How To Turn The Tide On The Water Crisis
Water stress and scarcity is a growing problem around the world, being exacerbated by climate change, more extreme weather events, urbanisation, population growth and water mismanagement. As such, it’s becoming increasingly urgent to address the issues of water security, if we’re to ensure that demand doesn’t outstrip supply in the near future.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these problems are a long way off, but it’s expected that by 2030 – just eight short years away – the gap between freshwater supplies and global demand will reach 40 per cent.
So now’s the time to take serious action and put plans in place to mitigate the effects of climate change and make adaptations to the way water is managed in order to shore up supplies and start operating more sustainably.
The Sustainability Research Team from Morgan Stanley has been investigating possible solutions to the water crisis, something that the analysts believe will likely require significant investment in technology and infrastructure, as well as policy changes and different ways of working for businesses industry-wide.
One of the solutions being put forward by the team is prioritising water-saving innovations in the agriculture sector. Approximately 70 per cent of all global water withdrawal happens in agriculture and it’s likely that supply challenges will increase in the future as more droughts and flooding take place, alongside increased food demand.
Various inroads have already been made in this regard, however, with seed innovations that can improve crop yields, as well as making plants less vulnerable to extreme weather events. Smart irrigation methods are also being developed to grow more food with less water.
But it’s not just agriculture that is going to have to review its water usage and consumption in the near future. The water crisis will see nearly all industries affected, so businesses of all shapes and sizes will have to start rethinking how and where they use these increasingly scarce resources.
As Morgan Stanley observes, utility and energy companies are the most water-intensive, followed by mining and cement. But innovations and novel technologies like water recycling and desalinated seawater can help them drive the necessary changes.
Desalination (desal), in particular, could be one of the best solutions to the problem. Oceans and seas around the world make up 97 per cent of all water sources, so there’s plenty of it – although desalination is an energy-intensive process, so this will need to be considered as a factor, as well.
According to the research team, 2020 saw desalination meet around one per cent of global freshwater demand. And there are now over 150 such projects in the pipeline, which could see the market grow nine per cent annually through to 2025. The process can also be sped up with the use of nano-membranes, for example, which could also improve capacity.
But desal certainly isn’t a perfect process at the moment and it produces approximately 1.5 to 1.7 litres of salty brine waste per litre of freshwater. This, when released back into the sea, can increase salt concentration and cause potential harm to marine life, especially to those that call the seabed home, the National News reports.
Renewable energy could have the answer, however. A more efficient method is being developed with the help of wind, solar and wave energy by scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia that could be almost twice as efficient as conventional desal methods, halving the energy use per gallon of freshwater generated.
What can businesses do?
We all have our part to play in reducing our water footprints, whether that’s as a business or an individual. From a business perspective, there is a lot that can be done to reduce your water usage and consumption – and a great first step to take is to have a water audit carried out of your site.
This will show you exactly where and how you use water, helping you to identify any areas ripe for improvement. The added bonus is that becoming more water efficient will mean you reduce your overheads – so it’s a win win!
If you’d like to find out more about audits, switching water supplier or who supplies your business water, get in touch with the SWS team today.