the « water crisis » is predicted for the coming years, when billions of people will have difficulty meeting their water needs and half of them will face extreme scarcity if there is no change in the way water sources are consumed, used and conserved. It is for these and other reasons that it is essential that the various aquaculture activities recognise the importance of the main source of resources and success within the aquaculture enterprise through the rational use of water.
Africa has the greatest continental water potential, distributed in one of the most extensive and dense river systems in the world. This great continental water potential – surface and groundwater – must be considered as an ecological capital of inestimable importance and a fundamental competitive factor for sustainable socio-economic development.
Africa actually has a fairly large water potential. Indeed, water is abundant: the continent has seventeen major rivers and a hundred or so lakes, in addition to significant groundwater tables. However, this resource is poorly distributed between the Africa of potential water shortage in the North, the Africa of water scarcity or Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa and finally a third Africa, that of excess water, in the equatorial zone.
In view of the impacts of climate change, population growth, diversification of economic activities and current environmental degradation, water control and exploitation in aquaculture have become strategic issues. In most cases, the lack of appropriate mechanisms, i.e. governance structures to ensure rational and sustainable management of the resource, has led to the implementation of better water optimisation, new techniques that are increasingly gaining ground in Africa, namely the integration of aquaculture into agriculture through irrigation and aquaponics.
To sum up, the African continent presents contrasting situations in terms of water resources. With the exception of arid and semi-arid zones, Africa is very rich in water. The optimal development of this resource must rely on two essential levers:
- a- The development of much-needed infrastructure (in particular hydraulic infrastructure to supply water to aquaculture basins to help combat food insecurity);
- b-The introduction of appropriate mechanisms and new techniques for better water optimization in African aquaculture.
The adaptation of techniques and the collective best management of water resources are the preferred approaches, within the framework of community and associative water management groups, a source that is becoming increasingly scarce with population expansion, the impact of climate change and the challenge of food security and poverty alleviation in Africa.