Most individuals are not aware of the fact that the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Risk Report ranks “water crises” as the top societal risk to the global economy. Most of us would suppose that weapons of mass destruction, civil war, cross-border conflict or infectious disease would herald disaster, not something as ubiquitous as water, but we forget that Water is Life!
According to the State of Green Business (SOGB) 2017 report, published by GreenBiz in partnership with Trucost, this state of affairs is being created by a changing climate altering the availability of water; a growing middle class with greater demand for water; global declines in water quality, a reduction in the supply of clean water, and increases in the treatment cost. All of this is putting the health of individuals and communities at risk.
The combined problem of maintaining water quality and quantity will require enormous investments in the coming years, both for the infrastructure upgrades required to safely treat and convey water to users as well as innovative water reuse and recycling technologies.
Global water crises have often focused on creating unlimited supply of fresh water through seawater desalination, but this requires a massive demand for electrical power and is very expensive. Some desalination plants have become no more than empty shells, such as the four large desalination facilities in Australia that now, in the waning days of a 10-year drought, sit idle while still costing ratepayers millions for maintenance and contractual charges.
In order to have a growing, water-resilient economy, we will need more than price increases, desalination and other methods of increasing supply – we need to reduce demand for water by reusing, conserving or recycling it. According to various reports, less than 3% of water is currently recycled, and this needs to change drastically.
Promising signs are that the industrial water treatment and recycling market is set to grow over 50% during the next five years, and municipal wastewater reuse will increase by 61% by 2025.
IN 2017, businesses will use shadow water prices and apply the principles of a circular economy, an emerging framework to transform the take-make-dispose linear system into a make-use-return circular system.
“Instead of treating water as an inexpensive commodity that is used once and “disposed,” water is managed as an infinitely recyclable and reusable asset, a valuable resource on the balance sheet, just like fixed capital assets at a manufacturing plant that require periodic investment to maintain and keep clean.”