Top 5 Smart Ways to Tackle the Water Problem

Water crisis water treatment

Changing demographics, water scarcity, climate change, and operational infrastructure, are the major challenges which policy makers in the water sector are trying to address. For a planet which has 71 percent of its surface covered with water, scarcity of water seems rather ironic. However, the fact remains that most countries, regardless of their economic conditions, are facing a water problem and struggling to find solutions for water-stressed regions. Stakeholders in the global water sector believe that if there is one thing that can actually solve the water crisis, then it’s innovation. In this piece we analyze how as major stakeholders in the water management industry one can make use of innovation build comprehensive water scarcity solutions.



Understanding the water problem

1. Growing population

According to the latest UN estimates the world population will reach approximately 9.7 billion by 2050. This population explosion would be more evident in the third world / developing economies, which are already struggling with water resources. Change in dietary habits, lifestyle, and urbanization will only increase the demand for water, ultimately fueling the water crisis, especially in the Asian countries. As per our industry experts, if business continues at the present pace, as early as by 2030, there will be around 40 percent fall in the water supply at the global level.

2. Declining water quality

One major effects of water pollution are the decline in the water quality. Agricultural run-off, industrial effluents, and domestic sewage, are the main factors responsible for the growing incidence of poor water quality. The declining water quality not only reduces the volume of water available for use, but also has a direct impact on the cost involved in providing water to various utilities.

3. Water loss through leakage

Aging infrastructure is one of the prime reasons for water loss through leakage, which is being experienced by both developing and developed countries. The sad part is that it is not just the developing countries alone, but the developed world as well which is suffering from the problem of water loss through leakage. In 2013-14 alone, England witnessed close to 25 percent of water loss due to leakages. The scenario is more dismal in developing countries, where water loss takes place in several forms apart from leakages; the figure easily crosses the mark of 30 percent.

4. Climate change

The impact of climate change on water scarcity is rather long-term. The extent of the impact is quite unpredictable, but our industry experts believe it will surely have a negative impact on watershed planning and will further weaken the aging water infrastructure. Also, climate change will result in droughts in certain locations and  high incidences of flood in others. This makes the situation even more complicated, as policy makers are yet to figure out how to handle the water crisis in such cases.

What can be done to address these challenges? The short answer is to use technology, infrastructure, and improved systems in the most intelligent and innovative manner possible. The impact of the aforementioned challenges can be minimized only if all the stakeholders in the water industry move towards building water systems that are resilient and flexible at the same time and can reduce the impact of human activities on water cycles.

Top 5 smart ways to tackle the water crisis

1. Bring data into play

Data analytics goes beyond mere collecting, managing, and analyzing of data. Rather it is a potent tool which when used in an intelligent manner can improve the quality and speed of decision making. Stakeholders in the water industry have only begun to understand the immense potential which data-driven insights hold; and are working towards adopting data analytics  to improve the overall water management plans, build better asset maintenance programs, and boost the efficiency of these operations.

For instance, utility cash flows can be easily be improved by analyzing discrepancies in the water meter data. This data enables utilities to fix technical issues, detect faulty billing patterns, as well as inconsistency in customer payment behavior.

2. Improve operational infrastructure

It has already been discussed how aging infrastructure is a major challenge in the water industry. Thus, it is only natural that the best way to overcome this problem is to invest in building infrastructure which will improve the coverage and reliability of sewage and water supply services.

When we talk about improving operational infrastructure, it is not just about building new utilities. The process, rather also involves making all possible efforts in upkeeping the existing utilities, and upgrading them so that issues like leakages, delayed water supply, and faulty metering can be taken care of.

3. Better use of technology

According to our analysts, the water industry is one sector which has been rather a late entrant in adopting technological innovations to its advantage. Given the fact that it is one of the most critical resources, it is only logical that the industry turns smart and adopts technologies which will make water recycling and waste water treatment processes easier and less costly.

At present the major problem faced by industries and governments is to find a rather cost-effective process for waste water treatment without compromising on environmental standards. Combinations of ozone, electro-chemical oxidation, and hydrocyclon technologies, are some of the best ways to come treat water without causing any adverse effect on the environment.

4. Innovative Financing Methods

None of the solutions discussed above can be achievable if there is no foolproof financing method at place. Until recently government funding, bonds, tariffs, and taxation, was being used as a major sources of financing water infrastructure. But with population explosion and growing volume of wastewater systems, it is essential that new financial solutions are brought into play.

Models like public private partnerships (PPP), corporate financing, cooperative structure with tradeable rights to water, are some of the innovative financing models which will enable building of resilient water infrastructure. The goal of every financing structure is to align the costs and risks of infrastructure development with future benefits like improved access to resources, and reliability of supply.

5. Empowered customers

Lastly, none of the above-mentioned solutions will help overcome the water crisis until the customers are empowered enough to understand the seriousness of the water problem. It is ultimately for the users to know what they are paying for, and how they can help conserve the resource in an intelligent manner. Customer empowerment can take place by educating them about the side-effects of climate change, the benefits of choosing better water metering systems, and buying products and services which use GMP.