Water is 65 percent of the body. And humans can only live three days without H2O.
It’s almost impossible to comprehend the importance of these three small molecules. However, today — World Water Day — it’s worth spending a few minutes to recognize this vital and often scarce commodity. It’s also time to take action and make the best use of a finite resource.
. It should be reduced and reused, which is the theme of this year’s World Water Day, coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.
A Top 3 Global Threat
Between 2011 and 2050, the world population is expected to increase by 33 percent. Together with the growing industrialization of developing countries and the increasing need for energy, water demand is on a sharp rise. Climate change is expected to cause severe droughts, devastating floods and water shortages in several regions of the world.
In fact, water crises have been listed third in the top risks by the World Economic Forum.
The 2030 Water Resources Group also predicts that the global water deficit may reach 40 percent by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario. A growing populace combined with increased demand for agriculture and industry will inevitably lead to a shortage, exacerbated by the adverse effects of climate change.
It is urgent to manage water resources more efficiently and treated wastewater can be an effective alternative water supply. One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6), adopted in 2015 by United Nations (UN) Member States, focuses on improving water efficiency, raising wastewater treatment rates by at least 50 percent and significantly increasing recycling rates by 2030.
Globally, over 80 percent of wastewater returns to the environment without being treated or reused. There is a significant percentage of the population that lacks access to safe, sanitized drinking water, which is linked to more than 842,000 deaths each year.
Raising Global Awareness
Awareness of water-related risks and the value of efficiency has resulted in a growing corporate interest to reduce wastewater and to treat it before it is discharged. The opportunities to use wastewater to create a sustainable source of water and energy, and boost overall production efficiency are enormous.
They’re also a potential source of revenue and employment. The global water market is growing by 20 percent every year and is projected to be worth €1 trillion by 2020. And the European Commission estimates that a 1 percent increase in the growth of the water industry in Europe could create up to 20,000 new jobs.
It is estimated that 24 percent of greenhouse gas-reduction activities depend on the availability of good quality water. These activities could cut 125 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which is equivalent to shutting down 36 coal-fired power plants for a year.
Companies that take water-related risks seriously across the whole value chain set a good example in incorporating water management into their business model. For example, Ford Motor Company has set an aggressive target to decrease water use in its manufacturing operations by 30 percent — from 2015 to 2020. Water has been a priority for the company since 2000, when Ford announced its first reduction targets.
Since then, the company has cut water use per vehicle by 61 percent. By 2020, it expects to reduce water use per vehicle by nearly 75 percent. These savings have been achieved by implementing new processes like 3-wet painting in assembly plants and minimum quantity lubrication in powertrain plants. In the future, Ford will be introducing real-time water metering to take an even more aggressive approach to water management.
Water Risks Continue
Water-related risks are going to remain an essential part of global sustainability policy and business strategy. New laws such as the Non-Financial Reporting (NFR) Directive, for instance, include water as part of the core environmental metrics organizations need to disclose.
And beyond the here and now, leading companies are preparing for additional regulatory changes. More than 80 percent of CDP water respondents factored policy and related penalties into their 2016 risk assessments.
That’s why CDP is partnering with the UN CEO Water Mandate, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund to develop a common methodology that will assist companies in setting context-based targets that are grounded in science, align with public sector efforts and reflect the principles of water stewardship.
On World Water Day, take a moment to reflect on the importance of water for human life, and how you can mitigate risks and reduce consumption across your enterprise.
Need help tracking and reducing water consumption? Contact our experts.
Contributed by Irina Gilfanova and Frederic Pinglot, Sustainability Consultants at Schneider Electric