Making water conservation a ‘New Normal’

“No Water. No Life. No Blue. No Green.” – Sylvia Earle

Water is an inevitable essential for all living beings – be it for producing food and energy, maintaining people’s health and well-being and ensuring that natural ecosystems are functional. Water is at the core of UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and it underpins socio-economic priorities such as poverty reduction, economic growth, right to education, gender equality and environmental stability.

As per Deloitte’s Water Tight 3.0 Report, scientists claim that the current population of over 8 billion utilizes about 50% of accessible and renewable water every year globally. As the global population hurtles towards 9.7 billion people by 2050, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available source of water. With 4 billion people, most of the world’s population is concentrated in the Asia Pacific region. It has been estimated that this region alone will rise to 5 billion people by 2030 further putting unsurmountable pressure on this depleting natural resource.

Global Water Crisis – A Growing Challenge

According to the Water Tight 3.0 Report, less than 0.3% of the world’s water is available for human and animal use in the form of fresh surface and ground water. One of the major reasons for this depletion is the failure of aging infrastructure, rusty joints and leaking pipes to hold running water. The cost of repairing water main breaks in the US alone is approximately $2.6 billion a year. Another WHO, UNICEF Report suggests that unless we ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030, around 1.6 billion people will not have access to safe drinking and 1.9 billion without basic handwashing facilities.

Home to over 1.3 billion people, India accounts for 18% of the world’s population. However, with access to only 4% of the world’s water resources, India is the most water-stressed country in the world. The report titled “Composite Water Management Index”, published by NITI Aayog in June 2019, shed light on how India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history, with nearly 600 million people under extreme water stress. The report further mentioned that India stands at 120 th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index, with nearly 70% of water being contaminated. More than 12% of the country’s population is already living the ‘Day Zero’ scenario with no access to clean water within or near their homes.

This is an alarming state if we look at the data. The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed additional impediment and has accelerated efforts being made towards water conservation globally. With the increasing demand and less resources, the price of water is also expected to increase consistently. State governments such as Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have already increased water cost for industries by 10%. While challenges such as population bloom, unhygienic water bodies and limited supply of water are global, the solutions are local. Amidst the uncertainty surrounding water, one thing that remains constant is technological improvements in water planning and innovations for its conservation.

Technology – A promising solution for global water woes

With advancing urbanization, making our water smart is just as important as making our cities smart. Innovation and technology have a vital role to play mitigating scarcity, water inefficiency, utility operations, monitoring, treatment and data & analytics. Smart water systems based on the combination of Internet of Things, Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence are contributing immensely and are instrumental in smart water management. In terms of finance, the Water Tight 3.0 report suggests that these solutions increase 10-15% in operational savings to up to 45% reductions in maintenance costs. Governments may partner with international donor organizations or leading universities to analyze the impact of technological integration with sustainable water projects.

Immense research is underway in creating solutions that allow the manufacturing industry to do more with less, such as changing the shape and design of products to reduce water usage and protect the world we live in. It is important to embrace the evolving role that water products play in people’s lives, health, and comfort, as well as ensuring sustainability. For example, developed nations globally are leveraging AI and smart technologies to move closer to sustainability goals. The need of the hour is to pursue innovation in technology and design not just to enhance our customers’ experiences but help create the link to good living.

About two thirds of water consumption in private households is accounted for in bathrooms with a WC or urinal. As much as a third of water consumption is flushed down the toilet. Contemporary sanitary technology, such as the dual flush technology, would help people to use up to 50% less water. Moreover, smart technologies such as AI and IoT can help address the water woes by detecting leaks, limiting usage and increasing efficiency. Water saving technology in showers is helping save over 65% water, which helps minimize consumption and maximizes convenience. Investing in energy saving and water saving technology is crucial.

Sustainability needs to be the ‘new normal’ for organizations and consumers alike

Today, environmental organizations and conglomerates are introducing smart solutions for a sustainable future and an equitable ecosystem. With sustainability becoming a growing lifestyle among consumers, the responsibility of brining sustainable products falls on us. While addressing evolving consumer demand and preferences, it is crucial for companies to be mindful of the consumption of our most precious natural resource, water. For organisations, the way to a consumer’s heart is by winning the trust and making them believe in the core existence of the brand – which is led by purpose.

The pandemic has accelerated sustainability and will continue to be one of the most important growth drivers for our industry. The challenge is to reduce water consumption without compromising on the user experience. In today’s agile environment, building a great product or service alone is not enough. It is equally important to educate and encourage people on sensible and sustainable use of water.

Consumers identify ways to make a difference in the world and they expect the brands they engage with most to do the same. Consumers today are highly aware and make informed choices based on their passion and beliefs. It has never been more important for companies to not only articulate their purpose but to consistently demonstrate that purpose in how they operate, support issues, and engage with all stakeholders.

Technological advancements and transformative measures are serving as an elixir for organizations to conserve and replenish water. The water crisis is alarming, and corporations need to come together and make a difference. Innovations will advance water sustainability and resilience worldwide, and it is imperative to take responsibility, propel the circular economy, and make water conservation a ‘new normal’.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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