The Water Loss Industry
The Global Challenge:
- Over 1.4 billion people lack access to potable water
- The gap between water supply and demand is constantly increasing, expected to reach 40% by 2030
- Water shortages will effect one third of the world’s population by 2025
- Steady increases in water prices and reduced availability
The Local Challenge:
- Cities are expanding rapidly: by 2050 more than 70% of the world’s citizens will live in urban areas
- Most cities water supply networks are old and unable to serve the growing demand
- Lacking investment in pipe replacement and network management over the years
- Utilities are busy with day-to-day issues, not long-term planning
- Lack of resources, funding and knowledge to deal with non-revenue water (NRW)
- Lack of community support for the water utility
The panel included leaders from the sectors of business, government and NGOs to discuss each sectors role and perspective on global water loss. According to the survey done by Guardian, 45 billion litres of water every day is lost in global water systems and in the England and Wales alone one fifth of water is lost before it reaches the end user. Wasteful practices poses a very real threat to a world which currently 748 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. The panel of experts aimed to cast a light on why such large losses are occurring and what can be done within different sectors to combat this growing problem.
In the water sector, losses of water can be as high as 40% (as in Goa, India). Much of this water is lost through pipe leakage, wasteful practices and out of date technology. World Bank estimates are that developing countries will need $60 billion to be spent on the water sector over the next ten years. Panelist Ching Leong, Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Water Policy at the University of Singapore argues that the private sector can have a strong role to play in places where the government cannot support such vast changes.
A prominent theme of the discussion was the need for collaboration between government, business and NGOs to empower actors to carry out effective water stewardship. Tony Smith, chief executive for the Consumer Council for Water highlighted the effect of big businesses water wastage on the perception of the role of the individual consumer. Individuals can often be left feeling powerless as since there is such large scale waste which can lead the individual to feel disillusioned at their ability to make a difference. Businesses, therefore, must set the example for others in regards to water management. Prioritising water management within corporations requires training the business sector.
The businesses should be empowered “with the responsibility, training, practical tools and proven techniques, motivating them to perform, and inspiring them to believe that they can make a difference”.
However, as the discussion mentioned water crises have become higher on the business agenda as seen in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report which cited water crises as the top global risk facing the development of businesses and communities. The Guardian discussion highlighted that technology and infrastructure needs to be updated, but that also efficient water stewardship needs to be prioritised within businesses which requires a shift in perception about the importance of water. Furthermore, partnerships with NGOs and water organisations have an important role in unleashing the power of business to make a positive impact on the world water crisis.