It may come as a surprise to some, but according to the 2015 risk report generated by the World Economic Forum, a lacking of water resources is the single biggest threat to the global economy. More than other political crises like infectious diseases, large-scale weaponry, and conflict among hostile borders, the threat of dwindling water resources has the potential to shatter the global economy as we know it. Amplifying the problems, heavy metal contaminants are being found in increasingly alarming amounts of the public water supply. It is speculated that the increasing demand for water paired with the trending decline in availability and water purity continues to drive up the cost of water treatment, creating the perfect storm.
In order to mitigate the growing water crises companies are scrambling to come up with innovative ways to recycle and reuse water in a way that can make the necessary resource cleaner and more readily available to the population. Unfortunately, the cost and heavy consumption of electricity make creative alternatives like the desalination of salt water a costly and less efficient way of attaining a steadily available source of clean water. Implementing such an idea would cost taxpayers millions. Fortunately, there is hope. Organizations like the Global Cleanwater Desalination Alliance are forming in an effort to drive innovation forward, determined to uncover more cost-effective and energy-efficient ways to achieve the same desired result.
While desalination efforts show promise, diversifying our efforts will be important. It is pertinent to secure a variety of water recycling and re-use solutions to ensure that we do not run out of viable options for producing clean water and mitigating the impact of drought and the shortage of such a vital resource. Currently, 3% of the wastewater that is produced is recycled for re-use. With a massive influx of funding and a push to increase the water treatment industry, a 50% growth is expected over the course of the next five years, with the re-use of wastewater expected to grow to over 60%.
While the water industry is tirelessly innovating with the hopes of sustaining a constant and endless supply of clean water, governments in high-risk states like Arizona, California, and Texas is making efforts for conservation by raising awareness and offering rebates for sustainable landscaping and the use of water-conscious gardening equipment.
The problem extends beyond local drought and climate change. In drought-ridden desert countries like Saudi Arabia, the consumption of water is at an astonishingly high rate – and the government is paying for it. Higher tariffs are imposed to cover treatment costs, but the people who consume it are grossly undercharged for its use, according to the Global Water Intelligence.
All over the world water prices continue to climb, and the same trend of undercharging for the high-demand resource is universally present. Water recycling may not solve all of the problems associated with costly water treatment, but it will reduce massive financial risk. Lack of clean water resulted in over $14 billion in fines, loss, and the engineering of new treatment facilities. Businesses are fearful, enlisting the help of projection software to estimate the water-related risk that they can anticipate.
A valuable asset, water and the possibility of its regenerative potential through recycling and re-use continue to drive efforts to conserve and innovate towards a solution. Coca-Cola has invested nearly $3 million to upgrade their Scotland facilities in an attempt to conserve nearly 10 million liters of water annually. United Technologies has invested $2 million in southern California at its various locations to conserve water in an area that is not anticipating any relief from water scarcity anytime soon. Diageo jumped on board too, investing more than $2 million to avoid a spike in production similar to the effect that drought has had in Brazil.
Businesses are encouraged to continue to participate in conservation efforts and employ the use of energy efficient smart meters and equipment to help educate customers and effectively reduce overall consumption and more importantly, waste. The war on water scarcity wages on, but as we continue to make small changes and create new ideas for achieving an endless water supply, there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel.
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